Members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee gather for a 7 a.m. workshop meeting on Monday; they had been scheduled to set the public schools budget on Monday morning, but that was put off to Wednesday after House leadership asked for more time. So JFAC was left with the rest of its Monday agenda, smaller agencies including the Commission on Aging and the State Independent Living Council.
The Idaho Watercolor Society's 26th annual Capitol art show is on display through March 13 in the fourth-floor rotunda of the state Capitol.
The Idaho House deliberates on Monday. Among bills passing the House on Monday morning were HB 496, requiring voters to show a photo I.D. to vote, and HB 492, to require training for elected Idaho coroners, who currently need not have any training.
The Idaho Senate debates chicken-farming legislation on Monday. Senators passed a bill to set up a board to regulate an expected glut of chicken farms moving from California on a 24-11 vote, and also passed, 34-1, legislation to make cockfighting a felony in Idaho. Both measures were sponsored by Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home; both bills now move to the House.
Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, at podium, and Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, seated, present their education "mastery" legislation to the Senate Education Committee on Monday afternoon. The bill, which passed the House earlier, would set up a pilot program to encourage students to test out of classes and finish school early.
Jason Kreizenbeck, Gov. Butch Otter's chief of staff, tells the Senate Education Committee on Monday that the governor backs HB 544, the legislation to set up a higher education stabilization fund. The idea is that the state would deposit money in the fund during good times, to help tide state colleges and universities over during future economic downturns.
The Legislature's joint budget committee debates a budget on Tuesday morning that would shift funding for the Center for Advanced Energy Studies into special programs, rather than the higher ed budget; on a 10-9 vote, the committee decided to delay setting that budget until it also sets the higher ed budget next Monday.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Tuesday set a budget for the Idaho State Police that's a 21.9 percent cut in state general funds, but just a 0.5 percent cut in overall funding, in part because it taps a balance in a special program to bring state troopers' pay up to par to instead make up budget shortfalls. The pay program can be resumed "when the economy comes back," said Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell.
Members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee debate budgets on Tuesday morning; the panel voted along party lines to cut $13 million for the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho to replace its main IT system, which is outdated and now "crashes monthly." Backers of the move said with last week's fight over a 1 percent COLA for state retirees, a big expenditure at PERSI might endanger its whole budget for next year.
Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, urges the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday to support HB 589, his bill to exempt guns or ammunition made in Idaho from federal laws including registration. The committee voted to delay a decision on the bill.
The rarely-convened House Ways & Means Committee meets Tuesday morning, and considers a proposal from Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, to allow Idahoans to pay with gold or silver through electronic transactions as an alternative form of legal tende. The leadership panel voted along party lines to introduce the bill, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed; Democrats said the bill was legally flawed.
Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, a retired state trooper, pitches legislation to the House Health & Welfare Committee on Tuesday to launch a state study to explore possible savings that could come from cutting off public assistance to those who test positive on random drug tests.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee discusses possible motions on the public school budget at its 7 a.m. workshop meeting on Wednesday, before the 8 a.m. session in which the budgets will be set.
Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, center, proposes a budget for the state Department of Lands on Wednesday morning that includes increasing logging on state lands. The budget won unanimous support from JFAC, 19-0.
Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, discusses the proposed budget for the state DEQ for next year during a JFAC meeting on Wednesday morning. The budget won unanimous support from the joint committee.
JFAC takes up the public school budget on Wednesday morning. The room is full, and people across the state are watching and listening on the Internet and on Idaho Public Television.
Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, left, a former school principal, speaks emotionally on Wednesday morning on why he's backing a public school budget that includes big cuts, rather than supporting state tax increases.
JFAC deliberates Wednesday morning on public school funding.
Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, argues Wednesday for his alternative proposal for school funding, which would set a slightly higher minimum teacher salary but cut more from more-experienced teachers' pay. His motion failed on a 3-16 vote.
Sen. Nicole LeFavour, second from right, speaks out for a substitute motion on school funding offered by Rep. Shirley Ringo, right. The Democratic alternative called for a series of moves to raise $37.2 million more in state revenues next year and funnel it into discretionary funding for Idaho school districts.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee debates funding for public schools on Wednesday morning, led by JFAC co-chairs Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome.
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, at right, presides over the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Wednesday morning as it deliberates over funding for schools.
JFAC debates public school budget intent language on Wednesday morning.
Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, proposes a declaration of financial emergency for every school district in the state.
Somber JFAC members on Wednesday morning consider a motion to declare a financial emergency for every Idaho school district for the coming year, allowing negotiated teacher contracts to be reopened.
Sherri Wood, president of the Idaho Education Association, reacts to the JFAC action to set a school budget matching a stakeholders' agreement in which she participated - but tack on an extra, last-minute clause declaring a financial emergency for every school district in the state and allowing them to reopen negotiated teacher contracts. That move, she said, was "wrong."
State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna talks to reporters after JFAC set a budget for public schools on Wednesday that includes big cuts next year. Luna said the budget will be "very, very difficult" for schools.
Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, right, consoles Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, after a somber budget-setting session Wednesday morning for public schools, which will see deep cuts next year. At left is Paul Headlee, the legislative budget analyst for public schools.
Wayne Hammon, center, Gov. Butch Otter's budget director, center, joins Reps. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, right, and Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, left, to support HB 604 on Wednesday, with an amendment. The House Commerce & Human Resources Committee unanimously backed the move and sent the bill to the full House for amending.
Members of the joint budget committee are briefed by budget analyst Amy Johnson at a 7 a.m. workshop on Thursday on the steps they'll need to take to set the Medicaid budget on Thursday morning.
Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, argues for his lean budget proposal for Medicaid for next year, on Thursday in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. It passed on a 16-2 vote.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee considers the budget for Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled, on Thursday morning.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee debates complex intent language that goes with a lean Medicaid budget they approved Thursday morning on a 16-2 vote.
JFAC members consider a budget proposal that eliminates funding for the adult cystic fibrosis program at the state Department of Health & Welfare. It passed 14-4 on a party-line vote, with the joint committee's four Democrats objecting.
Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, urges the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday to pass his bill to declare guns or ammunition manufactured in Idaho exempt from federal laws including registration. Harwood said his bill is designed to prompt a court case; the committee voted to send it to the full House.
Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, pitches his bill to create an official silver medallion that Idahoans could use to pay their state taxes. The House State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to introduce the bill.
This is the invasive species sticker that owners of non-motorized craft were required to purchase last year for $5; legislation that passed the House on Thursday would raise that to $7.
This close-up shows architectural detail in the Idaho House chamber.
The state Board of Examiners, including, from left, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Gov. Butch Otter and state Controller Donna Jones, hears a proposal Thursday from Division of Financial Management chief Wayne Hammon to transfer $30 million from the general fund to the state's tax refund account, which dipped to zero on Wednesday. The board, which also includes Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who was participating by phone, approved the transfer unanimously.
Former Bonners Ferry Mayor Darrel Kerby subs for Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, on JFAC on Friday morning. Keough sent Kerby as her sub while she's with her husband, who's facing major open-heart surgery on Monday.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee debates funding for state prisons on Friday morning. Though lawmakers trimmed prison funding, they acknowledged they'll likely have to shift more money in next January if inmate numbers rise as projected.
Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, right, joined Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, second from right, in opposing a couple of the pieces of a lean budget approved in JFAC on Friday morning for the state Department of Corrections. The Democrats said they wanted more funding for treatment programs and supervision of parolees and probationers.
Idaho state Corrections Director Brent Reinke said Friday morning that the budget just set for his department by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will be "very challenging."
Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, proposes a "frugal" budget for the state Department of Transportation on Friday.
Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, left, and Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, right, proposed one of two competing motions on GARVEE bond funding. At center is substitute Sen. Darrel Kerby, R-Bonners Ferry.
Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, made the successful motion in JFAC Friday morning on GARVEE bonding, for just $12 million. It was approved 12-8 after three other motions were rejected, two of them on tie votes. The governor had recommended $26 million.
The Idaho House considers legislation on Friday. Among the bills it passed were HB 616, a measure from Reps. Mike Moyle and Raul Labrador to limit local improvement districts; the measure now moves to the Senate.