With most major decisions behind it, the 1995 Idaho Legislature enters what is expected to be its final week with little more than cleanup work.
More than 100 bills had passed one chamber but not the other by late Friday. But with spending decisions all but set in concrete, lawmakers have little room to depart from the budget set by the Joint FinanceAppropriations Committee.
The House tax panel shut down Friday after killing legislation that would have given parents tax breaks if they set up savings accounts for college. Parents could have deducted up to $500 per year for deposits, and the money and interest would have been tax-free when withdrawn.
Revenue and Taxation Committee members said there already are many programs to help parents save for college. They also didn’t want to approve a program that would cost more than $200,000 per year in tax revenue in a tight state budget year.
Legislative leaders hope to adjourn by the end of the week.
Through Friday, the number of bills prepared in House and Senate was the lowest in five years. The Legislative Services Office said 1,009 bills had been prepared, with 643 actually introduced. That’s down 101 from the same date last year.
So far, 140 bills have passed both chambers, with 54 signed by the governor and 86 awaiting his action at week’s end.
One bill that might give Republican Gov. Phil Batt headaches was up for a final vote in the House on Friday, but was held until today.
Environmentalists have attacked a Senate-passed bill that allows polluters to receive immunity by reporting their violations themselves. It also says companies’ audits of their own pollution, prepared for regulatory agencies, can be kept secret.
Batt told the Idaho Press Club earlier in the week he wasn’t sure he wanted to grant blanket immunity to companies that pollute. And he noted, “We should do everything we can to keep public records open to the public.”
Although many of the committees have wound up work, the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee still has to deal with a bill granting judges 5-percent raises. It cleared the Senate easily last week but not the House, where members have been critical of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Snake River Water Adjudication last year.
The House Education Committee also has to deal with a bill requiring school districts to make criminal background checks on prospective employees. It does not require background checks for teachers and other continuing contract employees.
Any fees would have to be paid by those applying for jobs.