Gov. Butch Otter today acted on the final five bills pending from this year’s legislative session, allowing four of them to become law without his signature, and signing the fifth, HB 577, into law without comment; that’s the budget for the Idaho Attorney General’s office for next year.
The bills he allowed to become law without his signature included:
HB 477a, legislation proposed by Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, to provide $1 million in college scholarships next year and $2 million the year after to students who earn college credit while still in high school, including full two-year tuition scholarships for those who earn an associate’s degree while still in high school. Otter said the twice-amended bill, in combination with a funding bill, HB 645, which he also allowed to become law without his signature, appeared likely to overspend available funds and leave some qualified students short; he called on lawmakers to work with the state Board of Education to revise the program next year.
HB 555a, legislation proposed by Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, to lighten penalties on teens who “sext” or send explicit images of themselves to boyfriends or girlfriends. Otter said he agreed with the intent – keeping teens from being charged under child pornography laws in cases of sexting – but thought it didn’t go far enough, still imposing misdemeanor penalties on the teens. He called on lawmakers to reconsider the issue next year; you can read his statement here.
SB 1411, the budget for the state Legislature. The $6 million budget reflected an 8.9 percent increase in state general funds, and included both the 3 percent merit raises that were funded for all state employees, and an additional $94,000 for “employee retention that will support promoting and compensating entry and mid-level professional staff so that the offices may be more competitive with other state employers.” Otter objected to that, saying lawmakers were giving additional compensation to legislative branch employees for a second straight year. “While I have no doubt that the hard-working staff of the legislative branch merit compensation increases, the dedicated employees of the executive and judicial branches are no less deserving,” Otter wrote in a statement; you can read it here. He said he’d have liked to line-item veto that item, but the way lawmakers structured their budget prevented him from doing so, and called for a different structure next year “so that I can exercise my constitutional authority.”