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News >  Idaho Voices

Otter puts aside payback opportunity, signs education bills, including Nonini’s

Betsy Z. Russell

BOISE – After House Education Chairman Bob Nonini declared on the floor of the House that Gov. Butch Otter‘s executive order for new accountability measures at the Idaho Transportation Department was “not worth the piece of paper it was printed on,” there was much speculation that Otter would veto a bill that Nonini insisted on at the end of the legislative session.

But last week, Otter signed the measure into law.

Quietly, the governor signed two education bills, HB 303a and HB 374, which both promote funding “virtual education,” or online classes, within existing school funding, and give school districts some temporary flexibility from “use it or lose it” funding rules for teacher pay during the state’s budget crisis.

Nonini’s controversial HB 374 reversed an amendment that the Senate had made to HB 303, which sought to put a two-year limit on the sections expanding virtual education.

Asked why he didn’t go the veto route, Otter said his clash with Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, over transportation wasn’t related to the education bill. “I’m not into these games of executing a difference of opinion on a bill that is not part of the issue,” the governor declared.

All Idaho state parks to stay open this summer

Idaho’s state Department of Parks and Recreation has announced that all state parks will stay open through the summer season, despite budget cuts. “At a time when budgets are tight, our agency understands that families will want to turn to their state parks for affordable outdoor experiences,” said state parks Director Robert Meinen. “For that reason, IDPR is going to do everything it can to ensure that Idaho’s state parks are open and accessible to visitors this year.”

Seasonal staff for park maintenance and operations will be reduced, however. “The reductions to staff will mean re-evaluating maintenance and facility cleaning schedules in every state park,” Meinen said. “That in mind, we’re going to keep our parks open and continue to provide safe, clean recreational experiences.”

Meinen caused a flurry of concern during the legislative session when he speculated that some parks might have to close – including possibly Old Mission State Park at Cataldo.

Idaho has 30 state parks and recreational trailways statewide. To reserve campsites, cabins or yurts for overnights at state parks, go to www.parksandrecreation.idahogov or call 1-888-9-CAMPID.

Seat belt crackdown

More than 50 Idaho law enforcement agencies are in the midst of a crackdown on seat belt usage, a push that will extend through the Memorial Day weekend and the following week. Last year, 105 unrestrained people were killed in Idaho traffic crashes, according to the Idaho Transportation Department. Idaho law requires everyone in a vehicle to be properly restrained, no matter where they are seated. Fines for violating Idaho’s safety restraint laws range from $10 to $69.

“Wearing your seat belt costs nothing and yet it’s the single most effective traffic safety device ever invented,” said Mary Hunter, ITD highway safety manager. “Failing to wear a seat belt puts you at risk for serious injury or death. Two-thirds of motor vehicle occupants killed in Idaho traffic crashes last year were unbelted. According to seat belt effectiveness studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, half of these victims could be alive today had they simply buckled up.”

Largest minority grows

Idaho’s Hispanic population has continued to increase at three times the rate of non-Hispanics, according to the latest U.S. Census figures. Overall, 10.2 percent of Idahoans are Hispanic, but the census found that in nine of Idaho’s 44 counties, all in southern Idaho, the figure was greater than 20 percent. The population of tiny Clark County is 40.4 percent Hispanic; Minidoka County, 30.2 percent; and Jerome County, 27.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Idaho’s median age increased by a month to 34 years and five months, while the median age for Hispanic residents dropped more than three months to 23 years and eight months. “The trend toward youth in the rapidly growing Hispanic population suggests the economic and political influence of the state’s largest minority could grow substantially as Hispanic families become more and more established,” reported Bob Fick of the Idaho Department of Labor, who analyzed the population figures.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or For more news from Boise go to
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