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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Otter lets final school bill take effect without signature

BOISE - The final piece of legislation from this year’s Idaho legislative session has been allowed to become law without the governor’s signature, adding a one-year phaseout to a funding cut for school districts that lose enrollment from one year to the next. Gov. Butch Otter said he didn’t think the move was necessary, but recognized it was important to rural Idaho legislators; the bill, HB 315, was sponsored by Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly. That makes 335 bills Otter’s now allowed to become law from this year’s tumultuous session, including four without his signature; he’s only vetoed one. Otter’s education adviser, Roger Brown, said the governor “wasn’t crazy about” the phaseout. He’d already signed a school-reform bill, SB 1108, that eliminated the current state funding provision that protects school districts that see sharp drops in student enrollment from one year to the next from correspondingly sharp swings in their state funding; until now, those districts were eligible for 99 percent of their state funding the year before as a “floor.” Under HB 315, next year they’d be eligible for 97 percent, and after that, there’d be no more funding “floor” protection. “If the districts were going to get all these new tools and all this ability to manage those contracts, and we have technically the ability now to follow our students in real time and more closely link the funding to the student, then there’s no need for the 99 percent protection,” Brown said. But, he said, it was “important to some of the legislators who worked so hard on this.” Otter didn’t have a problem with the bill’s other piece, Brown said, which removed a requirement to pay 10 percent severance payments to teachers laid off in the fall due to unexpected drops in enrollment. The other three bills that Otter allowed to become law without his signature this year - which signifies he had problems with the legislation, but nevertheless allowed it to take effect - were: —- HB 17, a measure from the Idaho Transportation Department to have Idaho comply with federal rules on reporting of medical conditions by holders of commercial drivers licenses. If Idaho didn’t comply, it stood to lose a big chunk of its federal highway funds. —- HB 144, restoring the slice of the state’s fuel tax distribution that helps fund the Idaho State Police and state parks trails programs. Otter had sought to shift those costs two years ago as part of his bid to increase highway funding. —- SB 1071a, providing for the display of the POW/MIA flag; Otter said he wanted broader rules allowing for more display of the flag, something he’ll propose next year. The one bill Otter vetoed was HB 298, the final version of repeated legislative efforts to “nullify” the national health care reform law; he replaced it with an executive order with some similar provisions, prohibiting Idaho agencies from implementing the new law unless Otter personally signs specific waivers.