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Senate education chairman hopeful for a Thursday adjournment

Senate education chairman hopeful for a Thursday adjournment

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
April 2, 2013

“I think there’s a good chance that we can have our work completed by 12 noon this Thursday.”

That’s what Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, told IdahoReporter.com on Tuesday as this year’s legislative session has yet to pass a K-12 public schools budget for the coming 2013-14 school year. The Legislature has been in a state of uncertainty since last week when the Senate rejected House Bill 323, the K-12 budget bill that had passed in the House on March 22.

Goedde, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, noted from the Senate floor last week that he was troubled with the process whereby House Bill 323 had been formulated. In his view, the budget bill had been created with too much reliance on input from the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC), a budget-setting committee, and insufficient input from the Senate Education Committee, a policymaking committee.

The big difference, as Goedde and other members of the Senate pointed out, is that policy committees solicit and receive public comment about the legislation they propose, whereas budget committees do not receive public comment.

“My concern was that they had gone way beyond the scope of their authority,” Goedde said, about the schools budget bill and the JFAC committee. “There were components of that budget bill that sought to permanently amend Idaho state law. You don’t amend Idaho state law with the decisions of merely 20 members of the Legislature.” JFAC is comprised of 20 members, with representation from both the House and the Senate.

“When you amend Idaho law, every member of the Legislature should have the opportunity to testify if they so choose,” said Goedde, “and the people of the state, the constituents we serve, should have an opportunity to speak their minds as well. Process matters, and we need to do this right.”

The chairman of the House Education Committee was not as concerned as Goedde about the process, but understands there is an issue to be resolved.

“This is not a new fight,” Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, told Idaho Reporter.com. “The line between policy and budget is gray, and it is ever-changing, and some of the balance between the two is in the eye of the beholder. I understand the argument that some thought our school budget bill had crossed a line. But, obviously, I didn’t think it was egregious enough to try and stop it in the House. I think I’ve learned from this, however, and I think we will do even better this next time.”

Both DeMordaunt and Goedde, along with their respective education committees, have held numerous “open testimony” hearings since the start of the legislative session in January, wherein the public was encouraged to offer input on the crafting of education policy. Wednesday, the House and Senate Education Committees will meet again to discuss possible changes to the K-12 budget bill.

DeMordaunt, like Goedde, remains optimistic about the passage of the next budget bill. “Many of the things that we'll be looking at are concepts and language that already passed in the House by a strong margin last month,” DeMordaunt told IdahoReporter.com. “We've probably clarified a few things, however, and hopefully we’ll all be comfortable with what we've already voted on.”

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