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Senate plows through legislation as the week and session near end

Senate plows through legislation as the week and session near end

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
March 19, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
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March 19, 2010

The Idaho Senate Thursday afternoon approved several measures with little debate and no official opposition in an effort to lighten its load as they move into what could be the last week of the legislative session. The legislation passed included letting state offices run four-day work weeks, giving grandparents additional rights to care for their grandchildren, and approving several agency budgets. The Senate traditionally approves all budgets on a roll call voice vote, but used a blanket 34-0 yes vote to approve the legislation more quickly.

State offices could shut down due to mandatory furloughs under one approved plan. Current state law requires offices be open five days a week, but the proposal adds an exemption to close due to mandatory unpaid days off for state workers. Read IdahoReporter.com’s first story about the legislation here.

The Senate also approved changes to the Child Protective Act that would list grandparents and other relatives as the top option to care for children who could go into foster care. “Sometimes, the best place for a child that cannot be raised by their parents is with another family member,” said Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston. She said Idaho grandparents care for 20,000 grandchildren. “They don’t do it because it’s easy,” Lodge said. “They do it because it’s what’s best for the child.”

“This is long overdue,” said Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo. “We’re finally doing something to protect grandparents and relatives.” Read IdahoReporter.com’s coverage of the House passage of the legislation here.

A proposal to create a commission to study immunization policy will also head to the governor’s desk. The commission, which would include representatives from hospital and medical organizations, would have a four-year sunset. “We’re optimistic that our immunization rate will have increased by that time,” said Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell. “This is another step that we can take to increase a dramatically deficient immunization rate in this country.” Read IdahoReporter.com’s story on a Senate panel approving the immunization commission plan.

The Senate also voted 34-0 for a plan to let the Crime Victims Compensation Program try to keep medical costs down it pays to victims of violent crime. Read about the committee approval of that legislation here. Lawmakers also said yes to two small changes in water policy suggested by the Idaho Water Users Association.

Several budgets set by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) also received Senate approval. The Department of Finance, Building Safety Division, Office of Species Conservation, and State Board of Education all received little debate and broad support on the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, who makes scheduling announcements on the Senate floor, said lawmakers should continue to approve legislation tomorrow. “It is our intent to come in tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. and work as aggressively as we can.”

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