A push to keep broadband in schools

Transportation funding another big issue facing lawmakers in Boise

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Keeping broadband service in Idaho's high schools and transportation funding were the big issues addressed by lawmakers during the sixth week of this legislative session which ended Friday.

Rep. Luke Malek, who sits on the governor's Idaho Education Network taskforce, said the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, which he also sits on, appropriated $3.6 million to the Superintendent of Public Instruction's office to reimburse schools for procuring their own broadband service for the rest of this school year.

"Now we will look for next steps forward," Malek said, adding that the process has been fairly chaotic so far.

Malek, R-Coeur d'Alene, also presented a bill Friday to remove the Idaho state code from the Idaho state copy rights laws.

Malek co-sponsored the bill, which was drafted by University of Idaho law students, with Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise.

"If ignorance of the law is no defense, people ought to have access to the laws," Malek said, adding they need to be in the public domain.

He said he is unsure why they are protected, but he intends to find out when the bill begins the hearing process.

Malek said his community para-medicine bill is currently being processed.

Parental Rights

Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d'Alene, co-sponsored a parental rights bill, SB 1096, in the Senate Education Committee last week, along with Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian.

"It's a bill that basically says a student's parent or guardian is responsible for the education of that student," Souza said. "It establishes that a parent is the primary decision-maker."

The bill goes on to clarify that the state is in a secondary position and plays a supportive role to the parent or guardian.

It also requires schools to develop a plan that is designed to improve parent and teacher cooperation in such areas as homework, attendance and discipline.

Souza said another bill that sets out the basic rights of parents was also introduced in the House Education Committee. Despite some legal concerns from the Idaho Supreme Court and the Idaho Attorney General's Office about defining guardianship and education, that was passed out to the full House on a party line vote of 13-3.

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said he was in committee on Thursday when the bill was first debated, but did not vote on it because he had business to attend to at home on Friday.

"It was quite a debate," Barbieri said, adding it was mainly about the guardianship language. "I guess there is case law on this subject."

Barbieri said some of the legislators were also concerned about the judicial branch of government trying to influence policy.

Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, said he voted to send the bill to the House floor for a vote.

"I wanted to get it to the floor so everyone could hear it," he said.

Instant Racing

Cheatham said he is expecting to see the instant horse racing issue come forward soon.

"It could be next week or the week after that depending on who you talk to," Cheatham said, adding he is doing his research on pari-mutuel betting.

He said he would like to see the outcome of the Post Falls Police investigation on the machines at the Greyhound Park and Events Center before he has to decide on repealing the instant racing law.

"A lot of people did invest in these machines and a lot of jobs have been created with them no matter if they are right or wrong," he said. "I wish we would wait until the investigation is completed."

Barbieri, who also sits on the State Affairs Committee with Cheatham, said he also expects to see that legislation come up soon.

Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, doesn't sit on state affairs, but he has been actively working to prevent the repeal of the instant racing law.

"What I am hearing on good authority is that it could be a couple of weeks before that is taken up again," he said, adding there are rumors of another bill that would repeal all gaming in Idaho - including the lottery.

New legislation

Nonini introduced a new bill on Friday that would encourage pre-kindergarten private sector programs to teach children to read before they enter the school system.

He said the legislation would allow the state to negotiate learning metrics for private entities like the Lee Pesky Learning Center in Boise.

If a private program can achieve those metrics, Nonini said the learning center of daycare could then be reimbursed for the cost of the program.

He said there is no fiscal impact to the state because the private sector would pay for the program up front, and only get reimbursed by the state if the learning metrics are met.

Nonini said the private sector programs could actually save the state money.

He said there are already funded line items in the budget that could be used to reimburse those programs.

"What I like about this is the state doesn't have to pay for anything up front," he said.

He said the legislature doesn't support public pre-kindergarten programs, but encouraging the private sector to do it could help the Idaho students improve reading skill by third grade.

Barbieri said he is sitting on a subcommittee of the House Business Committee that is addressing how to enforce the "dig rule" in Idaho.

He said Idaho has twice the number of gas line and electrical line breakages from digging than the national average. The Business Committee is looking at ways to strengthen the laws to address those hazards.

Barbieri said the answer may be improving the oversight of that law and raising the fines for breaking underground infrastructure.

Souza said her sunshine reporting bill for school board elections is still being processed, but she expects to present it sometime soon.

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