Friday, April 8, 2011

Lawmakers head home

Legislative session adjourned

Express Staff Writer

After 88 days of heated debate on topics ranging from abortion to wolves and public education, Idaho legislators called it a year.

The Idaho Senate adjourned for the 2011 session at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, followed closely by the House roughly two hours later.

The Democratic minority issued a press release Wednesday that called the session the "worst in their collective memories."

"This is the toughest session in my nine years in office," said Sen. Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello. "Moderate, independent views were often ignored."

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, contended that the Legislature ignored the democratic process, especially during the passage of Superintendent Tom Luna's "Students Come First" education reform package.

Gov. Butch Otter and Luna have repeatedly stated that most citizens favored the bills.

"Calling the groundswell of opposition a minority shows disdain for the democratic process," Stennett said.

But the vocal Republican majority in the Legislature took umbrage at the minority's characterization of the session.

"I would describe it as a difficult session among some of the toughest economic times in memory," said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls. "Thirty-five good and decent women and men gathered from all quarters of the state [in the Senate] and we did what legislators do—we struggled."

The governor has 10 days after the date of adjournment to sign or veto any bill passed by both branches. Here's a status update on some of the most controversial ones this session:

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"Students Come First" plan

All three education reform bills were signed into law last month. The bills limit teachers' collective bargaining rights and allow districts to lay off teachers as late as October while setting up a pay-for-performance system and increasing technology in the classroom.

In the final days of the session, a series of trailer bills was passed that declared a state of emergency in public education. When signed into law by the governor, these bills will make the other bills effective immediately.

20-week-abortion ban

The House voted on Tuesday to approve a measure banning abortion after 20 weeks except in cases when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother. The bill was passed by the Senate on March 23.

The bill has been deemed unconstitutional by the state attorney general, and Stennett voted against it on the grounds that it would open the state to costly litigation if challenged.

The bill does not provide a provision for rape or incest.

Budget stabilization levy

A bill that would have thrown 60 percent of Blaine County School District's operating budget into flux died in a Senate committee.

The bill would have eliminated a permanent levy that provides the district with $29.5 million annually.

Katherine Wutz:

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