By Zach Hagadone
A major piece of Idaho education legislation took its first step forward Feb. 26, as the House Education Committee unanimously voted to advance House Bill 523 with a “do pass” recommendation.
The measure would put in place a set of teacher performance standards beyond the current career ladder salary structure, opening the way for veteran, high-caliber educators to earn up to $63,000 per year after a five-year period during which the measure would be phased in.
Fronted by Idaho Governor Brad Little, the bill would end up funneling a total of $223,611,448 toward top-tier teacher salaries by 2025, boosting the pay for nearly 5,000 educators who have reached the top of the career ladder salary model, which is capped at $50,000 per year.
If approved, more than $32 million would be allocated to veteran teachers — defined as those with between eight and 25 years of experience — in fiscal year 2021. The move is intended to assist school districts and charter schools in attracting and retaining the most qualified instructors in the state by offering more competitive salaries.
The bill now goes to the House floor, where it is expected to receive a hearing by Monday, March 2.
A pair of bills are working their way through the Idaho Legislature addressing electronic cigarettes or other “electronic smoking devices and products,” used for what’s commonly referred to as “vaping.”
Fronted by Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise, House Bill 498 presents an amendment to the Prevention of Minors Access to Tobacco Act.
HB 498 would bring electronic smoking devices under the definition of tobacco products, “creating parity between traditional tobacco products and new, emerging electronic smoking devices and products.”
By classifying vaping under the statutory umbrella of tobacco, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare would be empowered to permit and regulate retailers of electronic smoking devices and vape products the same way it does with tobacco sellers.
Under the provisions of the bill, the Health and Welfare Department would put in place a fee — deferred for one year from passage — to be levied on electronic smoking and vape product sales in order to cover the costs of issuing permits, inspections to ensure compliance and administration.
After its introduction to the Health and Welfare Committee on Feb. 12, HB 498 underwent revisions and was again referred to the committee on Feb. 25, where it remains.
Another measure, HB 437, would institute a fine for vaping in a motor vehicle when minors — 18 and under — are present. The legislation amends existing law prohibiting smoking tobacco in the presence of minors while operating a motor vehicle, and proposes a fine of $75 for violators.
Law enforcement would only be allowed to issue a citation under the terms of the statute if the motorist in question was detained for another suspected violation. Conviction would not count toward points on a motorist’s license, nor would it be considered a moving traffic violation, thus would not affect vehicle insurance rates.
Brought as a American Government senior project by a quartet of Eagle High School students, the bill remains with the Health and Welfare Committee.
Idahoans may be asked to weigh in on an amendment to the Idaho Constitution that would “expressly authorize” law enforcement officials to make misdemeanor arrests without a warrant and without actually witnessing an alleged offense — so long as they have probable cause that an offense had been committed.
Senate Joint Resolution 104, sponsored by Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, and Rep. Bill Goesling, R-Moscow, is intended to reverse a 2019 Idaho Supreme Court decision that held warrantless misdemeanor arrests are unconstitutional unless the alleged crime is witnessed by a law enforcement officer. The bill would also assert the Legislature’s authority to limit the authority to arrest.
Warrantless arrests in misdemeanor cases had been allowed in Idaho for nearly 40 years prior to the 2019 Supreme Court ruling. That worried some criminal justice scholars and victims rights advocates, who argued that the ruling puts domestic abuse victims at particular risk.
According to bill sponsors, the legislation would “restore long-standing practice,” yet carries with it a hefty price tag of $250,000. That money would be needed to publish the proposed amendment and arguments for consideration by the public before being placed on the statewide ballot in November.
The measure was introduced Feb. 25 to the State Affairs Committee and referred to printing.
Child abuse reporting
A proposal from Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, reducing the number of people required by law to report suspected child abuse moved forward Feb. 20, when the House Judiciary and Rules Committee voted 9-8 to usher the bill along with a “do pass” recommendation.
House Bill 455 removes the terms “other person,” “resident on a hospital staff” and “intern” from the list of individuals required to report suspected child abuse, limiting mandatory reporters to certain health care providers, law enforcement, educators and social workers.
Under existing Idaho law, any person with evidence of child abuse, abandonment or neglect is obligated to forward that evidence to law enforcement or face a misdeamenor charge.
Scott’s bill lifts that requirement for the majority of citizens, but extends immunity to “any person reporting in good faith.”
According to the Twin Falls Times-News, the impetus for the bill comes from Scott’s belief that “unfounded claims” of abuse are a burden on taxpayers.
Opponents worry the legislation would lead to the under-reporting of child abuse. The bill awaits a hearing in the House.
For more information — including full bill texts, agendas and status updates — go to legislature.idaho.gov.
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