BOISE – Lawmakers are making progress on the education budget and may soon be able to wrap up this session. They have a bill in their hands that they want to pass so they can be home for the weekend.
The problem many lawmakers had with the last education budget was that Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee created more than just a budget - it created policy - something it cannot do. The House and Senate education committees now have a bill that creates policy, and that brings us closer to a budget and the end of the session.
What happened last Wednesday on the Senate floor surprised a lot of people. KTVB political analyst Dr. Jim Weatherby was stunned by the bill's defeat by just one vote.
"I can't remember a JFAC budget, particularly an education budget, being defeated on the floor of either the House or Senate," said Weatherby.
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna explained the problem lawmakers had with the budget.
"Where that line is between the powers of JFAC to set budgets that could set policy and then where the germane committees come in," said Luna.
So conversations started and meetings were held. The most important came Monday night behind closed doors. Luna was in that meeting along with Senate and House leadership.
"It's a good compromise and everybody came to the table last night and there's always a lot of give and take, and there's always a lot of passion, but in the end they all, it was statesman-like the way they came to an agreement," said Luna.
Tuesday morning that compromise became a bill.
The new bill has only minor tweaks to add clarity, but it also changes the order in which the budget was originally done, meaning the policy now comes from a committee and not JFAC.
Wednesday morning the House and Senate education committees will hold joint meetings to hear public testimony and streamline the process of getting this bill passed.
"Following public testimony I will entertain a motion to move the bill to the floor," said Sen. John Goedde. "With support then, we will fast track that bill through the Senate side so it can get to the House for the same process.”
That joint hearing will be at 8 a.m. Wednesday in the Lincoln Auditorium. The public is invited to come and testify. That meeting should last about two hours.
If lawmakers are able to approve this budget, the plan is to wrap up the session early Thursday afternoon.