BOISE, Idaho — After a slow start that saw lawmakers send only 15 bills to the governor's desk in the first eight weeks of the 2023 legislative session, they sent another 315 to him over the final five weeks. On this edition of Viewpoint Idaho's Republican Governor Brad Little talks about the big issues that came out of the session.
The House and Senate passed, and the governor signed, bills on public education, transportation, water, infrastructure and public safety, including a pay increase for state law enforcement. They also approved nearly $140 million in property tax relief.
Governor Little also signed into law some bills on issues that prompted vigorous debate.
The so-called "bathroom bill" requires all Idaho public schools to maintain bathrooms and changing rooms on the basis of biological sex – the sex a person was assigned at birth – or face possible civil fines.
The "abortion trafficking" law makes it illegal for anyone to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion without the parents' or guardians' permission.
He also signed a bill banning transgender and transitioning children, or children with gender dysphoria, from receiving any type of hormones, puberty blockers or surgeries.
In his transmittal letter to the House of Representatives he wrote, "In signing this bill, I recognize our society plays a role in protecting minors from surgeries or treatments that can irreversibly damage their healthy bodies. However, as policy makers we should take great caution whenever we consider allowing the government to interfere with loving parents and their decisions about what is best for their children."
On this edition of Viewpoint the governor was asked why he ultimately decided to ban this option for parents who believe their children need this care.
"Obviously the surgery part of that I think nearly everybody agreed about it," Governor Brad Little said. "Some of those things are still available depending upon how they're prescribed for those children, and then there was another earlier part of the bill that addressed some legislation we'd addressed in previous years that got taken out of it. But I stand by my transmittal letter. We will see what happens. I think the bigger issue for me is behavioral health and mental health services for these kids whether we hear about them from their family or we hear about them from a school, a faith-based group, how do we help these kids get up to where they're understanding all the consequences of what they're doing, and they get older to make their own decisions."
Governor Little went into the legislative session with a huge public education agenda. In his State of the State Address, he proposed investing $410 million of the state's record $1.6 billion budget surplus into public education in Idaho.
The legislature basically approved his whole proposal. That includes the Idaho Launch grant program, which will provide $8,000 grants to qualifying Idaho high school seniors to use at any Idaho community college, career technical program or workforce training program for jobs that are in high demand in the state.
They increased pay for all teachers, including bumping up starting teacher pay to more than $47,000 a year. The governor says that puts Idaho in the top 10 nationally for starting teacher salaries.
The legislature also increased funding for public schools by 16.4% and made the Empowering Parents grant program permanent. The program provides help to eligible families to pay for things such as computers, internet access, instructional materials and tutoring. The idea is to help students make up for learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On this edition of Viewpoint the governor talks in-depth about the education investments, property tax relief, projects to protect Idaho's water supply, abortion ban impacts and the so-called 'bathroom bill."
Viewpoint airs Sunday mornings at 9 o'clock on KTVB Idaho's NewsChannel 7.
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