Idaho Legislature’s budget committee holds first votes, expects to start budget setting next week
Speaker Mike Moyle is working on draft legislation and a rule change to address JFAC votes
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee meets at the Idaho State Capitol building on Jan. 11, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
The Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee conducted its first votes of the year on Thursday, building some positive forward momentum as the 2023 session nears the end of its sixth week.
Until Thursday, JFAC hadn’t conducted any votes as Republican leaders of the Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate were engaged in a behind-the-scenes debate over a proposal to change how votes. GOP leaders announced they reached an agreement a week ago, where JFAC would continue to vote jointly but the votes of the members of the House and members of the Senate would be announced separately. the committee
In practice, not much looked and felt different in JFAC on Thursday. But the first votes did offer some insight into the new members on the committee, which experienced significant turnover and is also under new leadership this year.
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JFAC won’t start setting the 2024 budget until next week, as scheduled. But JFAC did begin addressing some of the 115 supplemental budget requests and deficiency warrants pending before the committee. Deficiency warrants are allowed to be issued by certain specific state agencies when costs for a program exceed the available amount of funding in a given year.
JFAC worked together harmoniously most of the morning Thursday, passing down a series of unanimous votes to approve supplemental budget requests and American Rescue Plan Act funding adjustments related to the disposal of hazardous materials, the Military Division and the STEM Action Center.
Legislature’s budget-setting committee takes up dyslexia training request
The only disagreement came when JFAC took up a $1.5 million supplemental funding request from Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield to pay for training for educating students with dyslexia to comply with House Bill 731 from last year, which added dyslexia to state law as a required service area. Critchfield highlighted the request and spoke about the importance of helping students with dyslexia during her Jan. 26 budget hearing in front of JFAC.
Rep. Josh Tanner, R-Eagle, questioned the amount of funding requested for training and professional development for teachers working with students with dyslexia. Tanner said that he and his daughter have both struggled with dyslexia.
Tanner pointed out the fiscal note attached to last year’s bill, which estimated the cost to be $97,000 for one new full-time position for the State Department of Education, calling it a little excessive.
“I think there is a need for this, but I wonder if this number is not over what we need and if there are other ways we can actually spend this money,” Tanner said during Thursday’s JFAC meeting.
House Education Committee Chairwoman Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell, said the $1.5 million supplemental funding request is for dyslexia training and professional development, which the state required for teachers and instructional coaches in kindergarten through fifth grade to complete as a part of last year’s dyslexia law. The $97,000 was appears separately in the State Department of Education’s budget, not the public school budget.
“Dyslexia is so individualized,” Yamamoto responded. “So for teachers to be trained in a way that they can both acknowledge and see that there is an issue, diagnose what that issue is and then provide the appropriate intervention in time, not just for a whole group of students but individually and then those maybe that can be grouped, I think it is going to take more training.”
In the end, JFAC approved the $1.5 million supplemental funding request on a 17-2 with Tanner and Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, casting the only dissenting votes. As part of the new voting agreement, Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, announced that the JFAC members from the Senate voted 8-1 and the JFAC members from the Idaho House voted 9-1 for the dyslexia funding.
JFAC is scheduled to reconvene at 8 a.m. Friday to continue addressing supplemental budget requests.
Speaker of the Idaho House working on bill to address JFAC voting
Even as JFAC moves forward following news of last week’s agreement, Speaker of the House Mike Moyle, R-Star, told the Idaho Capital Sun on Thursday he is working on draft legislation and a potential rule change to JFAC’s voting procedures. The Sun asked Moyle to confirm if he was working on draft legislation after the Legislative Services Office denied a Feb. 2 public records request the Sun filed for a particular document GOP leaders were working on related to JFAC’s voting procedures. This week, the Legislative Services Office said the document was exempt from disclosure under Idaho’s Public Records Act because it was a document related to draft legislation.
Originally, Moyle told the Sun he didn’t think legislation or a rule change was necessary because he said JFAC should have been splitting its votes to have House and Senate members vote separately all along.
Now, Moyle said Thursday, that legislation and a rule change may now be necessary and he is working with a few other legislators on a draft bill. Moyle said he may try to introduce the bill this year, but noted that the session may already be about halfway over. Moyle told the Sun if he cannot get a bill and rule change moving forward his session he is likely to convene a task force to take a closer look at the issue during the interim period before next year’s session.
In addition to JFAC, Moyle said his bill or rule change may also address other joint committees that include members of the House and Senate — including the Change in Employee Compensation Committee and the Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee.
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