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Gov. Little OKs slate of bills ahead of Sine Die

Governor Brad Little standing in a school gymnasium in front of a volley ball net.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Gov. Brad Little signed several bills into law Monday, including $71 million in funding for his signature education grants program.

Gov. Brad Little has signed several bills shortly before lawmakers return to Boise Wednesday in the hopes of gaveling out for the year.

Those include funding his signature education grants program and protecting public employees and students at public schools from punishment if they refuse to use someone’s preferred pronouns.

Nearly 13,000 soon-to-be high school graduates have applied for an Idaho Launch grant, which covers up to $8,000 for a student to train for an in-demand career.

That could be through a certificate or licensing program, as well as jobs requiring a four-year degree.

The legislature approved $71 million for the program. It earned more support than it did last year when it nearly failed by a single vote in the House.

That funding will cover nearly 9,000 students.

“I am certain [Idaho Launch] will be looked upon by future generations, employers, high schoolers, and legislators as the cornerstone in our long-term success as a state, a visionary project that took courage to support,” Little wrote in a letter Monday.

Lawmakers did put new restrictions on Idaho Launch, like excluding those hoping to use the grant for graduate degrees, even if they lead to an in-demand career.

The final deadline to apply for the program is April 15.

Little also signed off on a bill prohibiting public agencies and schools from punishing those who refuse to use someone’s preferred pronouns.

Supporters said the law will stop people from being punished for exercising their personal or religious beliefs.

The legislation covers all public employees statewide, including police and school staff. It also applies to students.

Teachers won’t be able to use a student’s preferred name and pronouns unless given parental permission.

If a public employee or student is punished for failing to use someone’s preferred pronouns, they could sue in civil court within two years.

That law takes effect on July 1.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Little’s spokesperson hadn’t said whether he also signed a bill that would legally recognize male and female as the only two genders to exist in Idaho.

The governor had until 11:20 a.m. Tuesday to act on that legislation.

Detractors said such a law will only invite further civil suits against the state, which already faces several legal challenges against anti-transgender rights laws passed by legislators over the past several years.

One such case in 2020 cost taxpayers $321,224 in legal fees.

Lawmakers earlier that year passed a bill barring transgender people from changing their sex on their birth certificates, which a federal judge declared unconstitutional.

A separate federal judge ordered an injunction to block a law barring transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

State officials appealed the decision, but it was upheld by a three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2023. The attorney general’s office has since appealed that ruling and is waiting to hear if the 9th circuit will rehear the case before a larger panel of judges.

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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