Idaho Legislature

medical marijuana, pot
Audio Vision, Public Radio / Flickr Creative Commons

A pro-cannabis group has filed paperwork with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office to begin gathering signatures for a medical marijuana legalization initiative. The group New Approach Idaho was founded a few months ago. Its members hope Idaho voters will be able to decide on pot legalization in 2016. New Approach Idaho president William Esbensen says the initiative has three parts.

Wally Gobetz / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Tuesday in favor of the State of Idaho in a fight over Medicaid payments to providers. The decision could impact Medicaid's low-income patients across the state. 

The case began after a 2009 lawsuit against the state. Officials with Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare had recommended increasing payment rates to private medical providers who serve Medicaid patients.

The Idaho Senate decided to kill a major overhaul to Idaho’s tax system Tuesday.

State officials say the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted Idaho an extension to comply with the federal REAL ID Act.

The Idaho Transportation Department in a statement Tuesday says the extension granted on Friday means Idaho residents can continue to use their Idaho driver's licenses to board commercial flights and enter federal areas, such as nuclear facilities and military bases.

That was set to expire starting in 2016.

An Idaho House panel has killed a proposal to legalize oil extracted from cannabis plants used to treat children with severe forms epilepsy.

The bill failed to garner enough votes to advance on Monday.

The quick vote came after the House State Affairs panel listened to nearly four hours of testimony, ranging from tearful parents pleading for the bill's passage to law enforcement representatives wary of the plan's unintended consequences.

The bill was named after 10-year-old Alexis Carey, who has a rare but intractable form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome.

Butch Otter
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A plan to help school districts crack down on bullying in Idaho's public schools is on its way to the governor's desk.

The Idaho Senate passed the bill 24-10 on Monday.

The bill would require local school district leaders to go through anti-bullying training and create a way for bullying to be reported.

Democratic Sen. Jane Ward-Engelking from Boise, who sponsored the bill, says that bullying can lead to depression and anxiety among students, as well as problems keeping up with classwork.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

State education officials have delayed finalizing Idaho's No Child Left Behind waiver with the federal government until the end of April in order to pursue a more flexible agreement for local districts.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra announced the change to the House Education Committee on Monday.

She had just finished attending meetings with other state education heads in Washington, D.C.

Metal Chris / Flickr

An aggressive three-part proposal to eliminate sales tax on groceries, lower income taxes on Idaho's top earners while hiking the fuels tax by 7 cents per gallon has passed the Idaho House.

House lawmakers voted 53-17 Monday to send the bill to the Senate for approval.

Majority Leader Mike Moyle says the bill will boost Idaho's economy by attracting more businesses and providing families with more money they would have spent on grocery taxes.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho Senate has killed a plan to make a new process to accredit naturopaths in Idaho.

The Senate voted 25-10 Monday to defeat the bill, which had faced substantial changes over the last week in an effort to find a compromise.

Two major groups of naturopaths in Idaho have disagreed on licensing guidelines for decades, especially since licenses were granted to the profession in 2005.

The Senate also voted 22-13 to repeal state laws that require naturopaths to get a license.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

The Idaho House is set to vote Monday on a bill that would move Idaho’s presidential primary from May to March. Lawmakers are considering the change because of a 2012 event.

In the winter of 2012, all eyes were on the crowded field of Republican presidential candidates. And Idaho’s Republican Party didn’t want to wait until the state-run election in May to let party members weigh in.

Republican voters lined up in school gyms across the state for a party caucus. And it was messy.

Idaho would have the ability to enter into an interstate compact to pursue transferring control of federal lands under a proposal making its way through the Statehouse.

House lawmakers voted 45-23 on Friday to approve setting up the compact, facing from opposition from both Republicans and Democrats worried of the bill's unintended consequences.

capitol, JFAC
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Legislative budget writers are matching Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's request to restore public education money slashed during the economic downturn by adding roughly $101 million to the Idaho schools budget.

The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee approved increasing the schools budget by 7.4 percent on Friday. The proposal now needs to pass both chambers, but the legislation is expected to pass.

The proposal includes allotting $33.5 million to boost teacher pay, part of a five-year teacher pay increase plan lawmakers approved earlier this week.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

A three-part tax bill that would eliminate the grocery sales tax and lower income taxes on top earners has passed an Idaho House panel.

The bill by House Republican leadership would also include a seven-cent fuel tax increase, which would raise $65 million per year to address Idaho's transportation funding shortfall.

Under the tax plan, Idahoans in the top income tax bracket would see their rate drop from 7.4 percent to 6.7 percent.

Rookie teachers in Idaho will receive pay raises starting July 1 under a $125 million proposal headed to the governor's desk for his signature.

The Idaho Senate unanimously approved the measure Thursday, where senators offered only praise that the 30-page bill had survived both chambers after seeing prior proposals flounder this legislative session.

Steve Sawyer / Flickr

A bill that would ban Idaho's slot-like instant horse racing machines has passed the House and is on its way to the governor's desk.

After two hours of discussion in the chamber, the House voted 49-21 Thursday to repeal a law the Legislature passed in 2013 allowing the lucrative betting terminals, which closely resemble slot machines.

Some lawmakers say that they were tricked into approving instant horse racing — that is, betting on an earlier horse race but with no identifiable information.

Boise State Public Radio

Idaho lawmakers have directed their staff to spend the next nine months studying the state’s contract with Optum Idaho, the company that manages outpatient behavioral health services for Medicaid patients.

An Idaho Republican lawmaker's political website has been snapped up by a group claiming to be gay rights activists, decorated with rainbows and replaced with text requesting that the legislature meet with same-sex marriage supporters.

State Rep. Paul Shepherd from Riggins is backing a non-binding resolution urging Congress to impeach federal judges who violate the U.S. Constitution. Shepherd contends that recent court rulings overturning state bans on same-sex marriages violate the Constitution.

Education, school, classroom
IlmicrofonoOgglono / Flickr Creative Commons

The average teacher pay in Idaho dropped by more than $200 from 2012-13 to 2013-14 — a decrease that the state’s teachers’ union can’t explain.

On average, only two states pay their teachers less than Idaho.

A March 10 hearing on a teacher career ladder bill drew dozens of teachers to the Statehouse to testify. A new version of the bill passed the House Monday.

But meanwhile, pay appeared to increase for Idaho “instructional staff,” including counselors, principals and curriculum specialists.

Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons

House Republicans are introducing an eleventh-hour patchwork plan to raise more than $100 million for Idaho roads.

The House Ways and Means Committee introduced two of the three parts Wednesday morning — including registration fee hikes and up to $26 million in general fund dollars.

The proposal is similar to legislation killed by the House Transportation Committee last week.

But House Majority Leader Mike Moyle says that he hopes breaking the plan up into three pieces will let lawmakers approve at least some of the parts.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The budget for Idaho’s behavioral health division includes funding for a second mental health crisis center.

The Spokesman-Review's Eye on Boise blog reports the Department of Health and Welfare’s budget plan includes $1.7 million for the 24-hour crisis center.

The crisis centers are meant to keep people out of jail or hospital emergency rooms, and instead connect them with appropriate mental health care services.

Roo Reynolds / Flickr

A bill clarifying that Idahoans can carry concealed weapons outside city limits without a permit has passed the Idaho House.

The House voted 57-11 to approve the plan to rewrite the state's concealed weapons laws.

An earlier version removed the exemption that allows lawmakers and government officials to carry concealed weapons without a permit. But the exception was put back in after lawmakers on the House's powerful State Affairs Committee said the bill would die without it.

State officials are no longer requesting the Idaho Legislature approve new rules designed to tighten oversight on multimillion dollar contracts after lawmakers voiced concerns the proposed guidelines didn't go far enough.

An official with the Department of Administration says adopting the rules is no longer necessary because state lawmakers have since proposed creating an interim committee to review the state's procurement laws.

Kaje / Flickr

The Idaho House has passed a plan requiring school board candidates in roughly half of Idaho's school districts to file campaign finance reports.

The House voted 50-19 on Tuesday to require candidates in districts with at least 500 students to file the same campaign disclosure reports as other elected officials.

Republican Rep. Patrick McDonald from Boise says that companies or citizens may try to influence elections for local school boards, which often control multi-million dollar budgets.

Legislative auditors say Idaho wasted $61 million on a software system to track and improve student performance that doesn't work for most districts.

However, a top Idaho State Department of Education official on Tuesday says the blame does not rest with the agency's current administration.

In a new report released Monday, legislative auditors found that the department gave all school districts access to Schoolnet but did not provide enough financial support or technical training. The department then minimized the system's problems.

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