March Madness and Sunshine

The past two weeks have been incredibly busy down here in Boise.  The “transmittal deadline” was Monday, March 9th, and while that’s not a totally firm cutoff point, it is the suggested time to have all bills into the line up so they can get through the Senate and over to the House.  (“transmitted across the rotunda”) Everyone was scrambling.  I’ve been working on three special bills this session, in addition to supporting several  bills being sponsored by other Senators.  Here’s the status of my first bill:

S1072: Sunshine / Campaign finance reporting for school board candidates: This is the bill that passed the Senate Ed. committee a week ago Monday and passed the full Senate yesterday by a vote of 24-11. It was a great learning experience because I thought it would be a simple bill that would sail through without much trouble.  Not true.  It had some resistance from the start from the Idaho School Board Assoc. (ISBA)  They didn’t like the emergency clause, with would have made this effective right away, in time for the upcoming May elections. (Otherwise all new laws go into effect on July 1st )  The ISBA also wanted to exempt small districts with less than 1000 students.  I decided to go forward to committee with the bill unchanged and, even though the ISBA assured me they would not oppose it in its original form, they got up and testified against it.  It still passed committee.  When it came up on the floor of the Senate, there was debate against it from several Senators, especially Sen. Dan Schmidt, (D) Moscow.  I decided to amend the bill and remove the emergency clause and exempt districts with less than 500 students, which removes the requirement from 45 out of our 115 districts.  Dan wanted all districts with less than 10,000 students to be exempt, which would leave only 7 districts disclosing. The amendments come up as a separate vote on the floor of the Senate.  Dan Schmidt was the only one to debate against them (typically amendments don’t have people speaking against)  He was also the only one to debate against the full bill when it was up for a final vote yesterday, but it passed with a 24-11 bipartisan vote, having several Democrats, especially those from Boise, in support.  Sen. Schmidt told me the reporting forms are “hard”, even if you spend no money.  He’s a retired medical doctor.  The form is one page if you have no donations or expenditures. Is that too much to expect of school board candidates who, if elected, will supervise multi-million dollar budgets, negotiate teacher contracts and make critical policy decisions?   Transparency is important for us all!