State legislation could give funding boost to NIC

The following article was originally published in The Coeur d’Alene Press on March 15, 2014, by Dave Goins, Press Correspondent. It has been republished here with express permission from The Coeur d’Alene Press.

BOISE – Legislation which would provide nearly $1 million into North Idaho College’s budget was introduced Thursday by three North Idaho lawmakers. Its chances for approval, however, remain unclear.

Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, introduced a proposal in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee that would channel dollars now being used by urban renewal districts to Idaho’s three community colleges.

Nonini said the fate of the legislation he co-sponsored with Reps. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Kathleen Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, hinges on whether or not it would receive a Senate committee hearing if it clears the Idaho House. Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee Chairman Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, remains undecided that issue.

House tax committee chairman Gary Collins, R-Nampa, pegged it at a “60 to 70 percent chance” that the legislation wouldn’t receive a full committee hearing. Leaders at the Idaho Legislature have set a March 21 goal for wrapping up the business of the 2014 legislative session.

“If he (Siddoway) would agree to hear it, I probably would have a hearing,” Collins said. “But, that’s kind of in flux right now. So, I would say it’s probably a 60 or 70 percent (chance) that we won’t have a hearing.”

Nonini said NIC’s annual budget is “about $41 million,” but in 2012 local urban renewal districts received $958,341 that should have gone to the community college’s budget. Financial sources to fund NIC include state funds, tuition and fees, and local property taxes.

“That budget of $41 billion [sic] to North Idaho College is going to be reached one way or another,” Nonini told the House tax committee. “But my concerns is what’s fair to all the other taxpayers who support that.”

Weekly Legislative Update (March 10-14)

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The Senate voted unanimously to send a strong message to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry through Senate Joint Memorial 106. The memorial implores Obama and Kerry to use every opportunity and resource to end the unjust imprisonment and secure the immediate release of U.S. Citizen and Ada County resident, Pastor Saeed Abedini. His wife, Naghmeh Abedini, was in the gallery for the reading and debate of SJM106. Abedini was visiting his parents in Iran when he was arrested, imprisoned and continues to be tortured because of his Christian faith.
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Bill would help Hidden Lake float home owners connect to sewer system

The following article was originally published in The Coeur d’Alene Press on February 21, 2014, by Dave Goins, Press Correspondent. It has been republished here with express permission from The Coeur d’Alene Press.

BOISE – Sen. Bob Nonini on Wednesday promoted legislation that would enable the owners of 23 historic float homes on Hidden Lake to get low-interest state financing to connect their properties to the park’s sewer system.
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Legislative Town Hall Meeting, Saturday March 1, 2014

The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee held a Town Hall meeting on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library. Senator Nonini and Representative Mendive (District 3), Representative Kathy Sims (District 4), Senator Vick and Representative Barbieri (District 2) were in attendance. The event was well attended and lasted well over two hours with many questions and much discussion on current legislative issues.

Images from the Town Hall meeting:

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Senator Nonini at his desk on the Senate floor during debate of a bill February 2014

Senator Nonini at his desk on the Senate floor during debate of a bill February 2014

Weekly Legislative Update (February 24-28)

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This week Senate honored four Idaho servicemen who fought and lost their lives in Afghanistan this past year. Families of the honorees attended the special ceremony. The men honored are U.S. Army Specialist Thomas P. Murach of Meridian, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Octavio Herrera of Caldwell, U.S. Air Force Captain David Lyon of Sandpoint, and U.S. Army Specialist Mitchell K. Daehling who grew up in Pocatello. This is the third year the Senate held a memorial to honor Idaho servicemen killed while serving their country.

We appear to be right on course for the goal of a March 21st end to this legislative session, with long days and long sessions taking place. This week the Senate has approved a number of bills that will now go to the House for consideration.

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of S1350 which would create a five-person State Treasurer Investment Advisory Board and removes securities lending agreements from the list of allowable investments by the State Treasurer. Board members will be compensated $50.00 per day for meetings they attend and reimbursed for direct expenses.

The Senate also unanimously approved of S1377 which clarifies the responsibility of adoption of curriculum lies at the local school district trustee level. During discussion on Idaho Core Standards, it was pointed out that Idaho code was in conflict with practice as well as rule in regard to who is responsible for adoption of curriculum.

S1309 would make changes to help prevent private property owners from having to pay large amounts of money to protect their land from condemnation. It allows the court to require government entities to reimburse the property owner for reasonable cost of fighting eminent domain, especially if the condemnation process is amended. It was unanimously approved by the Senate.

S1353 would give some juvenile offenders a second chance to get on the right track. The bill would allow a juvenile case to be dismissed if the offender successfully completes and graduates from an authorized juvenile drug court program, juvenile mental health court program or other authorized problem solving court program. This is similar to what is currently allowed for adults. The Senate approved the bill 35-0.

The Senate hopes to crack down on Patent Trolls with S1354. Patent Trolls send threatening demand letters to businesses large and small, containing vague allegations of patent infringement and demand payment from those businesses. Many pay because of the intimidation and fear of the cost to defend against patent infringement lawsuits. This gives the Idaho Attorney General the ability to carry out action under the Idaho Consumer Protection Act. It passed unanimously.

Because of challenges such as below market salaries and remote hospital locations, S1362 would allow the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to offer educational loan repayment programs to current employees and employee candidates. The hope is the repayment program would help attract and retain physicians and mid-level practitioners for State Hospital North and State Hospital South. The Senate approved the bill on a 35-0 vote.

The Senate also unanimously approved S1368 which appropriates the Department of Finance in the amount of $7,210,900 which is a 5.8% increase over last year’s appropriation.

Also passing unanimously was S1369 which gives the attorney general’s office oversight and allows the office to do preliminary investigations of claims of civil or criminal law violations brought against county officials.

The Senate approved S1371, the Department of Correction budget which provides an 11% increase in state funds next year over last year’s budget.

The governor has signed the Agriculture Security bill. Here are some of the other bills now sent to his desk for a decision:

House Joint Memorial 7 received a unanimous vote by the Senate. The memorial requests Congress prohibit the FDA from adopting proposed rules that including any numerical water quality standards for irrigation water, transportation rules and any future FSMA rules until a clear understanding of their impact can be determined. The irrigation water quality requirements alone would cost each farm an estimated $30,566 the first-year.

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of H391 which may make more low interest loans available for communities to upgrade their wastewater treatment systems. The bill will allow funds to be transferred between the drinking water and wastewater state revolving loan accounts, allowing money to be used where it is most needed. The dedicated drinking water fund has had unused money the past couple of years while there is currently a high number of request for wastewater loans.

H406 allows Idaho to start the process to seek primacy for the National Pollution Discharge Elimination Program (NPDES). Primacy means that Idaho would be taking over as the administrator and enforcement authority for the permits, rather than the Environmental Protection Agency. Currently there are just four states that do not have Primacy. This bill passed unanimously in both the House and now the Senate.

The Senate voted 23-8 in favor of H395 which restores cuts to Medicaid, and would again allow adults with disabilities or special health needs to receive preventative dental services

The House took up S1254 which clarifies the conflict between state law and university ordinances, regarding one’s legal right to carry a firearm on college campuses. It passed 50 to 19 with one absent and it now goes to the governor for his decision.

The Senate approved H504 which grants $15.8 million in “leadership awards” to teachers. The bonuses go to teachers who participate in mentoring other teachers, teach advanced or duel-credit classes.

The Senate also approved H403 which would allow a special license plate to support the 4-H Program. The plate will feature the 4-H clover logo. 4-H will receive $22.00 for the initial issuance of each plate, and $12.00 for each succeeding annual registration.

By a vote of 24 to 11 H399 was approved by the Senate. The bill moves the age for big game hunting from 12 years down to 10 years of age. A 10 or 11 year old would be required to take hunter education and must be accompanied in the field by an adult with a hunting license.

The Joint Finance Appropriation Committee (JFAC) has been setting budgets this week.

JFAC voted to increase budgets for all levels of education. Motions for the public school budget added up to a $66.2 million increase (5.1%) in general funds for public schools next year. It was a unanimous vote to boost the community colleges budget 9.1% up to $2.8 million. Four year colleges and universities would see a 6.6% increase from general funds.

When the budget was set for the Department of Administration, JFAC attached some legislative intent language regarding contracts. It requires the department to re-examine its contract management practices, report back to the Legislature on that next year, and to notify the Legislature in writing 90 days in advance of any early contract renewal. In addition, the department would be required to submit a list of contracts exceeding $1 million that are due for renewal in the upcoming fiscal year, as part of the budget-setting process.