Community Blog: The EDge

Bill tying driver’s licenses to grades goes into the ditch

It isn’t every day that a legislative committee rejects a chairman’s bill.

But it happened Tuesday afternoon, when the Senate Education Committee tabled a bill that would tie teenagers’ driver’s licenses to “satisfactory academic progress.” Teen driver’s licenses are already tied to school attendance.

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, proposed the academic requirement, Senate Bill 1087, after a Meridian driver’s education teacher suggested it during a Senate-House education “listening session” on Feb. 1.

“I thought it was a good idea,” Goedde said after the vote.

But Goedde’s committee colleagues clearly didn’t like what they heard, peppering Goedde with questions about how the requirement would work — and whether it would create an undue burden for schools and the Idaho Transportation Department.

Afterward, Goedde said he had not vetted the bill with stakeholders, basing the language on the  suggestion from the listening session. He said he has no intention of bringing back the idea.

The committee voted 5-4 to table the bill. Voting no were Sens. Russell Fulcher, R-Meridian; Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene; Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth; and Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise. Joining Goedde in support were Sens. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, and Branden Durst, D-Boise.

In other Tuesday Statehouse headlines:

Open negotiations. Idaho Education Association Executive Director Robin Nettinga fared much better in Goedde’s committee. The committee quickly and unanimously endorsed the IEA’s Senate Bill 1098, which would again require school boards to hold contract negotiations in open session.

This language was a component of Proposition 1, the rejected collective bargaining law.

While the IEA and the Idaho School Boards Association have sparred over attempts to resuscitate pieces of Proposition 1, this bill has widespread support. ISBA Executive Director Karen Echeverria testified in favor of SB 1098 before senators voted to send it to the floor, with a recommendation that it pass.

Early retirement. The Senate voted to rescind, once again, an early retirement program for teachers. The 2011 Students Come First labor law eliminated the retirement plan, but the Proposition 1 repeal put the program back on the books.

The two-year elimination of the plan did not change the teacher retirement rate, said Sen. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise — a sign, he says, that the program does not save the state money by allowing school districts to hire younger teachers. Keeping the plan on the books would cost $3.6 million in 2013-14.

Senate Bill 1089 passed on a 29-6 vote. Five Democrats voted no: Les Bock, Buckner-Webb, Durst and Elliot Werk, all of Boise; and Michelle Stennett of Ketchum. Fred Martin of Boise was the only Republican voting no.

SB 1089 now goes to the House.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

Posted in The EDge