Steve Berch District 15 Newsletter
Mid-February Update

These newsletters highlight some of the activities taking place in the Idaho Legislature during the 2019 session. 

Please check the bottom of this newsletter for upcoming District 15 events and the various ways you can contact me.  I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Education Update
A joint session of the Senate and House Education committees conducted a “listening session” on a new formula for distributing the education budget among all K-12 schools in Idaho. Here are some of the key take-aways:
  • There was clear support for changing the formula from Average Daily Attendance (ADA) to Enrollment.  This essentially allows money to move with the student.
  • Several concerns were raised by most of the organizations that testified, including: the Department of Education, Idaho Rural School Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators, Idaho Education Association, Idaho School Board Association, Idaho Business for Education, and several school districts (Boise, West Ada, Bliss, Melba, Nampa, Blaine).
  • Two charter school organizations expressed strong support for the new formula.
  • The funding formula does not include committing a specific amount of money for K-12 education. Click here to download the latest version of the proposed funding formula.
  • It is not yet clear what will happen to the teacher salary career ladder.
  • Many stakeholders were disappointed to not have been included in the writing of the draft legislation. Click here to see the latest version of the draft legislation (which will likely be revised).
There was another listening session, an impromptu conversation I had with a young man at a social function. He lives in rural Idaho. His wife is a certified teacher. Their young child was sick one morning and there were no substitute teachers available (the pay is $50/day). Her class would have to be combined with another class of a different grade level. In addition, several teachers at this school do not have teaching degrees. She had to arrange for a relative to be with her sick child so she could be at school for her students. 
 
Adopting a funding formula that changes how insufficient funds are distributed creates a false sense of accomplishment. However, the funding formula is still a work-in-progress and the 2020 education budget has not yet been set, so things can change. I will continue to focus on decisions that address the real issue: ensuring that all Idaho students receive an adequately funded education. 
Rotunda Roundup
  • Legislation that would change the state Constitution and allow one political party to decide and gerrymander all legislative districts to their advantage has been pulled from consideration – for now.  However, this bill (or a new version) can be re-introduced later this session, or in the 2020 session.  Stay tuned.
  • I was the only Representative to vote against two minor bills providing new sales tax exemptions, one for certain farm equipment and one for certain auto mechanic services.  I am not against farmers or auto mechanics.  What I am against is the legislature continuing to reduce state revenue while critical areas such as education and infrastructure remain underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars. The effort to bring more balance and perspective to the management of the state's fiscal affairs has to start somewhere.
  • A bill (S1034) has been introduced in the Senate to provide that anticancer medications that are self-administered by a patient shall not have a higher copayment, deductible, or coinsurance amount than injected or intravenously administered anticancer medications.
  • HB12 was signed into law that expands access to naloxone, a lifesaving drug for opioid overdose victims. 
  • Idaho’s Office of Performance Evaluations (OPE) released a report that details the strains that state mandates put on Idaho’s counties and the ongoing struggle local governments face in providing services for their residents. Click here to read the report.
Tax Tips
  • Get a grocery credit refund even if you don’t earn enough to file taxes. Click here.
  • E-file your Idaho tax return for free. Click here.
  • Find out if you can get free income tax assistance. Click here.