BOISE — Last week, the fifth of the 2020 legislative session, state officials and lawmakers:
Voted to repeal education standards
The House Education Committee voted 10-5 on Wednesday to get rid of the state’s English, science and math school achievement standards.
The standards, Idaho’s version of Common Core, were adopted in 2011 and have been intensely politicized for years. Although they were adopted under a Republican governor and Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra wanted to keep them, many other Republicans favor their repeal, saying they lead to adding some inappropriate content into the curriculum and teach subjects such as math in age-inappropriate ways that turn children off from learning. Meanwhile, most of the teachers who came to the Capitol for three days of often passionate public testimony before the vote urged the committee to keep them, saying they have helped their students learn and that most of the objections were to specific curricula, which are set by local school boards, not the standards themselves.
The standards now go to the Senate Education Committee. Under the Legislature’s rulemaking process, if the Senate committee adopts them they will remain despite the House’s rejection.
Introduced a lot of bills and voted on some
Friday was the deadline for non-privileged, in legislative parlance, committees to introduce bills in the House, so there was a flurry of bill introductions late in the week, including some from local lawmakers or relevant to eastern Idaho issues. One to follow will be a bill sponsored by Reps. Barbara Ehardt and Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, to set a minimum age of marriage of 16 and limit 16- and 17-year-olds to marrying partners within three years of each other. They decided to sponsor this bill after voting against one that failed last year that, they thought, infringed on parental rights by requiring a judge to sign off on 16- and 17-year-olds marrying.
Another, which is being sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks, R-Nampa, would set limits on attorney fees in medical debt collection cases and add new requirements for medical providers to notify patients of what they owe within a specified time. Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot has been pushing for similar legislation since last year, after Medical Recovery Associates, an Idaho Falls firm in which local Republican activist Bryan Smith is a partner, sued Melaleuca to garnish an employee’s wages. Smith, Driscoll and Associates is the law firm that does MRS’ collections work; Smith co-owns it and Zollinger works there as a lawyer. Last year VanderSloot founded a legal fund to represent debtors in cases, most of them involving MRS, where he views people as being treated unfairly.
The House State Affairs Committee voted along party lines on Thursday to advance to the full House a bill under which local legislative district committees would only send one name, rather than three, to the governor when there is a vacant legislative seat, effectively giving local precinct committee officers the power to fill a seat. Sponsored by Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, the bill originated with a resolution the Bonneville County Republicans passed last year proposing the change. There have been several times in recent years where governors have passed over the local party’s first choice to fill a vacancy, including for two Idaho Falls seats in 2017.
Senate Education plans to hold a hearing on the content standards on Wednesday or Thursday, said committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls. He said this is tentative and could change, depending on other things on the committee’s schedule and ongoing discussions among the leadership. Mortimer said he plans to hold a hearing on all the standards in one day and not break it into several as the House did.
Quotes of the week
“Contrary to the narrative that was promoted by our Democrat colleagues, never ever did we want to marry young girls off to old men. Our goal was to preserve parental rights.”
—Ehardt, on hers and Zollinger’s child marriage bill.
“It was the right thing to do. Our citizens out there deserve more transparency in the health care system ... and through no fault of their own often had been taken advantage of (by) a legal process.”
—Monks on why he decided to sponsor the medical debt bill.