Capitol Letters: Workforce grants advance despite GOP opposition
By Ryan Suppe, State Politics Reporter
Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s to create workforce grants targeting in-demand careers barely squeaked through the House yesterday.
Funded in part by the $410 million lawmakers set aside for education during last year’s special legislative session, the bill would create a fund that provides up to $8,500 in grants to Idaho high school graduates enrolling in school or training.
Most House Republicans opposed the bill, which passed by just one vote. Many House Republicans argued it’s not taxpayers’ responsibility to subsidize higher education and workforce training.
Others expressed concern that the bill wouldn’t guarantee that recipients stay in Idaho after using the grant. The legislation would require recipients to pay back the funds if they drop out of a program before completing it.
“Our businesses will pay for this if they have the need,” said Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian. “This benefit is not necessarily for the students, this is for businesses to be able to cover costs that they’re already paying.”
Two educators turned lawmakers, Reps. Matthew Bundy, R-Mountain Home, and Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell, also supported the bill. Yamamoto said as a school principal she spoke to thousands of students whose problems in school were often related to financial instability.
“I don’t want to just appeal to you on some kind of a heart-wrenching appeal, but I am going to tell you that there are a lot of kids that are in that spot,” Yamamoto said. “We would do well to not ignore that.”
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Immigration enforcement bill held in committee
A bill that would block local governments from limiting their cooperation with immigration enforcement stalled in a committee.
The legislation, from Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, aims to prevent so-called “sanctuary cities” for immigrants, where local governments don’t cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under the bill, public agencies can’t adopt, enforce or endorse a policy that blocks or discourages efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. That would include asking subjects about their citizenship status or relaying citizenship information to federal agents.
Republicans on the Senate State Affairs Committee said they support the concept, but voted to hold the bill until lawmakers have a clearer idea of local sheriffs’ stance on the proposal. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, said she’s spoken with local law enforcement officials who oppose the bill as it’s written.
“When my local sheriffs have concerns, I just wonder if we can get to the table and get something that really is going to be right for everybody, so that we don’t have this opposition,” Lee said.
Michael Kane, a lobbyist for the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, an insurance company that represents local governments, testified in favor of the bill. Kane said it would help combat a common Fourth Amendment protection claim brought by undocumented immigrants who are arrested by local police.
“For a decade now, all across the country that’s been happening, and sheriff’s offices have been losing,” Kane said.
Courts often look to a state policy when those cases are litigated, and Idaho law is silent regarding local sheriffs’ cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, Kane said.
What to expect today
9 a.m. House State Affairs. Committee members will consider a bill from that would eliminate the Legislature’s bipartisan Joint Legislative Oversight Committee and reassign oversight of the Office of Performance Evaluation, a nonpartisan agency that evaluates state government agencies and programs, to the Republican-controlled Legislative Council. The bill is sponsored by House Majority Leader Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett.
9 a.m. House Revenue and Taxation. The committee will hear three proposals related to taxes: one from Rep. Melissa Durrant, R-Kuna, on the sales tax; one from Rep. Manwaring, R-Pocatello, on property valuations; and one from Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, on the homeowners exemption.
1:30 p.m. House Judiciary, Rules and Administration. The committee will host a hearing on a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors. It’s the second year in a row that Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, has proposed the ban.
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