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Idaho State News

Private school tuition bill ends week in legislative limbo

Kevin Richert and Sadie Dittenber | Idaho Education News 03/17/2023

A controversial private school tuition credits bill is on hold in the House — at least for now.

A day after Senate Bill 1161 passed the Senate, House Speaker Mike Moyle did not assign the proposal to any committee Friday, an unusual procedural move. The bill could still land in the House Education Committee, which voted down a school choice bill earlier this week, or Moyle could route the bill through a different committee.

House Speaker Mike Moyle
“We’re just going to let it set there until Monday,” Moyle, R-Star, said Friday, after the House wrapped up its final floor session of the week.

On Thursday, the Senate narrowly passed SB 1161, which would attach a private school tuition credit pilot to the Empowering Parents education microgrant program. The five-year pilot would put $12 million a year into tuition credits — enough to provide 2,000 households with $6,000 apiece.

Moyle said he wants to give bill sponsors and House Education members a chance to talk through the proposal.

But Moyle does have the option of bypassing House Education entirely. And curious bill assignments have been a recurring theme during the 2023 legislative session.

Earlier this session, Senate leaders routed Gov. Brad Little’s Idaho Launch postsecondary incentives bill through the Commerce and Human Resources Committee. Several senators mounted an unsuccessful objection, saying the Senate should have followed the House’s lead by running the bill through the more conservative Senate Education Committee.

Meanwhile, two ideas that died in House Education have come back to life in a more conservative House State Affairs. On Thursday, House State Affairs approved a reworked bill to prohibit obscene and “harmful materials” from public and school libraries. House State Affairs also passed a bill calling for the direct election of State Board of Education members; the House narrowly voted that bill down Wednesday.

The last-minute jockeying over SB 1161 comes as lawmakers try to wrap up their work for 2023. Legislative leaders hope to adjourn the session next Friday.

“We’ve got a little time here,” Moyle said.

Statehouse roundup, 3.17.23: Private school tuition bill ends week in legislative limbo