Hot Topics for 2017 Legislative Session: Education & budget surplus

Posted at 7:18 PM, Jan 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-08 00:22:05-05

The 2017 Legislative Session in the Gem State kicks off on Monday.

A media exclusive briefing on Friday with the governor and both senate and house leaders provided some insight on what Idahoans can expect.

With the announcement of a new task force focused on higher education by way of the governor's executive order, there is a hope to carry on with positive momentum in working toward Idaho's 2020 goal of having 60 percent of the up and coming workforce with a degree or skill certification in hand. High-schoolers can earn more college credits now than ever before. The new task force will now be looking for more ways to accelerate progress and growth at the collegiate level.

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter said: "If we can get to 60 percent then we'll know what we're doing right."

Democratic leaders added their desire to look at ways of improving early childhood education for all. They're also concerned with tightening up cyber security following the Idaho Fish and Game's hacked hunting and fishing license system.

The senate minority leader, Michelle Stennett (D), also said a recommendation will likely be made on how to combat invasive species that could wreak havoc on dams and hydroelectric systems.

"The quagga zebra mussels, in particular, have now been seen and sighted in Montana. So, now we have them in Colorado, Montana and Nevada," she said. "This [while holding up a license plate covered in mussels]... is three months of growth in Lake Mead."

Of course, the budget will be talked about in length, especially since there will be a surplus.

"We spend a lot of our time each year talking about, particularly when there is a surplus, how much is going to go into public education, how much of that is going to go into savings and how much is going to go into tax relief," commented Brent Hill (R), senate president pro tempore.

On Saturday, the Idaho Republican Party hosted a luncheon at the Riverside Hotel where preparations were under way for the 2018 election cycle.

"The biggest thing this weekend is just taking stock and emphasizing our part and celebrating our successes and how we did it and take that to the next level," said David Johnston, executive director of the Idaho Republican Party.

The governor's State of the State speech is slated for 1 p.m. at the statehouse on Monday.