Dear Neighbors,

As we begin the 2012 Legislative Session, I am looking forward to giving you updates with this weekly newsletter. As I communicate with you regarding what is taking place at the Capitol, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on current legislation and state laws.
This Legislative Session I will sit on three committees: Education, State Affairs and Transportation. I will also continue in my position as the Assistant Majority Leader.
Monday January 9, Governor Otter delivered his annual State of the State Address to open the session. The tone of the Governor’s message was more optimistic than in previous years. The state is running a small projected budget deficit, which gives budget writers more breathing space in crafting a budget. Gov. Otter laid out his two budget and policy priorities for 2012- education and jobs- calling them "inseparable."
The Governor laid out many policies linked to these two themes, along with additional proposals including:
* Funding student growth in Idaho’s colleges, universities, and community colleges.
* Fully funding Students Come First, last year’s education reform laws, including its pay-for-performance and technology components.
* The creation of the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM), a $5 million initiative to forge a partnership among industry, entrepreneurs, higher education, the Idaho National Laboratory, and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, with the goal of helping existing businesses grow, nurturing the new startups, and creating more jobs and opportunities for Idaho.
* Setting aside $45 million for tax cuts for fiscal year 2013.

* Putting $60 million aside to refill Idaho’s reserve accounts.

Prior to the beginning of the Legislative Session, Superintendent Luna convened the Technology Task Force, a committee mandated by the education reform laws passed last year. This committee will provide recommendations to help state and local school districts implement the technology components of the Students Come First education reform. Last month the Technology Task Force approved over 50 recommendations. These include:
* The requirement of two online classes for high school graduation- reduced from the initial recommendation of eight online classes last year.
* Teachers and students state-wide will be given the same model laptop and school districts would offer parental training as part of the laptop program, making it a requirement if students want to take their devices home.
* Districts are also allowed to provide laptops to school counselors, librarians, and principals, in addition to teachers and students. The legislature will review these recommendations during the 2012 Legislative Session.
On Tuesday the State Senate Education Committee took up the recommendation for online class requirements for high school graduation. The initial recommendation was for one online class to be taken in a classroom with direct teacher supervision, and the other online class delivered entirely online, with teachers and students participating on their own schedules. This requirement will be changed by the state Board of Education next month to two online classes at school districts’ and parents’ discretions, and will apply to students entering 9th grade in fall 2012 if the Legislature approves the final rule.
In addition to the technology changes taking place for education, efforts are already underway to appropriate funding for teacher salaries, replacing many of the pay cuts instituted by the legislature over the past several years during the economic downturn.

This year the legislature anticipates reviewing several transportation issues including texting while driving and GARVEE bonding for several proposed projects. The legislative delegation from Meridian have begun to seek additional highway funding through GARVEE bonding authority for a bridge over I-84 at the Meridian Interchange. I am looking forward to preparing for future growth in our community by taking appropriate steps to expand the transportation infrastructure.
Thank you to all of you who have taken time to fax, e-mail and write to me. I am in the process of responding to those letters. I truly believe that the legislative process is the people’s process; therefore, it is very important to me to hear from you and understand how you are affected by Idaho’s laws and current issues. You may contact me by e-mail at CWinder@Senate.Idaho.Gov<mailto:CWinder@Senate.Idaho.Gov..> or by calling my office at 208-332-1307. I also invite you to visit my website at<>. I look forward to hearing from you.

Senator Chuck Winder
Assistant Majority Leader