After a lengthy and passionate debate that stretched for roughly two hours, the Senate has killed HB 294aaS, the twice-amended "Strong Students" grant program bill, on a 16-18 vote. As originally passed by the House, the bill sought to both extend a grant program to Idaho families that Gov. Brad Little first instituted with CARES Act funds, to offset families' educational expenses during the pandemic, as a new multimillion-dollar annual program, and also add a new $5 million scholarship program to Idaho families whose kids don't attend public schools. Senate amendments stripped out the private-school scholarship program, but kept in the larger permanent grant program. Numerous senators questioned how that would be funded; Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, the bill's lead sponsor, said it would be a request to JFAC for a general fund appropriation.
After the close vote, Sen. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, served notice that having voted on the prevailing side, she wanted reconsideration of the vote. The reconsideration vote was put off until Wednesday.
Much of the debate focused on the prospect of diverting money from the public school budget for the grant program, which raised big concerns. Post Register reporter Sally Krutzig covered the debat; you can read her full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required). Meantime, the Senate has taken a recess and will return at 6 p.m. for an evening session that's anticipated to run until 8 p.m. Here's the full vote breakdown:
HB 294aaS, killed on a 16-18 vote:
Voting yes: Sens. Anthon, Bayer, Cook, Den Hartog, Grow, Lakey, Lent, Lodge, Martin, Patrick, Rice, Ricks, Souza, Thayn, Vick and Winder.
Voting no: Sens. Agenbroad, Bair, Burgoyne, Burtenshaw, Crabtree, Guthrie, Harris, Heider, Johnson, Lee, Nelson, Nye, Rabe, Stennett, Ward-Engelking, Wintrow, Woodward, and Zito.