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'Appalled' educators urging veto

Published March 8, 2008 1:51 am

Omnibus schools bill is a bad idea, board contends
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The Utah Board of Education voted unanimously Friday to send a letter urging Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to consider vetoing parts of a wide-ranging education funding bill passed in the Legislature's final hours.

The letter will say members are "appalled" by the process that went into passing the bill that rolled 12 education measures into one, and will suggest that process may have been unconstitutional. Board members want Huntsman to consider using his line-item veto power to consider killing parts of SB2 rejected by the House before they were rolled into the omnibus bill.

Board member Kim Burningham, a former Republican lawmaker, likened the process of passing SB2 to "bribery." He said he'd like to see more balance in the Legislature between political parties and conservative and moderate Republicans and is working to recruit candidates to challenge current legislators.

"Legislation should stand on its own merits not because it's tied to a lot of things," Burningham said. "[They] put a whole bunch of things together to buy votes. To do this is wrong."

Normally, the House and Senate pass each bill individually. Toward the end of the session this year, however, lawmakers combined 12 education bills into one, essentially forcing lawmakers to pass all 12 or nothing. The two programs in the bill that the House had earlier rejected would provide money for an at-home software pilot program for preschoolers and ask school districts to help pay for charter school students.

Lawmakers in favor of the omnibus bill said it allowed them to pass more education bills than they might otherwise have been able to before the session's end Wednesday. Opponents said it lumped popular bills in with unpopular ones as a way to pass the unpopular ones.

Board member Randall Mackey said the board is grateful for the money and support legislators have put toward public education but feels a responsibility to try to prevent more omnibus bills from passing in the future.

The board on Friday also voted unanimously to ask the governor to veto SB162, which would require legislative and/or gubernatorial approval before the state could enter into federal education agreements that would cost the state money. The idea behind the bill is to prevent the federal government from imposing programs such as No Child Left Behind on Utah again without state approval.

Board members, however, worried such a requirement could hold up money for needed education programs. They also worried about the cost of figuring out at the state and district levels exactly how much Utah pays to implement certain federal education agreements.

Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley on Friday said the governor will make decisions on the bills after further review.


Board of Education recommendations

* The state school board is urging Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to veto SB162, which would require legislative and/or gubernatorial approval before the state could enter into federal education agreements that would cost the state money.

* It also would like the governor to consider using his line-item veto power to kill parts of SB2, an education omnibus bill covering 12 education programs.




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