Idaho Student Association releases legislator report card

With the general election less than a week away, the Idaho Student Association has released the first Idaho Higher Education Legislator Report Card.

In the report, the group of students evaluated bills focused on higher education from the 2018 legislative session to determine how legislators voted.

Legislator’s from District five, which encompasses Latah County, included Dan Foreman who is currently running for re-election to the Idaho Senate. Foreman received a D and tied with Assistant Majority Leader Steve Vick from District two with the least amount of support for higher education with a 67.1 percent. Foreman and Vick both voted against a bill providing funding for the University of Idaho on the Senate floor in March.

The other legislators in District five, Rep. Margie Gannon, a Democrat, appointed to fill in Paulette Jordan’s seat, and Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, a Republican, both received B ratings.

The report card lists an honor roll of 18 Idaho Senators and six Representatives. Skinner said ISA created the honor roll to highlight legislators who consistently supported higher education bills in the 2018 legislative session. Republican Sen. Jeff Agenboard, a University of Idaho alum, who represents the district 13 and lives in Nampa, received the highest score, an A grade with percentage of 100.7.

ISA identified 21 bills that fit in the criteria for higher education. Bills were assigned between one and five points to determine its impact on legislators’ final scores. If a legislator was not present or voted against a bill or was not present, they received no points, if they voted for a bill, they received the points. If a legislator sponsored a bill, they received an additional 10 percent of its of points. Using this formula ISA determined a resulting percentage score that reflects each legislator’s support of higher education.

In its summary of the report card, ISA expressed hope it would become an annual project.

“In order for us to experience a culture shift, we also need our elected officials to advocate outside of the legislature’s chambers,” the summary reads. “We are beyond grateful for the legislators who already currently do so. Higher education must become a priority in the state of Idaho because our future depends on it. Our students deserve more, and we hope the creation of the annual Idaho Higher Education Legislative Report Card sparks a critical dialogue.”

ASUI President Nicole Skinner spearheaded the project along with Clayton King, ASUI Director of Policy and Chief of Staff. They were joined by student body representatives from Boise State University, Idaho State College, Lewis-Clark State College, College of Southern Idaho and North Idaho College.

King became involved with the project through his role in ASUI but said he is passionate about getting a tool out for students to use while voting.

“I’m hoping that students can use the breakdown to help them determine what legislators they want to vote for,” King Said.

Bills included on the report card included a repeal to the Medical Amnesty Sunset Clause worth five points. And a Concealed Weapon Carry bill that would amend an existing law to allow retired law enforcement officers a concealed weapon on college campuses worth one point.

“I hope this new statewide initiative will increase legislators’ accountability and advocacy for higher education in Idaho,” Skinner said. “We hope this project can make college more affordable and accessible for students by providing an incentive for the state support we so desperately need.”

Ellamae Burnell can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @EllamaeBurnell

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