Youth Challenge Program:

This legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously, would create an alternative school for high school dropouts.

It would create more than 50 full-time jobs in Clearwater County, said bill sponsor Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson. And, said Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, taking care of high-risk students would save in correctional and welfare costs in the future.

The catch: The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee had already rejected spending authority for the program over criticism of funding plans. JFAC Co-Chairman and Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said the school had a noble intent, but the issue should have come up earlier in the session.

“This is not the way to start a program,” Cameron said Wednesday.

On Thursday, JFAC Co-Chairwoman Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, said the budget committee wouldn’t reconsider its stance on the spending authority this session.

It didn’t.

Animal cruelty

The law creates a third-offense felony for extreme animal abuse, taking Idaho off the small list of states that don’t have felony animal cruelty laws.

The bill, which had the support of Idaho’s livestock industries, originated in the Senate and passed 33-1. House members amended the bill to include a felony for cockfighting, which sent it back to the Senate for reconsideration.

The cockfighting made all the difference for some senators, many of whom were wary of passing a bill in response to threats from animal rights activists. The bill cleared the Senate 24-11 — with much less support than it had the first time.

Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, said frustration with animal rights activists wasn’t a good enough reason to drop the legislation.

“Certainly initiatives may come forward even with this legislation,” Brackett said. “But in the event that they do, we will better be able to defend the industry — the food producing industry — against those attacks.”

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Senate Ethics Rules:

The Senate passed rules clarifying when a senator should declare potential conflicts of interest and how ethics committees should operate.

The changes will make ethics hearings private unless the majority of the committee agrees that a violation has occurred.

Those rules are the only ethics changes to come from this session, despite a push by Democrats for comprehensive ethics reform. Thursday, the minority party didn’t like that the hearings would occur behind closed doors.

“Transparency is critical here so people can make decisions on who to vote for and who not to vote for,” said Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise.

But Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said there is legal precedent for private proceedings, like grand juries.

“That is a fundamental principal of our nation that we do not embarrass or damage people without sound legal and factual basis for it,” Rice said.

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