- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Transportation funding woes continue to be the main hurdle preventing Idaho lawmakers from concluding this year’s legislative session.

Divisions between the House and Senate over how the funding should be generated have caused multiple delays and even more failed proposals.

Instead, legislative leaders agreed Wednesday to form a joint panel -known as a rarely-formed “conference committee”- to find a viable transportation funding solution between both chambers.

“This is something we don’t always do, but it seems to be a good path forward on the impasse between the two bodies,” House Speaker Scott Bedke said.

Teacher pay consumed most of the beginning of this year’s legislative session. However, making a significant down payment on the state’s $262 million annual transportation funding shortfall has become the main goal lawmakers cite before they adjourn for the year.

By Wednesday afternoon, a House panel had rejected a nearly $127 million proposal, HB 312, offered by the Senate. Citing that the Senate tweaked the original legislation too much, House lawmakers instead said they want to convene a conference committee to find a viable transportation funding solution.

Several hours later, Bedke named Reps. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, and Mat Erpelding, D-Boise to the joint panel.

The committee will debate HB 312 on Thursday morning but will need to have the support from two members of both houses in order to revive the legislation. If it passes the joint panel, the bill would need to pass once more in the House because that’s where it was originally drafted.

Senators on the committee will be Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello.

“We wish them well,” said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, before adjourning late Wednesday evening.

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