All 2012 Idaho Opinions
Defeat of education reform measures a lesson for Idaho leaders Tuesday's resounding defeat of Propositions 1, 2 and 3, which swept a trio of education reform measures off Idaho's books, proved that education is a nonpartisan, vital issues to Idahoans. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna should accept the offer from opponents of the Propositions to sit down and draft a workable solution, which may this time come with public backing. A column by Kevin Richert.
Idahoans' right to hunt, fish and trap does not need constitutional protection On Tuesday, Idaho voters will decide if the right to hunt, fish and trap should be incorporated into the state's constitution, but that right is not under siege, and House Joint Resolution 2 creates more problems than it solves, and voters should just say no.
Idaho voters must reject 'Luna Laws' Propositions 1, 2 and 3 on the Idaho ballot, the education laws pushed through the legislature by School Superintendent Tom Luna and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, are touted as measures to sweep schools into the digital age, but what Propositions 1 and 2 do is to bust teachers' unions and rob teachers of their ability to have a say on curriculum and class size, and Proposition 3 will supplant teachers with laptops, and none of these Propositions deserve the support of voters.
Repealing Idaho's personal property tax will cost communities The groups pushing for the elimination of Idaho's personal property tax argue that it's keeping businesses out of the state, but economic data indicate otherwise. Between 2000 and 2010, non-farm, private employment grew 8.2 percent, while nationally private employment shrunk nearly 2 percent, and before this tax is eliminated, legislators need to come up with a way to replace the revenue generated by it.
Numbers put Idaho residents in Romney's '47 percent' Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's statement that he saw no reason to court the 47 percent of the nation that didn't pay taxes and were government dependent should resonate in Idaho, where in 2008, nearly 39 percent of filers didn't pay taxes. Since that time, more Idahoans have become eligible for food stamps and the state has dropped six places in the rankings for median household income.
Idaho congressman more supportive of EPA than other GOP lawmakers U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson is no longer an absolutist about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which the Idaho congressman once said was scarier than the Internal Revenue Service. In a recent interview, the Republican lawmaker took a more moderate stance on the federal agency.
Two Ada County commissioners confused about role in Idaho energy project Sharon Ullman and Rick Yzaguirre, both duly elected commissioners for Ada County, have apparently lost sight of what their true role is in Dynamis' garbage-to-power project, and have become boosters willing to say and do anything to get it up and running by February 2014.
Congress's short-sighted financial moves make fighting fires harder This year's fierce wildfire season and the federal government's budget crisis are colliding, and Congress's decision to divert a total of $440 million from the firefighting fund last year and this year has surely made matters worse.
U.S. transportation bill keeps nation on same old path The transportation bill signed into law by President Obama is concrete-and-car centric, an outmoded concentration that keeps our nation in the past while other countries - and perhaps California - forge ahead with public transportation improvements.
Idaho county commissioners need to rethink a salary bump Blaine County commissioners need a reality check after they welcomed the suggestion from County Administrator Derek Voss that the commissioners' annual pay should be increased from $55,434 to a "market-rate" wage of $90,147. The rate is nearly double the county's median wage, and totally ignores the effect the Great Crash of 2008 had on the residents and taxpayers of the Idaho county.
Idaho's legislative leaders should follow governor's lead Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Majority Leader Mike Moyle have decided that no action is required on the two aspects of the Affordable Care Act that the state has control over since they're confident Mitt Romney will take the White House and Republicans will capture the majority in Congress, a stance that Idahoans thankfully won't have to pay for since the governor has already instructed agencies to begin crunching the numbers on creating a health insurance exchange.
Idaho congressman's stance on health exchanges a real head-shaker Idaho U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador has apparently let his fervor to get the federal health care reform law repealed overwhelm his common sense, as he was the only member of the state's federal delegation to sign on to a letter to the nation's 50 governors urging them to resist setting up insurance exchanges, a stance that goes against that of Idaho's business community and one that certainly does not help struggling Idahoans.
Federal lands bill has its roots in the 1980s Idaho U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador's Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act is based on the public land trust premise first espoused by Randal O'Toole as an alternative to the Forest Service's management policy in the 1980s, but O'Toole hates that forest land trusts would be set up to benefit rural counties, which he believes have been getting a free ride for far too long. A column by Rocky Barker.
High court's decision on health care a first step in fixing broken system The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Thursday that the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was constitutional now means the nation can begin putting the provisions of the Act into place, which will eventually provide everyone with health insurance coverage.
Antiquated mining law puts Idaho, Arizona cities at risk The 1872 General Mining Law is putting Tucson, Ariz., and Boise, Idaho, at risk as the law makes mining the highest priority for federal public lands, with a cyanide-leach mine proposed upstream from Boise on the Boise River, and a copper mine planned in the mountains above Tucson. A guest column in High Country's The Range from Ben Long, an outdoorsman, author and conservationist from Montana.
Idaho wildlife underpass a good use of federal stimulus funds While the political debate continues to rage about whether the federal economic stimulus plan was a waste of $840 billion, wildlife have had their passage across Idaho 21 eased by an $800,000 underpass paid for with some of that money.
Idaho's 1995 deal with federal government best line of defense on nuclear waste Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus recently accused Idaho state officials of secretly negotiating a deal that would have voided the 1995 agreement with the federal government to get all nuclear waste onsite at the Idaho National Laboratory out of the state by 2035, a position Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter dismissed as "tilting at imaginary windmills." But with no current national plan to handle nuclear waste in the U.S., it would behoove the state to remain steadfast in its commitment to the 1995 agreement.
Outfitters' ads in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana conflict with politicians' claims about wolves As politicians in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana press for mass removal of wolves that they claim have decimated elk herds to the point that there are no more game animals to hunt, a review of websites of outfitters in those states are replete with photos of smiling clients posing with trophy elk and claims of success rates nearing 100 percent. A guest column by Todd Wilkinson.
Idaho counties' commission races determined by energy issues Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman lost her race in the Republican primary to challenger David Case, due in part to Ullman's support of a waste-to-power project that voters viewed as a green-energy boondoggle, and in Washington County's commission races, incumbents Michael Hopkins and Dave Springer lost their races to Tom Anderson and Kirk Chandler over the incumbents' support of county regulations of the natural gas industry. A column by Rocky Barker.
Idaho congressional races may not be competitive, but they are colorful Next week's primary races for Idaho's three congressional seats may be notable only for the antics of some of the candidates, including one who law enforcement officials said threatened store employees with a gun, and another who said his campaign manager is a mule.
Idaho Senate's vote on regulating ATV hunts was the right one If the Idaho House had its way, the state Department of Fish and Game would have lost most of its authority to regulate where hunters could use ATV's to hunt, but thankfully, saner minds prevailed in the Senate and kept that authority intact--a wise decision for a state that values its wildlife.
Idaho counties, cities have reason to worry about oil, gas regulation Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed legislation that prohibits Idaho cities and counties from regulating oil and gas development within their boundaries, placing the authority instead with the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The commission has the same membership as the State Land Board, the panel that again allowed gravel mining in the Salmon River despite siltation and the effect the work has on spawning chinook salmon because money comes first.
Both sides embrace reform Legislators and other leaders from both parties are ready for education reform, whether or not educators are. And reform should start with an overhaul of teacher training programs.
Sponsors concede their $35.7 million tax-cut deal is modest, but it fit the moment GOP leaders who backed a tax-cut bill acknowledged they couldn't prove that income tax cuts for corporations and about 17 percent of tax filers in the highest bracket would create any jobs.
2012 Legislature: Another year, another tax cut gamble Because the Legislature found no way to offset its just-passed ongoing income tax cut - through the repeal of some sales tax breaks, or from some other source - lawmakers are banking on revenue growth to pay for it. This is, in essence, a postdated check.
Robbing Hood Jeers to Idaho Sen. Dan Johnson (R-Lewiston), who helped send a $35.7 million tax break geared toward corporations and higher-income individuals toward final passage. Cheers to U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson, who stepped outside the relative safety of the GOP's anti-tax line and voted for a proposal to lower tax rates but eliminate loopholes in order to generate about $1.2 trillion in revenues over 10 years while cutting more than twice that much in spending.
Robbing Hood Jeers to Idaho Sen. Dan Johnson (R-Lewiston), who helped send a $35.7 million tax break geared toward corporations and higher-income individuals toward final passage. Cheers to U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson, who stepped outside the relative safety of the GOP's anti-tax line and voted for a proposal to lower tax rates but eliminate loopholes.
Concussion bill places burden on our schools Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill requiring schools to develop rules for when students should be pulled from athletic events after suffering a possible concussion.
Unelected Idaho senator holds key to adjournment Sen. Dan Johnson (R-Lewiston), appointed in December to fill out the term of former senator Joe Stegner, has declined to say whether he favors a full Senate vote on a $35.7 million income tax cut that will benefit only corporations and individuals in the highest tax bracket.
Exchange excuses: The debate that wasn’t Remember the health insurance exchange? This was one of those issues that was supposed to keep the Legislature busy until adjournment. The idea never even got a hearing - partly because the Supreme Court gave some legislators a perfectly handy excuse, and partly because Gov. Otter never seemed terribly interested in getting a state-run exchange moving.
Turns out Idaho tolerates waste, fraud and abuse A legislative plan to stop people from cheating the state out of unemployment benefits once they've taken a new job ran into roadblocks on the House floor.
Idaho legislators miss chance to produce independent ethics panel Maybe the resignation of former Caldwell Sen. John McGee gave Idaho legislators the impression that the heat was off and they really didn't need to produce an independent Idaho ethics commission. If that's what they thought, they're wrong.
2012 Legislature: The ugly ultrasound battle ends, for now A bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion has been tabled for 2012. But House State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher said he would work with anti-abortion groups on a new bill next year.
2012 Legislature: Lawyer shopping, on the public nickel Some legislators want to find lawyers who'll tell them what they want to hear. And they want you to pay for their shopping spree.
The Idaho Higher Education Disinvestment Act of 2012 The House proposal to limit state spending to 5.33 percent of the state's personal income will have the likely effect of strangling future expenditures for Idaho's colleges and universities.
2012 Legislature: Try, try again,for better or worse After three years in the making, the Senate gave its final thumbs-up to a bill that would ban texting while driving.
Legislators: Back Off, or Admit Your Hypocrisy Isn't this - the Idaho Senate, who voted to require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound - largely the same group of people who deride the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by laughingly referring to it as Obamacare and proudly proclaiming our state's intention to ignore it?
Ultraintrusion in Idaho Legislation approved by the Senate would carry governmental intrusion literally into the wombs of pregnant women, by having women see ultrasound images of the fetus they're carrying in hopes that they'll then decide not to terminate the pregnancy.
1990 battle easily eclipses 2012 ultrasound fracas In 1990, Gov. Cecil Andrus vetoed what would have been the toughest anti-abortion law in the country. And GOP women were upset enough to help Democrats to the governorship, a 21-21 tie in the state Senate, and their first U.S. Representative in the 1st Congressional District in 26 years in the ensuing fall elections.
Legislature needs to regain focus - and then go home The last three weeks of the legislative session has been consumed by the distracting, and unnecessary, ultrasound abortion issue. Lawmakers need to return to the nuts and bolts work of settling taxes and teacher pay - and then adjourn.
Idaho's Grumpy Gus governor gets more upbeat When it comes to justifying deeper than necessary cuts to schools, colleges and health care, Otter sees the revenue glass as half empty. When it comes to helping the rich to a bigger share through tax cuts, the governor's glass is overflowing.
Why the ultrasound debate may not be over It may be premature to declare the ultrasound bill dead, as there are too many senators with a stake in this issue, and an undetermined, but perhaps significant, bloc of House members that considers this bill some combination of good policy and good politics.
Cheers & Jeers - Accomplishing the impossible Cheers to the Idahoans whose voices were heard on Senate Bill 1387, which would force women to undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion. Cheers to Mike and Chantell Sackett, a north Idaho couple who won their long fight with the Environmental Protection Agency with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in their favor.
Legislature finally gets serious on animal cruelty Facing the possibility of a strict ballot initiative by animal-rights groups, lawmakers have advanced two bills that would toughen the penalties for animal torture and make cockfighting a felony.
Squeaking by Jeers to Senate Resources and Environment Committee Chairman Monty Pearce, who just squeaked by a formal ethics probe into his oil and gas lease holdings. Cheers to the University of Idaho Faculty Senate, for pursuing a measure to encourage the university to extend health insurance benefits to domestic partners, gay or straight.
If Congress is a joke, what's the Legislature? In a speech to the Idaho House and Senate, GOP U.S. Representative Raul Labrador extolled the virtues of bipartisanship and civic duty and warned Idaho lawmakers not to emulate their Congressional counterparts by ratcheting up their rhetoric and trying to just score political points.
Its time for wind to defend itself Evidence suggests wind developers are gaming the existing Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act [PURPA] - the federal law that requires electric utilities to buy energy from small-scale renewable energy projects that want to hook up to their systems. However, after years of price supports and federal and state incentives, wind power should begin to stand on its own two feet.
Wasden has your back, Idaho Under Idaho Attorney General Wasden's leadership, his office's consumer protection division has made great strides in several areas where fraudulent or badly flawed business practices have either ceased or been significantly improved.
The gender-pay gap stats are telling, but Otter’s not talking Is Gov. Butch Otter worried about a salary gender gap in his Cabinet? As is too often the case with a governor who too often ducks the tough questions, that's anybody’s guess.
Pay inequity in Idaho near national average According to a story in the Idaho Statesman, women in Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's Cabinet make 83 percent of what their male counterparts do.
Which Otter will decide fate of ultrasound bill? The defining moments of Gov. Butch Otter's four decades in public life have come when he's confounded conventional wisdom in the name of personal freedom. Whether he'll do so again in the case of the Senate-passed ultrasound-for-abortion-seekers bill is yet to be seen.
Money and politics are again at play in Boise Last week GOP legislative leaders shot down a bill that would have required any education management organization working with Idaho students and receiving public education funding from the state to file a yearly report detailing their expenditures of state tax dollars.
Lawmakers choose a needless bill - ultrasound bill - to define the session Instead of debating the creation of a state health insurance exchange - a competitive marketplace that would help the 19.2 percent of Idahoans who do not have insurance - lawmakers spent their time in an emotional, partisan and distracting debate over ultrasounds.
Idaho wobbles its way toward more imbalance The just-closed candidate filing all but completes the Idaho Republican Party's purge of its moderates in the state Senate. Some long-time Senators are retiring, and due to redistricting, others may lose to conservative incumbents that came along with new district boundaries.
Transparency: What's so hard to understand? Another ethics mess in the Legislature: Well-positioned Sen. Monty Pearce, chairman of the Senate Resources and Environment Committee, has kept quiet about his personal stake in Idaho's oil and gas boom.
Economic Development 101 Cheers to voters in eastern Idaho and the Treasure Valley who approved new local school levies. Jeers to the Idaho Republican Party for pushing a voter ID bill several years ago, but not requiring an ID of GOP caucus voters.
Why must lawmakers be involved? It's ironic that Idaho is populated by anti-government zealots, yet has little hesitation in imposing government regulations on an issue - abortion - that is so intensely personal.
Downtown Parking: A better reaction, but only a reaction A new garage can relieve the Capitol Mall parking crunch — but it's a reactive move from lawmakers who have done nothing to foster public transportation.
By this logic, there should be no laws anywhere, ever Idaho's Republican legislators complain about a proposed tobacco tax hike being a form of "social engineering" but don't seem to mind taxing alcohol or requiring women to get an invasive ultrsound before considering an abortion.
Boise, Meridian voters step up big for schools Are people willing to pay higher taxes for better schools? Meridian and Boise voters basically decided their schools - drained of reserves and devoid of "easy" cuts - could not sustain additional reductions.
Idaho lawmakers used flawed reasoning to defeat cigarette tax increase An Idaho House panel voted down legislation to raise the state's measly 57-cents-per-pack cigarette tax by $1.25 because smoking doesn't really hurt anyone. The tax would hurt lower-income residents who would have to pick between food and cigarettes, and it's not the government role to discourage smoking.
Teacher pay: In Idaho House, laptops come first Rep. Bob Nonini, chairman of the House Education Committee, is deep-sixing Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dean Cameron's bill to stop a five-year, $34 million siphoning of teacher salaries - a shift designed to bankroll student laptops and teacher merit pay.
Cigarette tax increase: snuffed out - for 2012, and beyond When public health groups got nowhere at the House Revenue and Taxation Committee trying to raise the tax on cigarettes, even with a like-minded lawmaker running the proceedings, their best chance for success went up in smoke.
USFWS director: Wolf count in Idaho, Montana proves plans are working The minimum annual estimate of wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains for 2011 was more than 1,774 wolves, with more than 109 breeding pairs. That report underscores just how well Montana and Idaho are doing in managing the wolves, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is confident that those states will continue their good work to maintain a healthy, sustainable population of wolves. A guest editorial by Dan Ashe, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Next time will be better Idaho's GOP presidential caucuses went long and suffered some administrative challenges, but the biggest problem turned out to be the timezone difference: by the time north Idaho caucuses got underway, Ada County-dominated southern Idaho was already reporting that Mitt Romney had captured enough votes to ensure all 32 state delegates were his.
Come to Idaho, learn how to teach, then leave From Idaho's leadership, the message to teachers is unrelentingly hostile. No wonder so many are leaving to take jobs in other states.
The big shakeup - even before the election Even if no challenger defeats an incumbent in May, or November, more than one-fourth of the 105-member Legislature will be newbies in 2013.
Maybe the feds aren't that bad after all States' rights advocates in the Idaho legislature are betting that they will find federal land management agencies more amenable to ATV use by hunters than the state Fish and Game. They will likely be wrong.
Cheers and Jeers Jeers to the Legislature abandoning the idea of an independent state ethics commission. Cheers to a coalition of state officials and nonprofits who plan to establish a suicide prevention hot line for Idaho.
Republicans must feel pretty good The Republican establishment in Idaho, headed by Gov. Butch Otter and GOP Chairman Norm Semanko, weeks ago sized up former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as the best hope to head the GOP presidential ticket in 2012. If the recently concluded caucuses are an accurate barometer, a lot of ordinary Republicans agree.
Private prison: When the popular ‘wisdom’ is untested Idaho politicians believe in the power of privatization, and in the case of prisons, they just assume - contrary to recent evidence - it's a good deal for taxpayers.
Say No to GARVEE's Last Gasp Debt service on past GARVEE bonds has consumed a large share of the funds Idaho has available for roads maintenance, thus hampering efforts to address bridges, highways and other transportation needs for years to come.
Over the top Jeers to to Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R-Grangeville) for saying things about provisions of the national health care reform that are not true. Cheers to former state Rep. Kathie Garrett (R-Boise) for helping to get money for an Idaho suicide hotline put back in the budget.
We can learn only so much from GOP caucus Contrary to some forecasts predicting strong showings for Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, Idaho's presidential caucus played out much like any "typical" election, favoring the candidate - Mitt Romney - with the most obvious inherent competitive advantages.
In hostile territory, Idaho moderates flee The retirement of eight House veterans threatens to silence moderates in that chamber.
Charter tail wags Idaho's educational dog Why is the state legislature poised to allow the needs of 6 percent of Idaho's school children - those who attend charter schools - drive policy for everyone else?
State GOP discloses enough Idaho's legislative leadership apparently has bigger fish to fry than the bottom feeders who use public office for private gain. They are now saying time is running out on efforts to establish an independent ethics commission this session.
Suicide hotline: A compassionate, overdue investment The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee scrounged up $110,000 in seed money to restore an Idaho suicide hotline.
Running a prison requires more than faith So far, evidence suggests having a private company run the Idaho Correctional Center has been a failed experiment. But evidence aside, for Gov. Otter it's just plain obvious that private enterprise can do a better job.
Taxes and the 2012 Legislature: Forestalling the future, betting on tomorrow Idaho's legislature displayed its penchant for short-term thinking on taxes by rejecting another attempt to move Idaho closer to collecting sales taxes on Internet purchases, and by approving a bill that would reduce the state's corporate income tax and the personal income tax on top-bracket earners without identifying a way to pay for the break.
Idaho legislators again fail to address long-term consequences of legislation The Idaho Legislature's decision to abandon the state's attempt to join 24 other states in a quest to capture sales taxes on online sales, and the decision to lower income taxes on higher-earning individuals and businesses without a plan to fill the nearly $36 million hole the tax relief will cause in state revenues are just another couple of examples of lawmakers' unwillingness to learn from past missteps and to consider how laws will affect the state over the long haul.
Idaho places one more bet at the tax cut casino The theory behind the tax cut passed by the House Revenue and Taxation committee: If the rich pay less in taxes, they'll invest more. That way, everybody else in Idaho will prosper. However, the evidence in Idaho suggests it doesn't work out that way in practice.
State workers deserve raises, but how's the state to pay? One measure would give state workers - minus teachers, of course - 2 percent raises based on merit, as determined by agency directors.
Boise loves surprises for others Idaho's leadership hates it when the federal government makes decisions for them. Yet they like to do the same thing to everyone else.
Boise and Meridian can avert devestating budget cuts Boise and Meridian voters are being asked to pick up the proverbial ball state lawmakers have dropped in recent years, and backfill money for schools by approving school levies in their respective districts.
Putting the public into public lands decisions The U.S. Forest Service is trying to update its planning model, used to manage logging, grazing, fires, recreation and habitats on the public lands under its jurisdiction, with a new focus on collaboration among stakeholders.
Cheers and Jeers: This lawmaker will be missed Cheers to Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot for distinguishing himself even as he heads out the door. Jeers to Idaho Commerce Department Director Jeff Sayer for pitching a tax cut proposal with an explanation that doesn't pass the smell test.
A bill on emission testing worth of support Nampa GOP Sen. Curt McKenzie has introduced a bill that would grant a one-year hardship waiver for drivers who have to pay more than $250 in repairs required to pass the emission test.
Idaho's 'Profile in Courage' chapter Commentator Marty Peterson remembers Idaho founding father Peter Pefley and his fight at Idaho's Constitutional Convention in 1889 to ensure religious liberty for all citizens, even Mormons.
Laws alone won't solve texting problem It may be that adding a statewide law against texting and driving, as the Legislature is considering now, would convince drivers that reaching for their phones shouldn't be second nature. But if the point is psychological - if this law is geared to grab young drivers' attention - why does it just ban something that's already illegal (distracted driving) rather than focus on educating the minds of those it seeks to reach?
State can fix the monthly food stamp crunch The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's consolidation of food stamp payments to the first day of each month has had the unintended consequence of costing grocers service headaches - and money.
This is not your father's Idaho Republican Party Ethical, not to mention legal, lapses among some current Idaho GOP lawmakers and officeholders has tainted the Republican brand built up in past years by former GOP leaders such as Phil Batt, Jim McClure, Bruce Newcomb, and Jerry Twiggs.
Legislators, pee in this cup for your paycheck Despite the fact that statistics have shown no correlation between welfare recipients and drug use, there's once again a push to force recipients to submit to and pass a drug test prior to receiving government assistance.
Idaho Senate leaders handled McGee sexual harassment charge the right way Credit must be given to former Sen. John McGee's colleagues in the Idaho Senate, who responded quickly, definitively and properly last week when McGee was charged with sexual harassment of an adult legislative employee.
Occupy Boise: a nuanced yet strong defense of dissent U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill's injunction preventing the state from enforcing its new law banning the Occupy Boise encampments on state property was on solid constitutional grounds, as it found the law infringes on the protesters' right to free political expression.
Dr. Winder is selling his new prescription To discourage Idaho women from seeking lawful abortions, Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, is willing to resort to state-sponsored rape. He doesn't call it rape. He calls it a transvaginal ultrasound.
A chance to show ethics aren't optional If one good thing comes out of the scandal surrounding now former state Sen. John McGee, let it be the Legislature moving forward with last month's proposed state ethics commission.
A time to invest and improve Part of implementing technological changes mandated by the state's new 'Students Come First' education law requires building adequate school facilities.
Statehouse parking: Don’t even think of passing this parking bill A bill to disable parking meters near the Statehouse during the legislative session will create a first-come, first-served free-for-all for the coveted freebies, and smells of special interest legislation to benefit the bill's sponsor, Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, whose son's car was towed from a Capitol Mall parking spot on Jan. 9.
Lawmakers have choice to reject abortion bill The Senate State Affairs Committee voted to introduce a bill to require ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. The Alabama and Pennsylvania legislatures are also considering the requirement. Seven states already have them. This is coercive, demeaning lawmaking at its worst.
Former Sen. McGee has a nice ring to it Men like state Sen. John McGee, who just resigned over sexual harassment allegations, and Rep. Phil Hart (R-Athol), who has been avoiding paying taxes for years, are allowed to run wild in the Capitol with no regard to rules or even common decency.
Sit back and watch Washington Washington state, which voted to privatize state liquor sales last November, is in prime position to play guinea pig and demonstrate over the next couple of years how privatized liquor sales impact consumers and taxpayers. Rather than rushing to do the same, Idaho should observe closely what happens in Washington, then decide what makes sense for Idahoans.
How to put fairness in sales tax law The Legislature is once more considering a bill to collect the 6 percent sales tax on internet sales, thereby ending the 6 percent advantage which online or mail order merchants currently enjoy over local stores.
Taking the bait? Wolf 'control' bill says a lot about the session An over-the-top wolf "control" bill working its way through the Legislature could actually cost the state its ability to manage this predator.
Steal the needy's crumbs for a rich man's pudding During the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers had to hack away at Medicaid services for Idaho's most vulnerable adults in order to balance the budget. Now House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, with Gov. Otter's backing, wants to cut income taxes for wealthy people and corporations by $35 million instead of restoring last year's cuts to social services budgets.
Legislator's wolf-bait bill could cost Idaho control of the species The 2012 Idaho legislative session has been marked by a bluster of bad legislation, including Rep. Jeff Siddoway's bill that would allow all sorts of techniques to kill wolves, a bill that could, ironically, cost the state its role in management of the species.
Cheers & Jeers - The old tax cut fiction Jeers to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, whose bill to cut corporate and individual income tax rates would remove almost exactly the same amount of revenue lawmakers cut from the Medicaid budget last year. Cheers to Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill who acted swiftly when they learned about the allegations of sexual harassment against Caldwell Republican Sen. John McGee.
Pay raises for State and City employees? Like many in the private sector, government employees have been asked to do more with less over the past several years and received no wage increase for their troubles. We're encouraged that both the state Legislature in Boise and the city of Twin Falls are considering employee raises.
McGee's fall rooted in hubris Wednesday's decision by the Idaho Senate's Republican majority to acknowledge that their former caucus chairman, John McGee, is accused of sexual harassment by a woman staffer reveals the sting of betrayal.
McGee's demise: sudden, but not surprising Senate GOP Caucus Chair John McGee held on to his post after convincing a majority of his colleagues that his Father's Day arrest was somehow an isolated lapse of judgment. New charges of sexual harassment suggest the lapse was not isolated.
In what other profession? Anyone who thinks teaching is easy or that teachers are overpaid doesn't have a clue, writes Marilynn Smith, a sixth-grade language arts and social studies at Midway Middle School in Rigby.
Preparing for the inevitable With online sales in the hundreds of billions annually, it's time for Congress to "disagree" and authorize collection of sales taxes on Internet purchases.
Solving "people problems" Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's commission on nuclear leadership is a good start to helping solve the challenges posed by nuclear energy, particularly the storage of nuclear waste.
Wyoming should not make drug tests a prerequisite for public benefits Other states have tried, or at least reviewed, making drug tests a prerequisite for getting public benefits, and some legislators in Wyoming are exploring such a program. But they should take a look at Idaho's study of a similar plan done last year, which found it costs more to implement and run than it saves in benefits denied to the small percentage of recipients who test positive for drugs.
Occupy ouster: Free speech shouldn’t include tent camps on public land Lawmakers are correct in determining that freedom of expression does not give Occupy Boise protesters the right to establish an unsightly tent camp on public property across from the Statehouse.
2012 Idaho Legislature: And now, to pass the time, a few distractions With bills to allow employers to refuse to include contraception in their company insurance plans and to require pregnant women to get an ultrasound, several GOP lawmakers are making the time to cater to the small voter base likely to show up for their closed May 15 primary.
Idaho senators remember the iconic McClure Former U.S. and Idaho Senator James McClure served in the Idaho Senate from 1960-66 and 24 years in Congress, rising to chair of the Energy Committee. He died in February 2011 at the age of 86, after a series of strokes.
Will Playing Politics Really Pay Off? There's nothing wrong with legislators being hesitant to be seen as supporting the federal health care reforms. But for Idaho to cover its eyes and pretend nothing's out there will only set us behind if the law is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Keep religious views out of legislation Lawmakers shouldn't force their personal beliefs about contraception on those who may not see fit to follow the same path.
Botched Judicial Council nomination raises questions about Otter Susan Kiebert did Gov. Butch Otter a favor Monday by swiftly leaving the Idaho Judicial Council, the panel that vets judicial appointments and investigates complaints against judges.
Bilbao needs no facts about women's health When Rep. Carlos Bilbao, R- Emmett, decided to attack insurance coverage for women's contraception, it became abundantly clear he had not lingered too far beyond the confines of his own cranium.
Otter's word on exchanges not the last one Idaho Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter assured the state's health care and health insurance industries they would not suffer if the federal government operates Idaho's health insurance exchange. Despite that assurance, many of Idaho's health-related businesses are still pushing for a state insurance exchange.
Idaho should put a cap on payday loan interest rates A limited amount of regulation to prevent payday loan abuse and protect those who can't protect themselves does not violate free-market principles.
Idaho's oil and gas regulations require a consistent statewide policy When it comes to regulating oil and gas drilling, lawmakers and the industry should be sensitive to the concerns of local governments and receptive to change. But in the end, a framework of state regulation is the right approach.
Ethical lapse is legal as long as you admit it As chair of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee, Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, is pushing bills that would benefit his ranching and livestock interests. But under Idaho's lax ethics rules, he's not breaking any laws as long as he declares a 'conflict of interest.'
Subtract the word: the sinking of a flagship Just remove the word "flagship" from the University of Idaho's mission statement, and it's like football season all over again.
Cheers and Jeers CHEERS to the Legislature's budget-setting committee for displaying both caution and encouragement as it set an overall budget number this week. JEERS to Rep. Carlos Bilbao, R-Emmett, for trying to exempt Gem State insurers from a federal requirement to provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
Cheers & Jeers Cheers to Idaho's business community, which has taken the pragmatic view about the need to create an Idaho health insurance exchange. Jeers to Idaho's Democratic Party for getting its facts wrong in press releases criticizing GOP behavior.
Idaho education: A troubling brain drain: Teachers quit school While cuts to salaries over the last few years cannot be the sole reason 1,300 teachers are no longer teaching in Idaho, they are a key ingredient in a complicated equation.
Anti-bullying bill offers opportunity to Idaho GOP Senate Bill 1220, designed to put a few more teeth into the anti-bullying laws already in place, would be a good way for Republican lawmakers to get in touch with their inner humanity.
Admiral of a leaky fleet strikes his colors It appears the Idaho State Board of Education would rather spend its time on style - deleting the word 'flagship' from the University of Idaho's mission statement - than substance - fighting the devastating cuts inflicted on higher ed budgets the last three years.
Want to sell cigarette tax hike? Make financial argument Attempts to sell an increase in the cigarette tax as a "sin tax" or way to increase state revenue won't play well with voters or lawmakers. The better argument: It costs state taxpayers money to treat smokers because of their habit — in everything from high blood pressure to dental care — so at least some of that expense needs to be covered by the very thing causing it.
Otter should follow Idaho's path on roadless areas to craft sage grouse plan If Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter needs a route to get a state plan for managing sage grouse in place, he should take a look at how former Gov. Jim Risch got the state's plan to manage federal roadless forest areas passed. Rocky Barker's Letters from the West column.
Internet sales tax: let's get our fair share! Twenty-four states currently participate in the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement in order to recover tax due from sales made online. Idaho is not among them, but out of fairness to local bricks and mortar businesses, it should.
Finally, some Idaho school legislation that makes sense A program aimed at helping students complete one or two years of college by the time they graduate high school - the "8 in 6 Program - merits serious consideration by lawmakers.
It’s Numbers Down, Mini-Cassia’s Voice Must Stay Strong GOP voters in Minidoka and Cassia counties face difficult choices now that redistricting has thrown some long-serving - and highly distinguished - legislators into races against each other.
House’s DUI pre-emptive strike isn't best way to handle conduct issues If legislative bodies are concerned about the conduct of their colleagues, such as Sen. John McGee's conviction for driving under the influence, they should determine repercussions on a case-by-case basis. Just like the Senate GOP did.
Gov. Butch Otter is Idaho’s wolf broker in chief When Governor Otter acts as if wolves are a nuisance that he'd just as soon foist off on a neighbor, then he makes it abundantly clear he's fully on the side of the anti-wolf crowd. But it should go without saying that Otter is supposed to govern on behalf of all Idahoans, not just those who oppose wolves.
Idaho governor's offer of wolves to Oregon doesn't help state much After an Idaho hunter shot and killed a wolf that wandered across the border from Oregon, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter offered Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber 150 wolves, a publicity stunt that does the state no favors.
Idaho GOP could use a little diversity training itself Despite the blurting, blorting, snorting and sniveling by GOP lawmakers opposed to a University of Idaho Law School diversity workshop, there is nothing wrong with the UI law school equipping students with the tools they need to best serve clients of all stripes.
When it comes to legal training, legislators know best 20 legislators from every walk of life except the law think they know more about a legal education, and what's needed to succeed with a diverse clientele, than the UI faculty.
Legislation doesn't take away counties' rights An oil and gas industry spokesperson argues against Washington County's (Idaho) attempt to enact regulations governing energy activities in the county that might be stricter than (more lenient) state regulations.
Senate committee's rejection of anti-discrimination bill keeps Idaho on the wrong side of history On a party-line decision, and without much second thought, the Senate State Affairs Committee rejected a proposal to extend human rights protections to gays, lesbians and transgender Idahoans. This basic, fair step to prevent discrimination in the workplace and the housing market didn't get a hearing.
This failure of conscience belongs to us all For almost a year now, Idaho has chosen to defer the needs of those in "the shadows of life," its "weakest members" and the "least of these." And lawmakers have made no plans to restore cuts made to programs for the disabled.
Otter’s budget priorities don’t include Medicaid While it's heartening to hear that Gov. Otter is showing some resolve in sticking to his more generous forecast of state revenues for FY2013, it's disheartening to realize the Governor is showing no interest in using the increased revenue to help restore Idaho's health care safety net.
Idaho’s ‘8 in 6’ Proposal: More ‘Innovation’ Without Proof? Bill that would have the state pay for a portion of up to eight additional classes - mostly online - so that students can leave high school with up to two years of college credits sounds like a good idea. But we should be extremely wary if it's just another attempt to trumpet "innovation" while stirring up discord between teachers and the use of technology.
Cheers and Jeers Jeers to the Idaho politicians who continue to take campaign contributions from the Corrections Corporation of America. Cheers to Idaho's election clerks who support expanding voting by mail.
Be a player in May primary Because the Republican Party dominates Idaho politics, most hard-fought and important local races won't be decided in November. The real battles will be waged during the May 15 primary. However, many voters won't have a say in how the Republican primary comes out. That's because for the first time, only registered Republicans will be able to cast ballots for Republican candidates.
Legislature should reject these ideas Among the things to which the Idaho Legislature should give thumbs-down treatment: a Senate bill that would give ranchers more freedom to kill wolves that attack their sheep and cows; a House bill which could force the state to sell a profitable self-storage business in Boise; and a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to hunt, fish or trap in the state.
Planning Ahead Would Have Improved Luna Plan Why the rush to make Supt. Luna's "Students Come First" reforms law? Politics aside, there's no practical reason Luna couldn't have spent the last year using his working groups to hash out the details and approach of the plan without requiring it to be law first.
There's middle ground in gas drilling A GOP member of the Washington County Board of Commissioners in Idaho argues that a proposed House bill limiting the authority of citizens and planning and zoning commissions over the land use permitting process for gas drilling should be rejected, since it does to the counties and cities exactly what the state does not like the Federal Government doing to them.
In Sali we trust Jeers to former Congressman Bill Sali, R-Idaho, for asking the state to create, finance and market a new vanity license plate with the motto "In God We Trust." Jeers to the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee for its opposition to spending Medicaid money to help pregnant women and mothers of young children quit cigarettes.
Idaho lawmakers shouldn’t get perk for retirement A bill that would prevent part-time legislators from padding their pensions if they move to a full-time state government job was voted down by the House State Affairs Committee.
From Idaho to D.C.: It isn’t valentine season Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, proposed a joint memorial - essentially a legislative email to Congress - that would tell the Environmental Protection Agency to pull out of the Silver Valley within five years.
Online sales tax would help Idaho businesses Gov. Otter thinks online retailers who aren't obligated to collect sales tax on purchases have an unfair advantage over local bricks-and-mortar merchants.
Idaho taxes: A simple majority is good enough A group of Idaho lawmakers is pushing a constitutional amendment that would require any future tax and fee increases to receive two-thirds support from the Legislature. Given that the Idaho Legislature is not exactly a tax-and-spend outfit, this proposal seems like a solution in search of a problem.
Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry offers new plan to nix personal property tax Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI) President Alex LaBeau told a rare joint meeting of the House and Senate tax committees Wednesday that eliminating the estimated $129 million tax on equipment and other non-real property would be the best thing lawmakers could do to spur economic growth.
Dennis Lake is traveling a very lonely road The Chairman of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, will try to convince a majority of lawmakers in both chambers to sacrifice a potential pension windfall in the interest of restoring public trust in their government. But don't hold your breath waiting for his success.
Redefining a party The latest effort to realign Idaho's legislative districts ended with intra-party quarreling amongst the state GOP's libertarian/constitutionalist and more traditional wings, to the benefit of neither.
Chairmen of Idaho tax committees ease historic acrimony A first-ever joint hearing between the House Revenue and Taxation Committee and Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee may end the pattern of House-passed tax bills dying in the Senate committee and fueling resentment between chambers. Finding consensus on the issue of cutting taxes will still be no piece of cake.
Public schools spending: A matter of priorities: Pay Idaho teachers State Superintendent Tom Luna wants to put $19.4 back into the salary pool for teachers, to offset a 2.38 percent salary cut planned for 2012-13. Gov. Butch Otter didn't budget the $19.4 million. While restoring the $19.4 million is no doubt a politically expedient - and savvy - move, it's still the right thing to do.
Smart, and not so much Last week, Governor Otter announced that John Foster, former executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, would be helping him uphold the sweeping "Students Come First" education reforms passed by the Legislature last year.
Otter enlists nonpartisan guy, for Luna John Foster, former executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, should hope State Superintendent Tom Luna's education reforms pass in November's referendum, because he won't be getting much work from Democrats in the future.
McKenzie reclines contently in his cocoon Senate State Affairs Committee Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, does not want to know is how out of step he and his colleagues in the Legislature are when it comes to gay rights.
Partisan, Nonpartisan, Bipartisan It's election season again and the Legislature is in session. That means once again, politicians are tweaking the English language to advance their own cause or reflect poorly on their opposition. These three words, often redefined, are getting quite a workout recent inter-party conflicts.
Idaho budget writers urged to restore Medicaid funding Friday's public hearing before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) drew more than 300 people to the Capitol Auditorium, and most of those signed up to testify called on budget writers to restore $35 million cut from Medicaid in the current fiscal year.
Cheers and Jeers: The right place to be Cheers to Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill for helping put the brakes on a House bill to eliminate camping on state property. Jeers to State Treasurer Ron Crane for charging taxpayers for his daily commute and for questionable expenses on his annual bond rating trips to New York City.
A wink and a nod Columnist Ron Gill argues medical marijuana laws are shams, thinly veiled attempts to legalize the drug altogether.
Keeping the citizens away Occupy Boise's long-term impact on state government will be almost nothing compared to the decision by legislators this year to lock the doors leading to House member office space in the name of security. Keeping citizens at bay is contrary to the vision of openness embodied by our state's founders and by the designers of the Capitol as it existed in 1919.
Ron Crane: Would you take money advice from this guy? Legislative auditors issued a report chronicling several problems in the Idaho state treasurer's office, among them using state money to sponsor a financial literacy conference. As this audit suggests, Ron Crane himself could use a refresher course or two in financial literacy.
The invisible line through the Palouse gets lit up In Olympia, a law allowing gay marriage has passed the Senate and faces sure passage in the House and a promised signature from the governor. In Boise, a law amending the Idaho Human Rights Act to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of "sexual orientation and gender identity" is less likely to see the light of day.
Spending lavishly Jeers to Idaho State Treasurer Ron Crane for expecting taxpayers to pay for his daily Nampa-to-Boise commute. And Jeers to Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney for waging a frontal assault on the citizens' redistricting commission.
Assessing damage from the redistricting fiasco A tally of the winners and losers in the latest go-round of the decennial process to remap Idaho's legislative districts.
GOP leaders take wrong redistricting approach Idaho changed its redistricting process from one that's done by the Legislature to one done by a bipartisan panel for a reason - to take politics out of it and base it solely on what's best for voters. That's the way it should be, whether state GOP party officials like it or not.
Reasons for Idaho’s low rankings aren’t as simple as ideology Idaho ranks near the bottom for many categories, such as household income and childhood immunization. As is often the case with such rankings, reaction was basically split into two ideological camps, but the issues are far more complex than these simple ideological divisions suggest.
Idaho Transportation Department: Sharing the roads with megafreeloaders Since the state seems determined to embrace the megaload shipments now rolling through north Idaho - claiming economic benefits that are at best questionable - then the least the Idaho Transportation Department can do is keep a closer eye on the costs.
Internet sales taxes: It’s a step, but a small one: Otter gets aboard Gov. Butch Otter told Idaho chambers of commerce that he would support a tax on Internet purchases. His position puts him on the right side of the issue. But not exactly in the middle of the fray.
Democrat’s defection roils the Idaho Statehouse John Foster, a former Idaho Democratic Party executive director and campaign manager for former 1st Congressional District Representative Walt Minnick, will work with Gov. Butch Otter to help preserve the "Students Come First" education reform laws.
When Otter capitulates, nobody suffers It took Idaho Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter only three weeks to throw in the towel on his signature legislation for the year - creation of a state-based health insurance exchange.
GOP leaders caught with their briefs down House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko lost a lawsuit seeking the Idaho Supreme Court's blessing for their attempt to fire their appointees to the redistricting commission because their lawyers failed to file a brief in support of the suit.
Otter’s plan for IGEM missing key components Idaho's IGEM plan not likely to see same results as Utah's USTAR initiative unless the state is willing to increase funding for its higher-education infrastructure and make an ongoing financial commitment in order to maintain that infrastructure and keep key people.
Getting the job done Idahoans owe its six citizen redistricting commissioners a debt of gratitude. They approached their task professionally and without regard to party politics, and produced a map that, while not a good as the one thrown out by the Idaho Supreme Court, is still defensible.
Over there in Boise That State Treasurer Ron Crane thinks taxpayers ought to pay for his commute to work is indicative of an attitude of entitlement among elected officials.
With Idaho Republican Chairman Semanko leaving, Gov. Otter seeks a replacement Governor and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, who clashed over party chairman in 2008, seek candidate who can unify grassroots and establishment wings of GOP.
Luna’s right – Pay teachers more now State Superintendent Tom Luna has told legislative budget writers it's more important to bulk up teacher pay than to divert state funds to replenish reserves.
Nellis pleads for increase University of Idaho President Duane Nellis says his school is losing good faculty members to other institutions which pay better, and he wants the Legislature to do something about that.
Nellis is right to lobby legislators for his employees University of Idaho President Duane Nellis went to Boise last week to make a case for more money in his budget to be distributed to faculty salaries. Hopefully, the legislature will agree.
Booting Hansen was justified Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko explains why he was justified in asking Redistricting Commission member Randy Hansen to resign.
To Occupy or not to Occupy Just because legal precedent and the Idaho Attorney General say that the legislature "can" do something, those opinions in no way suggest that they should. And passing a law specifically to target a small group of Idahoans - in this case, the Occupy Boise protestors - appears more overkill than good government.
Luna’s budget request a positive step Superintendent Luna has requested a $57 million increase in education spending for the 2012-13 year, with first priority given to teacher raises.
House Speaker Denney wanders the heath Recent stumbles on redistricting imperil Idaho House Lawerence Denney's goal of tying the record for longest-serving speaker.
Gov. Otter gives up the fight, before it even got started Gov. Otter's incremental, gradual retreat away from his common-sense support of a health exchange continues after he tells reporters the state probably doesn't have enough time to put together the framework of a plan to meet a January 2013 federal deadline.
Politics of detachment at ‘The People’s House’ Visitors to the House side of the Idaho statehouse must now pass through security, and if they want to meet with a House member, they need to schedule in advance. Some members worry that this action tells the public that the House doesn't want "the people" to pass through its doors.
Restore at least some of Medicaid If Idaho is expecting more money than it had last year for its state budget, its very first priority should be the most needy among us.
Cheer and Jeers Cheers to former Gov. Phil Batt for chastising House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Party Chairman Norm Semanko in their attempts to game the redistricting process. Jeers to Gov. Otter for appearing to favor corporate tax cuts over restoring teacher salary monies.
What we have here is a failure to listen The Supreme Court has spoken on Idaho's redistricting drama, but are House Speaker Lawerence Denney and state GOP chairman Norm Semanko listening? To the justices, or anyone else? Not so much.
Running up the score not wise for Idaho GOP Currently, Republicans occupy 85 of the 105 legislative seats. Plus, all of the statewide officeholders are Republicans. So no matter how accomodating the redistricting commissioners are or creative their map-making gets, the electoral whippings will continue.
Careful Optimism Means Idaho's Passed a Hurdle The Legislature's economic outlook committee's revenue forecast for next fiscal year is a sign of optimism and of good common sense.
Idaho GOP continues its chest-thumping The GOP leadership in Idaho has been systematically removing Republicans from positions of power over the last few years and replacing them with the political equivalent of Stepford wives.
Otter avoids hot water at this year's Q&A Gov. Butch Otter spent an hour of fielding questions from statehouse reporters and managed to say nothing that would alienate or surprise legislators.
For Idaho GOP, no bad deed goes unrewarded The GOP has a phrase - tort reform - for discouraging predatory lawyers from pursuing excessive and costly litigation. They should apply the phrase to themselves, before suing the state over political arrangements, such as redistricting commission maps, they don't like.
Counselors might help, but how about bootstraps? State Rep. Steve Hartgen rejects a report that Idaho schools need more counselors in order to help improve college enrollment.
Who’s the Boss? Just ask any RINO . . . House Speaker Lawrence Denney and Idaho GOP Chair Norm Semanko want to replace the two redistricting commissioners they appointed last fall, ostensibly because the map they agreed to was too favorable to Democrats. Some suspect the real reason is to create enough turmoil that the task of redistricting will be given back to the legislature.
If Obama’s the ‘food stamp president,’ what’s Idaho Gov. Otter? Since Otter became governor in 2007, the food stamp caseload has jumped 163 percent, putting Idaho behind only Nevada's 172 percent growth rate.
Denney and Semanko are going for the kill Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko and House Speaker Lawerence Denney are betting a court that was willing to gravely wound Idahoans' sincere desire to clean up the reapportionment process - by overturning the redistricting commission's plan - will now inflict the final, fatal blow by agreeing that the GOP leaders can fire their respective appointees.
Idaho redistricting panel's Olsen vows to put public ahead of party - again Republican legend Sheila Olsen from Idaho Falls said she loves the Republican Party and has never voted for a Democrat, but the commission's constitutional obligation is to set aside partisanship - including protecting incumbents.
Sen. John McGee: A Senate divided, and in full public view Days after Senate Republicans caucused and decided to keep the embattled John McGee (R-Caldwell) in party leadership, nine Republicans issued a statement saying they wanted to replace McGee, suggesting the presence of a schism within the GOP caucus.
Disdain on display If anyone doubts the disdain Idaho's Republican Party leadership has for the law and the residents of this state, consider the actions of State GOP Chairman Norm Semanko and House Speaker Lawerence Denney, who "fired" their respective appointees to the citizen redistricting commission.
Idaho can do it better Two Idaho Falls citizens explore the costs and benefits of establishing a state-run insurance exchange.
Idahoans deserve a fair redistricting plan in place in time for May 15 primary Redrawing Idaho's legislative districts has officially become a political spectacle, and since lawmakers and redistricting commissioners apparently can't find their way, here's a roadmap: The current redistricting commission should stay intact, come up with a plan in time to meet deadlines required by the May 15 primary, and forget about giving our elected and appointed officials more time to lollygag and quibble by moving the primary to August.
Forget August – Get to Work Now! Instead of playing politics and moving the primary to August, GOP leaders Denny and Semanko need to "un-fire" the commissioners they originally appointed, the commission needs to meet starting Thursday in Boise and - within reason - it ought to continue to meet daily until a fair and constitutional redistricting plan is agreed upon.
Readers View: It’s time to restore lost Medicaid services to benefit disabled Idahoans The executive director of the Idaho Council on Developmental Disabilities argues that, with economic recovery slowly occurring, it is time to restore Medicaid services lost during the recession in order to avoid further damage to lives, jobs and communities.
Otter’s plan will pay dividends The Presidents of Boise State University, Idaho State University, and the University of Idaho applaud Gov. Butch Otter's State of the State proposals to reinvest in higher education and stimulate business development and high-tech research.
Let the driver decide Member of the Bonneville County GOP Central Committee argues that passing bill to make texting while driving illegal would not make any of us safer, and that, on principle, government cannot protect anyone.
August primary good for 2012 The Idaho Supreme Court threw out the proposed legislative redistricting maps, casting uncertainty over whether filing deadlines for the scheduled May primary could be met. An August primary may be the best way to deal with the uncertainty this year, but late-summer elections remain a questionable long-term solution.
Give him credit for mending media fences After blowing off the event last year, Gov. Otter agrees to meet at a breakfast Q&A session with Idaho reporters.
On the new Idaho Caucus Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko explains how the new county caucuses work and the role they'll play in selecting the GOP presidential nominee.
No good deed unpunished Last fall House Speaker Lawerence Denney appointed former GOP lawmaker Dolores Crow to the redistricting commission. Now that the Idaho Supreme Court has tossed the plan and told the Commission to come up with a new one, Denney wants to fire Crow because she had backed a plan that was "too friendly toward Democrats."
Redistricting: Let’s get this done, again, and quickly Last week, the Idaho Supreme Court voted 4-1 to throw out the new legislative redistricting map. The Commission will have to work quickly to come up with a new map so that candidates can begin to file for legislative ballot positions on Feb. 27, the deadline for the scheduled May primary.
Otter, Luna split over $19.7 million for teacher pay Supt. Luna, architect of last year's ed reform plan that moves money from teacher salaries to laptops and online courses, and lawmakers who supported it, want recent cuts to teachers' pay restored in order to blunt the push for three referendums on the November ballot that would repeal the Students Come First reform plan.
Once again, Idaho has no business selling liquor Gov. Otter remains adamant in his view that the state should maintain its control of how intoxicating spirits are distributed and sold in Idaho. However, having liquor sales handled by private industry works well for 32 states, and there's no reason it can't in Idaho.
Let’s see if legislators get the message in 2012 According to the AAA Idaho survey that was released this week, 87 percent of respondents support a texting ban. Lawmakers should heed their constituents and get a texting ban passed this year.
Holding them accountable A litany of misdeeds by elected and appointed officials reflects badly upon all state government employees, so legislators and other government officials should be held accountable for ethics violations, argues Donna Yule, executive director of the Idaho Public Employees Association.
For Idaho, Obamacare is working already Managers of Idaho's Catastrophic Health Care Fund are asking lawmakers for less money this year because provisions of the federal healthcare law are helping to contain costs of caring for the working poor and indigents.
Idaho lawmakers take up unnecessary legislation in record time this session It seems every year Idaho legislators waste precious time debating a measure that is either nonsensical or unnecessary, but this year lawmakers took up the tradition in record time with the bill aimed directly at Occupy Boise by making camping on the Capitol Mall illegal.
Idaho Legislature: Occupying time with a pointless exercise The Idaho Legislature is considering a bill to ban camping on the Capitol Mall and nearby state property, with the intention of shutting down the Occupy Boise movement.
To grow jobs, Otter turns to higher education To his credit, Idaho Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter's budget blueprint marks the start of a long journey of recovery for Idaho's colleges and universities. But even if the increases are approved, higher ed institutions will be no better off than they were in 1995.
My take on week one in Boise Rep. Elaine Smith (D-Pocatello) offers her perspective on Week 1 at the Idaho Legislature.
Boss Denney locates his ethical compass Since becoming Idaho House Speaker in 2007, Rep. Lawerence Denney (R-Midvale) has looked past numerous possible ethics violations by House members as well as those by other legislative and state officials. Now he says he would support political ethics bills the Democratic minority is pursuing.
How to find an affordable health plan A Health Insurance Exchange is only a first step toward the goals of providing greater access to and more affordability for health care for Idaho's citizens.
Governor’s tone was right — but what about education? Governor Otter should hold to his admonition from last year's State of the State address - that jobs and education are inseparable, that they are our state's highest priorities, and that they are indeed the key to revitalizing our economy into 2013 and beyond.
Voters have final say on McGee Senator John McGee has retained his positions as chairman of the Canyon County Republicans and Senate Caucus. But the most significant and lasting impact he leaves on the state - even if Canyon County voters decide to give McGee another chance - would be if the legislature finally decides to establish an independent ethics panel.
Gov. Otter calls for $45 million in tax relief but leaves the details to lawmakers Even with a target to aim for, GOP leaders are uncertain about what taxes to cut, or whether tax cuts should be accompanied by removing some tax exemptions.
Reducing taxes is not tax reform There is no trick to turning tax relief into a numbers game, which is really all Governor Otter did in Monday's State of the State address. The trick is modernizing the tax code to make it fairer and more conducive to economic recovery.
Otter keeps his fat cats purr-fectly happy When Idaho Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature cut 11 percent from everything state government did these past three years, they took that money from those that need it.
Otter is off, but only by $300 million Governor Otter's mis-statement about the loss of Medicaid funding if Idaho fails to establish a health insurance exchange lowered his credibility on the issue to near zilch.
Cheers and Jeers Jeers to Gov. Otter for his mis-statement on Medicaid funding. Cheers to usual Otter ally Wayne Hoffman for bringing the error to public attention. Cheers to all four members of Idaho's congressional delegation for voting against the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
Cheers and Jeers: Never mind Jeers to both Gov. Otter and Idaho House Democrats for their respective posturings on the federal healthcare law.
Let's Not Lose This Chance to Create Ethics Panel Creation of an independent Ethics commission is long overdue and merits the support of all Idahoans regardless of party affiliation.
Time to clean our nest Legislators should consider and approve a package of bills intended to address just a few of the ethical issues that have arisen recently and salvage what little faith remains in our political system.
John McGee survives a relatively easy election Senate Republicans opt to keep John McGee (R-Caldwell) in leadership despite his June DUI charge. But surviving the verdict of conservative Canyon County voters in the closed GOP May primary could prove more challenging.
If we should need Otter, we can find him Governor Otter isn't showing up for work. At least not as much as he used to. Certainly not as much as his predecessors did.
Idaho Sen. McGee could face a challenge to leadership job The Senate GOP caucus chairman from Caldwell says he doesn't remember much about the June night he was arrested as he prepares to argue for keeping his leadership position.
Jobs plan requires patience, investment IGEM, Governor Otter's proposed high-tech research initiative, will take something not always seen in the Statehouse: a willingness to spend public money to spur private enterprise.
An Otter omission, a missed opportunity Idaho Democrats fault Gov. Otter for failing to address ethics issues in his State of the State address. They have a point.
Otter's budget address hits the mark Gov. Otter's State of the State proposed tax relief, bonuses for state employees and teachers, restored funding for education, and even more funding for higher education, among other priorities. But it failed to address the need for ethics reform.
Otter wants a little of everything: Will it fly? Governor Otter's State of the State address left plenty of details and unanswered questions for Idahoans and their elected legislators to sort out.
Protecting sage grouse, regulating OHV use on Idaho lawmakers' agenda Idaho legislators are back in Boise, and on the agenda are energy development, protection of sage grouse, and the question of just who should decide where OHV-riding hunters can go. A column by Rocky Barker.
A glimmer, and an opportunity in the 2012 legislature For the first time since 2008, a budget crisis will not await lawmakers as they convene in Boise. Idaho has some money, and with it some opportunity to reinvest in public services that took the hardest hits during the recession.
One goal for session While health care is the headline issue with deadline ramifications, legislators mustn't lose sight of the greatest ongoing need, which is a stronger Idaho economy.
In Idaho, talk is cheap; its votes that count The Legislature has been picked by people who care more about cutting taxes than fixing schools, a base that feels less obligation to preserve the social safety net and one that relishes a fight with the feds. Nobody's really sure how to fix that.
Make your constituents proud of 2012 legislature Members of the south-central legislative delegation to the Idaho legislature are thoughtful individuals who genuinely care about their constituents more than they need to be right - or to be heard. They should maintain their thoughtful "issue over party" tone even after they arrive in Boise for the 2012 session.
Idaho governor presents mature approach on health care exchange Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's calm, rational approach on how the state needs to comply with federal law on the creation of a health care exchange is a far cry from his stance on previous occasions when he labeled federal requirements tied to funding as "blackmail," and it's nice to see the governor taking a mature position.
Next step in Idaho ed reform Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has now decided - after voters rejected Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the so-called Luna laws - that it might be a good idea to round out the input for education reform in the state.
Idaho can compete, but it must get in the game These days, companies can play states and communities against each other, do some comparison shopping and then select a site. Idaho can no longer afford to not to offer incentives to business looking to locate in the state.
Idaho congressman named one of Congress' Top 10 'enemies of the Earth' This past year has been a tough one for Congress to get measures protecting the nation's air, water and land approved, and the outspoken opposition to legislation on clean water and air, climate change and conservation earned these lawmakers a place in the Top 10 for opposing such measures, including U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, whom the Los Angeles Times ranked fourth.
Idaho News Media
Newspapers and News sites
Idaho Statesman (Boise)
Bonner County Dail Bee (Sandpoint)
RuralNorthwest.com (Bonners Ferry)
South Idaho Press (Burley)
Coeur d'Alene Press
Sho-Ban News (Fort Hall)
Wood River Journal (Hailey)
Idaho Falls Post Register
Island Park News
Idaho Mountain Express (Ketchum)
Latah Eagle (Latah County)
Lewiston Morning Tribune
Sun Valley Online
Moscow-Pullman Daily News
Mountain Home News
Idaho Press Tribune (Nampa)
Idaho State Journal (Pocatello)
The Standard Journal (Rexburg)
Spokesman-Review (Spokane and North Idaho)
St. Maries Gazette Record
Twin Falls Times-News
Idaho Business Review
Broadcast MediaIdaho Public Television (PBS)
KBOI TV-2 (CBS - Boise)
KIVI TV-6 (ABC - Boise)
KTVB TV-7 (NBC - Boise)
KTRV TV-12 (Fox - Boise)
KIDK TV-3 (CBS - Idaho Falls)
KIFI TV-8 (ABC - Idaho Falls)
KLEW TV-3 (CBS - Lewiston)
KPVI TV-6 (NBC - Pocatello)
Northwest Public Radio
Boise State Radio
BlogsEye on Boise (Betsy Russell of the Idaho Spokesman-Review)
Idaho Politics (An inside look at Idaho politics and government from Statesman reporters)
Commentary: Kevin Richert (Kevin Richert of the Idaho Statesman)
Ridenbaugh Press/Northwest (Randy Stapilus; covers politics in ID, OR, and WA)
Capitol Confidential (Times-News coverage of politics wtih Ben Botkin)