February 22, 2013
JEERS . . . to Idaho Department of Lands Director Tom Schultz. He gave House Natural Resources and Conservation Committee Chairman (formerly "Boss") Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and Senate Resources and Environment Chairman Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, just what they wanted.
Denney and Pearce are infatuated with Utah legislator Ken Ivory's plan to demand Uncle Sam turn its lands over to the Gem State. But there's always been one hitch: Last year, the feds spent $528 million managing national forest and Bureau of Land Management holdings in Idaho, a sum that would sink the state budget.
Schultz's "back-of-the-napkin" estimate counters Idaho could make a tidy profit of $75 million a year.
Of course, that assumes God, Uncle Sam and the housing market are on his side.
Last year, the U.S. Forest Service spent $230 million suppressing fires in Idaho. BLM spent another $22.15 million. Schultz estimates fewer fires will mean the state would spend $45 million.
For Idaho's benefit, the feds would hang onto all abandoned mining sites with their potential for lawsuits, cleanup costs, safety problems and water pollution issues. At the same time, maintaining some 32,000 miles of logging roads won't cost so much.
Idaho forest managers will crank out 800 million to 1 billion board feet of timber from an area that now produces about 100 million to 150 million board feet. Nothing - not federal environmental laws, not persnickety hikers, campers and recreationists and, most of all, not simple economics - will interfere.
Schultz's plan hinges on timber prices skyrocketing to levels not seen in 20 years - and that risk-adverse banks will eagerly advance millions to new sawmills.
Finally, he predicts state managers will at least break even leasing federal lands to cattle ranchers - even though state-owned grazing lands frequently lose money.
CHEERS . . . to Moscow City Attorney Randy Fife. Before heading out the door to become Idaho Falls city attorney, Fife has drafted an ordinance to extend anti-discrimination protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender bias.
If Moscow City Council members enact it, they would join colleagues from Sandpoint, Boise and Ketchum - and possibly Idaho Falls and Pocatello.
Under state law, it is legal to fire someone, deny them housing or service because they are gay, lesbian or a transgendered person. Idaho lawmakers won't even consider expanding the state human rights law that now protects people on the basis of race, national origin, age, gender, religion and disability.
JEERS . . . to state Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise.
He doesn't believe gays suffer from discrimination. Obviously he hasn't read about gays in Boise afraid to report assaults to police for fear of being discriminated against - or the report of a gay couple savagely beaten outside a Pocatello night club.
"I believe being homosexual is a choice," Winder told a group of students and adults at the Capitol Monday.
For the sake of argument, say he's right. When people choose a religion, they're protected from discrimination. What's the difference?
CHEERS . . . to the Girl Scouts of the Silver Sage Council. Idaho is one of two states - the other is Hawaii - that charge sales tax on Girl Scout cookies. In Idaho's case, that's $140,000.
"The state shouldn't be balancing its budget on the backs of Brownies," says Julie Hart, who lobbied lawmakers Monday for a tax break.
Given Idaho's anti-tax, pro-free enterprise Legislature, you'd think Hart's lobbying gig would be - ahem - a piece of cake.
Not so. Some members of the House tax committee are holding back.
Funny how the tune changes when it comes to Idaho's corporate giants. They're pushing for a $141 million property tax break. Among them is Idaho Power Co., which is in line to scoop up between $10.5 million and $15.3 million.
And notes the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Idaho Power paid no state income tax on profits of $623 million between 2007 and 2011.
That's a lot of Girl Scout cookies.
JEERS . . . to U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho. He's so conservative it hurts. The National Journal pored over 116 Senate votes last year and rated Risch far and away that chamber's most conservative member.
How did Risch get to the right of arch-conservative Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who's now running the Heritage Foundation? Or to the right of Tea Party darling Rand Paul, R-Ky., or Club for Growth guru Pat Toomey, R-Pa.?
By opposing the Violence Against Women Act, supporting a budget that would have virtually shut down Idaho National Laboratory, voting to cut off aid to Pakistan and opposing a transportation package that helped rural Idaho schools.
Idaho didn't send Mr. Risch to Washington to tape his finger to the no button. It sent him there to solve the country's problems, something that will never happen if everyone follows Risch's take-no-prisoners line. Worse yet, there's evidence that Risch's extremism is pulling the more reasonable Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, further toward the fringe.
JEERS . . . to Washington state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. Leave it up to Benton and Washington couples will have to wait a year to divorce - four times the current cooling-off period.
You don't flip a switch and file for divorce. By the time an unhappy couple approaches the courts, their marriage has long since dissolved.
What a paternalistic bunch of nonsense.
Doesn't Benton have anything better to do than to interfere in this most personal of matters?
Originally posted at http://lmtribune.com/opinion/article_0361f316-b9c2-5f02-8661-40d1510b4643.html
The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.
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