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Eye On Boise

New 80 mph speed limits to take effect Thursday, but only once signs are up…

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Transportation Department says speed limits on rural sections of interstates in the southern part of the state will go up to 80 mph starting Thursday. That's an increase from 75 mph on rural sections of Interstates 15, 84 and 86. Speed limits for trucks will increase to 70 mph. The agency says speed limits on interstates in urban areas will remain unchanged at 65 mph. Speeds will also not increase in northern Idaho. Agency officials say the speed limits won't increase until signs are put in place. Lawmakers approved the increases earlier this year.

Sen. John Goedde, former Sen. Melinda Smyser among those passed over for Board of Ed Edit

Among those Gov. Butch Otter passed over for the two recent state Board of Education openings, to whom he appointed David Hill and Debbie Critchfield: Outgoing Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene; former Sen. Melinda Smyser, R-Parma; Trudy Anderson, a retired associate vice president from the University of Idaho; and more. Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert writes today about the selection process, including what both Hill, a former top official at the Idaho National Laboratory, and Critchfield, a board member and current public information officer for the Cassia County School District, said in their applications. You can read his full report here.

Judge: ‘I respect your courage in doing what you did’

The “Add the 4 Words” sentencing hearing has finally wrapped up at nearly 5:45 p.m. Boise time. Judge Michael Oths thanked all those involved – the lawyers, the defendants, the clerks, the marshals, “everybody.” He said, “Everybody’s been respectful of one another today,” adding to titters, “which really is all you’re asking for in the first place. And so I appreciate that.”

He thanked the defendants for sharing their stories. “I respect your courage in doing what you did,” the judge said. “It does take some guts to stand up in civil disobedience and take the penalty, and I respect that.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Protesters’ fines, service hours pegged to number of arrests

Many more people have been sentenced this afternoon, all receiving community service and court costs and some small fines for misdemeanor charges stemming from their arrests at protests at the state Capitol this year in favor of amending the Idaho Human Rights Act to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Under agreements previously reached, they’re getting 10 hours of community service for each time they were arrested, so someone with two arrests gets 20 hours of community service plus court costs, and the second charge is dropped. Those arrested only once had their charges dropped. Those with higher numbers of arrests - four or more - also are receiving fines at $10 per arrest, like James Tidmarsh, who was arrested five times, pled guilty to two counts, and received a $50 fine, 50 hours of community service and court costs.

Rebecca Lampman of Bruneau, who described herself as a dairy farmer, a mother and a Girl Scout leader, was arrested twice and received 20 hours of public service plus court costs. “I was told by a neighbor at my home that I should be ashamed for publicly supporting ‘those people,’ but I want you to know that I am not,” she told the court. “Silence solves nothing. In fact, with my three children watching, I’m afraid that they might get the message that this response … is in fact appropriate.” She said, “I am ready to accept the consequences of my actions.”

Roughly two dozen people are being sentenced in this hearing this afternoon, but dozens more already have been sentenced, all receiving their penalties under the same formula. In total, 109 individuals have been sentenced for 192 misdemeanor violations incurred at the protests.

Dan Skinner, the Boise lawyer who organized 20 pro-bono attorneys to represent the arrested protesters, said, “I honestly feel like it's a duty for attorneys to work for civil rights. In my mind this is just a continuation of what happened 50 years ago from a legal perspective.”

Protesters tell their stories, receive fines, community service

Among the many people coming before the court for sentencing this afternoon for the “Add the 4 Words” protests at the state Capitol this year:

Judy Cross, who was arrested five times in Add the Words protests, said her first arrest was in 1969, two days after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, after she marched hand in hand with other protesters. “Our crime was holding hands with a black person,” she said. Cross said her husband is a gay Episcopal priest who lost his position because he was gay. “It affected our whole family,” she said. “We lost half our income, we lost our house, our four kids were bullied and harassed at school.” She said, “This has got to change, this has absolutely got to change.” Cross received a $50 fine, 50 hours of community service and court costs.

Keith Blazor, 20, told the court he stood silent after he and his roommate were attacked outside their apartment complex. “She ended up having to have facial reconstructive surgery,” he said. “We were put into a position where we had to either defend ourselves publicly and risk losing our jobs and possibly our apartment, and I refused to do any of the interviews. … She was brave and she did that.” He said members of the transgender and gay community in Idaho sometimes “decide to stay silent and that shouldn’t be the case,” and that’s what brought him here today. He received 20 hours community service and court costs.

Emily Jackson Edney said, “I take full responsibility for the actions that brought me before this court today.” Edney told the court, “I am the T in LGBTQ,” as a transgender person. “But I am so much more than that. I am a son and a daughter of this magnificent city and wonderful state. I am a parent, a grandparent, and soon to be a great-grandparent.” She said, “I have experienced discrimination in this state because of my gender identity and expression. The most egregious was by medical practitioners. … I have no avenue of recourse and neither do my brothers and sisters.” Gay and transgender people should not be “fair game for discrimination and bigotry,” she said. She was sentenced to 30 hours community service and court costs for trespassing in the protests.

Caleb Hansen, the only person today to choose to represent himself rather than have an attorney represent him, said he’s a small business owner in Meridian. “I had no idea that it was legal to discriminate in Idaho based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” he said. “Most people I’ve talked to since I’ve become involved in the issue had the same reaction as I did, first disbelief, is that real? Second, a little bit of embarrassment. … This is 2014.” He said most people “remain silent,” assuming the government will do the right thing. “Our state Legislature has known about it for nine years now and refused to even hear it,” he said. “So for that reason I went to the state Capitol.” Hansen received 20 hours of community service, with credit for eight hours served in jail based on an earlier agreement, along with court costs.

Ty Carson, who received a $60 fine and 60 hours of community service for two charges, told the court, “No Idahoan, not one of us, should have to live in fear.”

Sentencing hearing: ‘These are moral individuals’

After the break this afternoon, attorney Phillip Gordon – one of 20 lawyers who volunteered to represent the “Add the 4 Words” protesters for free after their arrests – told the court on behalf of his three clients, Salem Djembe, Deborah Graham and Dan Fink, that it’s the first time in his career he’d rather be in court as a defendant than as defense counsel. He said he was “proud, privileged, and very humble” to stand in their presence. “Two of my clients are clerics, and they are acting from the depths of their spiritual traditions,” Gordon said. “These are moral individuals, these are people committed to justice.”

Djembe told the court he was a foster child, and was diagnosed with severe PTSD and depression resulting from his experiences being a transgender person. Now, he’s a foster parent himself, and works to help children at risk including LGBT youth. “There was no one to step up for me at the age of 16 and 17, so it’s my job to do this now,” Djembe said. “I’ve done my part, and I am not ashamed one little bit. … I did that for those kids that are coming.” He received 20 hours of community service and court costs as his sentence.

Graham, an Episcopal priest, received 30 hours of public service and court costs. “It is my duty not just as a Christian but also as a citizen to work peacefully to change laws that harm others,” she told the court. “With my whole heart, mind and soul, I do not want to see more Idahoans suffer discrimination because of who they fall in love with, or suffer severe depression, as I have, because they gave up hope that they could live openly as the person they were created to be, without fear of discrimination.”

Dan Fink, rabbi of Boise’s Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, pleaded guilty to a single charge of trespassing; he’d been arrested three times in the protests. He received 30 hours of community service and court costs. “Quite a few of the members of my congregational family have indeed suffered harm,” Fink told the court. “My work with ‘Add the 4 Words’ was the least that I could do.”

Protester at sentencing: ‘Simply our duty to work for justice’

After completing the first three sentencings, the court has now gone to a short recess. After former Sen. Nicole LeFavour, those sentenced so far were:

Joseph Kibbe, a 35-year-old gay man who shared how he found his best friend after the friend’s suicide, and who got a $60 fine and 60 hours community service after pleading guilty to two charges and having four others dismissed. Kibbe said afterward that he felt “relieved” to finally be able to share his story, “after not even being afforded that opportunity for the last nine years. It’s just obviously the beginning of a very robust public dialogue,” he said, “but I feel relieved at this point.”

Terry McKay, 66, a retired school bus driver who has cancer, who got 20 hours of public service for a single charge. “If the Idaho Legislature had just given us a hearing, all we were asking for at this point was a hearing, all of this could have been avoided,” McKay told the court. McKay heaped praise on the law enforcement officers involved with the arrests of the protesters, whom he called “exemplary.” He said, “In our Jewish tradition we have a concept of tikkun olam, simpy translated to repair the world. That makes it our duty, simply our duty, to work for justice.”

LeFavour: ‘What we did this year … was all that was left’

Former state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, told the court this afternoon that she had tried everything else to get the Legislature to hear legislation banning discrimination against gays before planning this year’s protests that led to arrests. “At one point we even had Republican co-sponsors for the bill, and then politics came in,” she said. “Year after year after year, they would just tell us no. They won’t even hear the story. At that point, what do you do? You have people coming to you and telling you that their kids are taking their lives. I tried everything.”

She said, “What we did this year is all we could think of to do. It was all that was left.”

‘Not a fiscal issue, a civil rights issue’

Jeffrey Brownson, attorney for Nicole LeFavour at the “Add the 4 Words” sentencing hearing this afternoon, said this about the protests this year: “These people throughout the legislative session were willing to put their liberty at stake, to face prosecution having no idea what the consequences could be. And they did this in order to stand up for what they believe in. And what they believe in is simply fair and equal rights for everybody. What they want is to stop the cruelty and the discrimination that goes on in this state. These protests were done silently, respectfully, and in a peaceful manner, your honor. It was the state’s decision to not continue to cite and release them, it could have. Those costs could have been deferred. But this isn’t a fiscal issue your honor, this is a civil rights issue. We don’t look back at the 1960s, at the great protests, and think, gee that cost a lot of money. We’re grateful.”

Penalty for LeFavour: $70 fine, 70 hours of community service, court costs

Judge Michael Oths has imposed a $70 fine, 70 hours of community service and court costs on former state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, for two misdemeanor counts of trespassing at the Idaho state Capitol during this year’s legislative session in favor of protecting gays from discrimination in Idaho. That matches a plea agreement reached in April.

“What I appreciate about the approach you all took is the American tradition of civil disobedience is we all disobey and then we take our consequences,” the judge said. “We understand there’s a price tag involved in it, rather than as we may do in other parts of the world, blowing things up or that kind of tactics. .. I think the great tradition is you put your name on the line, and it’s not easy to do that, I understand that. But you accept the consequences for that, and I think you’ve done both.” The judge added, “I think people have been respectful in their approach, and I want to make that comment.”

Testimony: ‘Give them hope,’ ‘How do you put a price on your child’s life?’

Madelynn Lee Taylor, a 74-year-old Navy veteran and one of the arrested protesters, was called next. She recounted how she and her wife have been denied permission to be buried together at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery because Idaho doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages. She said she decided to participate in the protests. “They had already put stickers up in the Capitol, and then they got a law that said you can’t put stickers up in the Capitol,” she said, drawing a laugh. “All of you in grade school used to take the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. How does it end? Liberty and justice for all. And we don’t have justice for our gay and lesbian people. The kids are dying out there. We need to give them hope.”

Gretchen Bates, 67, pictured above at center, who described herself to the court as “straight, white, a mom, and most importantly a grandma,” and also an educator and Idaho resident for 28 years, said she protested because “it’s the right thing to do, and I know so many of my friends have been discriminated against and don’t feel safe.” She said her best friend’s son Matt and his partner jumped to their death from the Perrine Bridge as a result of discrimination. “We’re 9 years too late for some children - it should have been done nine years ago,” she said. “I’m so afraid that … more children will die. … Adding four words, how simple is that? We talk about the cost of things, but how do you put a price on your child’s life? You can’t.” 

Tears flow in courtroom, as witnesses share teens’ stories

Julie Zicha, whose gay son, Ryan, committed suicide, was the first witness called by the defense at the “Add the 4 Words” sentencing trial this afternoon for state Capitol protesters. Zicha said she believes it’s critical that Idaho amend its Human Rights Act to ban discrimination against gays. “I think every moment we wait we risk losing more and more kids,” she said. Occasionally breaking down in tears, she told the court, “I lost my son Ryan in January of 2011. My son was gay and he took his life at the age of 19 after three years in Pocatello, just the climate of intolerance, hatred. He was discriminated against when it came to jobs and housing.”

When he first arrived in Pocatello from Spokane as a 15-year-old 10th grader, Zicha said Ryan was a straight-A student and a life scout in the Boy Scouts. “He was very strong and capable and self-confident,” she said. “Within just a very, very short time in school he started being first verbally harassed and then it moved to violence.” At one point, 15-year-old Ryan was pulled out of a party by three young men “who literally dragged him out in the snow and they beat him,” Zicha said. “By the time the semester was over, the first semester, my son was failing, for the first time ever – he was failing in school and just desperate to get out of Pocatello.”

ZIcha said she and her husband arranged to have Ryan return to grandparents in Spokane to finish school, but when he was 18, he had health problems and she brought him home so his parents could help him, figuring he was done with high school and the bullying would be over. Instead, Ryan was turned away from jobs and rental apartments for being gay, she said. In January of 2011, he drove up into the snow at the Pebble Creek ski area and shot himself to death.

Zicha was followed by Carmen Stanger, whose gay daughter, Matty, a Pocatello high school student, committed suicide on Feb. 18, 2014. “And on Feb. 20 is when one of the protests took place. And had I not been planning my daughter’s memorial, I would have been beside Nicole LeFavour on behalf of my daughter. But instead there were many people there beside Nicole that were carrying her picture.” Sounds of sniffling filled the courtroom as Stanger spoke. “One life lost is too many, and you can’t put a price on that, absolutely cannot,” Stanger said. “My daughter wanted so much to live and stay in Idaho.”

As she stepped down from the witness stand, defense attorney Dan Skinner passed boxes of tissues to the audience. LeFavour, a former Idaho state senator, is the first protester up for sentencing this afternoon.

ISP says costs for ‘Add the 4 Words’ protests ran close to $24,000

The state has now called Maj. Steve Richardson of the Idaho State Police, who oversees executive protection and capitol security for the ISP, to address the “Add the 4 Words” protests at the Capitol this year. He read a statement including these stats from this year’s legislative session: “109 individuals were charged with 192 separate misdemeanor violations during the protests on Feb. 3, 20, and 27, and March 4, 6, 7, 12, 14 and 18, 2014.” Richardson said the protesters violated fire codes dealing with egress and ingress, depleted limited law enforcement resources, impacted the Ada County Jail, and limited access to “state facilities and public proceedings by state employees and other members of the public.”

Richardson estimated that the cost to the ISP was close to $24,000, including $6,000 to add an additional trooper for the final weeks of the session in response to the protests. The protesters, he said, were “courteous and cooperative.”

Riggers on protests: ‘We couldn’t go where we normally would’

Prosecutor John S. Dinger began the “Add the 4 Words” sentencing hearing this afternoon by reading a statement from Idaho Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Sarah Jane McDonald. She said visitors to the Capitol are expected to “behave in a civil manner. … So what happens when visitors do not behave in a civil manner, when they selfishly think that their cause is special and justifies disruptive measures?” She recounted in her statement how she said she was pushed while blocking “Add the 4 Words” protesters from a restricted staircase in the Senate. “People were prevented from doing their jobs,” she said. “Unless we convince them in some way that their disrupting the legislative process is unacceptable, Idaho will be forced to go the way of other states” and restrict public access, she said in the statement.

The state then called Fred Riggers, 72, who is legally blind and recounted how he’s frequented the state Capitol during legislative sessions for the past 14 years. “It’s the best comedy club in town,” Riggers said, in response to a question from prosecutor Whitney Welsh as to why he goes. “I participate in our state government.” Riggers said “Add the 4 Words” protesters blocked him and others one day in the foyer of the Senate and would not allow him to leave, and another time blocked him and others from entering the ground-floor wing of the Senate where committee meetings had been scheduled to take place. “I was almost ashamed of what was going on,” Riggers told the court. “This was Idaho with an open Capitol. All of a sudden it was a lockdown situation, because we couldn’t go where we normally would.”

Full house for ‘Add the 4 Words’ sentencing this afternoon

There’s a full house this afternoon for the sentencing of two dozen “Add the 4 Words” protesters at the Ada County Courthouse for offenses relating to protests at the state Capitol during this year’s legislative session in favor of adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Between those up for sentencing, their supporters, volunteer attorneys and members of the press, the room has filled; extra chairs were added to seat the crowd of more than 70, but finally the last few people who arrived late were turned away.

A dozen Idaho attorneys, organized by Boise Attorney Dan Skinner, are representing the protesters pro bono.

Irony: Labrador’s biggest donation in past reporting period came from Eric Cantor’s PAC

A look through 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador’s latest campaign finance report turns up an a bit of irony: Labrador’s biggest donation - $5,000 for the reporting period and $10,000 for the election cycle to date – came from the Every Republican is Crucial PAC – ERIC-PAC, the PAC operated by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Cantor was defeated in the Virginia Republican primary last month; Labrador mounted an unsuccessful challenge to his successor in his leadership post, losing to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.

Overall, Labrador raised a surprisingly paltry $48,145 for his re-election campaign during the two-month reporting period that ended June 30, while his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, wasn’t far behind at $42,838. Labrador’s total seems small for a second-term congressional incumbent seeking a third term – his campaign expenses for the period were $53,147, more than he raised – but he carried over big sums from earlier, allowing him to close out the quarter with $416,522 in cash in his campaign warchest.

Based on his spending, Labrador also clearly didn’t feel financially pinched in his campaign during the quarter: He continued to pay wife Rebecca a $2,022 monthly salary for working on the campaign, and he made $1,000 donations to three other congressional hopefuls’ campaigns, two from Alabama and one from Georgia: Dr. Chad Mathis, a conservative Christian and surgeon who lost a GOP primary in Alabama; Gary Palmer, longtime head of the Alabama Policy Institute who is running for Congress there; and Dr. Bob Johnson, another physician and Christian conservative seeking a GOP nomination in Georgia. Labrador reported no debt.

Ringo’s campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission shows some contrasts with Labrador’s. While $19,000 of the congressman’s donations during the period came from PACs, including the Comcast Corp. PAC at $2,000 and New York Life Insurance PAC at $2,600, Ringo got just one PAC donation, $2,000 from the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education.

Labrador’s individual contributions of $29,045 included donations of $1,000 or more from 13 individuals in Idaho; nine in-state donors who gave less than $1,000; and five out-of-state individuals, all of whom gave less than $1,000.

Ringo received more than 80 donations of less than $1,000 from individuals in Idaho; two for $1,000 or more from Idaho individuals; and nearly 70 donations of less than $1,000 either from out-of-state individuals or from individuals who donated through the Democratic Party’s “Act Blue” online fundraising site. Ringo ran up $19,500 in debt, all in loans to her own campaign; and reported $13,877 in the bank at the end of the reporting period.

New Miss Idaho proudly wears insulin pump

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Sierra Sandison has become a role model for many ever since she took the Miss Idaho crown after learning to embrace her diabetes diagnosis with pride. Sandison, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2012, wore her insulin pump clipped to her clothing at last week's Miss Idaho pageant, including during the swimsuit competition. The Times-News (http://bit.ly/1qwM8gP) reports Sandison beat 19 women vying for the title and will now compete in the Miss America Pageant in September. Sandison's story has since gone viral as photos of her wearing the pump —which automatically administers insulin without shots— have shown up on Good Morning America and other national media outlets. The last Miss America contestant to wear an insulin pump on stage was Nicole Johnson in 1999, who won the crown. Click below for a full report.

Many Idahoans likely to qualify for payments under DRAM settlement, deadline approaching…

Many Idahoans who bought products containing DRAM, or dynamic random access memory chips, between 1998 and 2002 are due a refund thanks to a price-fixing settlement, according to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, but the Aug. 1 deadline for filing claims is past approaching. DRAM typically is either sold separately or pre-installed in electronic devices such as computers, servers, graphics cards, video game consoles, MP3 players, printers, PDAs, DVD players, and digital video recorders. The minimum refund for people who submit qualifying claims is $10; click below for more information.

Idaho presses 9th Circuit to reverse court ruling overturning state’s ‘fetal pain’ abortion law

Idaho argued its appeal in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today of a federal judge's ruling overturning the state's “fetal pain” abortion law that sought to ban all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Idaho was one of seven states to enact such laws in 2011; it was voided by a federal judge in March of 2013 as unconstitutional. Jennie Linn McCormack, an eastern Idaho woman, and Richard Hearn, an attorney and medical doctor, sued the state after she was charged with felony illegal abortion because prosecutors said she took an abortion-causing drug obtained over the Internet to terminate a pregnancy that was past the 20-week mark. In its appeal, the state contended McCormick couldn't argue the law put an undue burden on women because charges against her had been dropped and the case was moot. But that argument drew sharp questions Friday from the appeals court judges to Deputy Idaho Attorney General Clay Smith immediately drew sharp questions Friday, especially after it was determined the 5-year statute of limitations on the charge initially faced by McCormick hasn't expired. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Keith Ridler.

Idaho gets record-low interest rate on annual sale of tax anticipation notes

Idaho got its best interest rate ever this year on its annual sale of tax anticipation notes, which the state uses to manage its cash flow throughout the year. This year’s sale of $475 million in notes, completed last month, brought an interest rate of just .11 basis points, or 11/100ths of a percentage point. “That’s virtually free money,” said state Treasurer Ron Crane. Last year’s rate, which set the previous record low, was .19 basis points. Crane said the state drew orders from buyers who wanted $3.1 billion in Idaho’s notes when it only had $475 million to sell. “So we bumped the interest rate down to 11, and the buyers all held.”

He estimated the savings to the state’s taxpayers compared to last year’s costs at nearly $400,000; each basis point in interest costs $47,500. “Idaho paper is extremely valuable in the marketplace, because investors know they will get paid back,” Crane said. “This is because we have a track record of managing our finances well.”

Crane’s annual trip to the financial markets in New York for the sale, which typically includes a bevy of state officials, made headlines in 2011 amid reports that the Idaho group traveled in 10-person stretch limos in the Big Apple. Crane defended the practice, saying it was the most efficient way of transporting the group in the city and it was also what his predecessors had done, but he’s discontinued it; Idaho’s delegation to the New York financial markets now travels in SUV’s from a car service.  

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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