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State ed board approves college tuition and fee hikes, with trims

Idaho’s State Board of Education has approved tuition increases for next year of 4 percent at BSU and the University of Idaho, 2 percent at Lewis-Clark State College and 3.5 percent at Idaho State University. The board trimmed back the requested increases for both BSU and UI, which had sought a 4.7 percent tuition and fee increase; board members said they wanted to hold the hikes to no more than 4 percent. “The board recognizes how difficult it is for our students to bear the cost of their public higher education,” said board President Don Soltman.

The state board is meeting today and tomorrow in Moscow; you can see their full tuition and fee announcement here. Oddly, not addressed in the announcement – but covered in the chart at the end – is Eastern Idaho Technical College’s request for a 6.3 percent increase in tuition and fees, which the board approved. That jumps annual tuition and fees at the school from $2,122 to $2,256. The board’s announcement is headed “Tuition and fees held at low levels,” and notes that full-time tuition and fees in Idaho are low compared to peer institutions both in the west and nationwide.

BSU requested a 6.1 percent increase for full-time students and 1.5 percent for part-time; the board approved 5.5 percent for full-time and 1.5 percent for part-time, for an average across the student body of 4 percent. Tuition and fees to attend BSU full-time will rise from $6,292 this year to $6,640 next year; at the U of I, it’ll go from $6,524 this year to $6,784 next year.

Check of GOP supt candidates’ voting records from 2012 yields some interesting results…

Two of the four Republican candidates for state superintendent of schools didn’t cast votes in the state’s first closed GOP primary two years ago, Idaho Education News reports, and one of the four – Sherri Ybarra – didn’t vote in the 2012 general election in which Idaho voters resoundingly rejected the controversial “Students Come First” school reform laws.

Idaho EdNews reports that Ybarra voted only on the unaffiliated ballot in the 2012 primary, and Jensen didn’t vote at all in that primary, despite a long voting history; he told the news outlet he sat that one out because he didn’t support the idea of closing the primary. “I just think everyone should have an opportunity to vote in the primary election,” Jensen told Idaho Education News today. While he describes himself as politically conservative, Jensen says he avoided aligning with a party for years, in part because his wife has served for 23 years on the American Falls City Council, a nonpartisan post. “We have just always remained nonpartisan in our political endeavors.”

Ybarra offered no explanation for her failure to vote in the 2012 general election, telling Idaho EdNews in an emailed statement, “I am a Republican, with Republican values, since my childhood.  The state superintendent of public Instruction serves all students, all parents, and all stakeholders, regardless of when a box is ‘checked.’  Ronald Reagan explained it best:  ‘Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.’” You can read the full report here, from reporters Jennifer Swindell, Kevin Richert and Clark Corbin.

Brooklyn man running for Senate in Idaho, Oregon and Alaska, all at once…

A Brooklyn, N.Y. attorney who's never been to Idaho is not only running again for a U.S. Senate seat from the state, after doing the same four years ago – he's also running for Senate seats in Alaska and Oregon this year. “I’m just making myself available to the people of more than one state,” said William Bryk. “The voters have not yet taken advantage of the opportunity to retain my services, but one lives in hope.”

Bryk, 59, is one of two Democrats facing off for the chance to challenge Idaho GOP Sen. Jim Risch; the other, Nels Mitchell, is an Idaho attorney who announced early and is running a spirited campaign targeting one of Idaho’s longest-serving GOP politicians. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

House hopeful with domestic violence, bankruptcy record to stay in race, campaign on family values

Greg Chaney, who is unopposed on the GOP ballot for a House seat in Canyon County but whose domestic violence and multiple-bankruptcy record caused an uproar in Canyon County GOP politics, announced at a county central committee meeting last night that he’ll stay in the race. The Idaho Press-Tribune reports that Chaney said, “I just want to reassure that it was never my intention to misstate or misrepresent anything that’s happened in the past. I also feel very strongly that I have a unique position to carry the conservative voice forward for Canyon County.”

Chaney said he has found God and changed his ways, and he and his third wife now live frugally; he plans to campaign on a platform of family values and fiscal responsibility. Meanwhile, Brian Bishop, a Harvard-educated attorney in Caldwell, has launched a write-in campaign against Chaney in the GOP primary in legislative District 10. The seat is question is now held by retiring longtime Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell.

Idaho sues timber company over firefighter death in North Idaho wildfire

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — Idaho officials have filed a lawsuit against a timber company and its contractor contending they're responsible for a wildfire that killed a 20-year-old Forest Service firefighter and burned more than 300 acres in northern Idaho. The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1gGpWtJ) the state filed the lawsuit Monday in 2nd District Court seeking an unspecified amount in monetary damages for costs in fighting the fire. Anne Veseth of Moscow died Aug. 12, 2012, after being struck and killed by a falling tree while fighting the Steep Corner Fire near Orofino. The lawsuit names Potlatch Land and Lumber, Potlatch Forest Holdings, Clearwater Paper Corp., Potlatch Corp., and DABCO Inc., a Kamiah-based logging contractor. Idaho officials contend a logging crew started the fire using equipment that didn't meet Forest Service standards required by law.

Denney accuses Ysursa of conflict of interest for endorsing one of Denney’s rivals

After a Statehouse press conference yesterday in which 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador and state Treasurer Ron Crane formally endorsed Lawerence Denney in the four-way GOP contest for Idaho Secretary of State, Denney sent out a news release questioning the ethics of current Secretary of State Ben Ysursa for endorsing one of his rivals, Phil McGrane. “I was surprised to see our current Secretary of State endorse somebody in this race,” Denney said. “Because of the appearance of conflict of interest, as Secretary of State, I will not serve as anyone’s campaign chairman for any campaign over which I serve as the chief election judge. Doing otherwise sends the wrong message for the chief elections officer.”

Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reports today that Ysursa said he doesn’t count ballots and isn’t playing favorites. “Within these walls, it’s all by the books,” he said. “I think I’ve proven that over 40 years. People who know me know that the fact that I think Mr. McGrane is the best candidate and should be nominated will have nothing to do with the duties of my office.”

Popkey also reported that when Ysursa ran for the post in 2002 after years as chief deputy to then-Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa, Cenarrusa endorsed Ysursa in the primary, in which he defeated GOP rival Evan Frasure. Frasure is running again this year, as is former Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise; the winner of the four-way GOP primary will face Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, in November.

Idaho Debates set in nine primary races

The Idaho Debates will feature a series of nine debates in Idaho races in advance of the May 20 primary election, the Idaho Press Club, the League of Women Voters of Idaho and Idaho Public Television announced today. The Idaho Debates have featured face-offs between Idaho election candidates for more than 30 years; this year’s primary debates, broadcast statewide, continue that tradition.

Here are the debate dates and times:

GOP GOVERNOR’s RACE:  May 14, 8 p.m. Gov. Butch Otter is seeking a third term; in the Republican primary, he faces opponents including Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian; Harley Brown and Walt Bayes.

SECRETARY OF STATE, GOP: May 13, 7 p.m. Four candidates are facing off in the Republican primary for Secretary of State; the victor will face Democratic Rep. Holli Woodings in November.  

2nd CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, GOP: May 11, 7 p.m. This GOP primary race features longtime Congressman Mike Simpson and challenger Bryan Smith.

IDAHO SUPREME COURT: May 9, 8 p.m. Justice Joel Horton faces a challenge from Boise attorney Breck Seiniger; the primary election is the final contest in this non-partisan race.

LT. GOVERNOR, GOP: May 9, 8:30 p.m. Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little will debate challenger Jim Chmelik.

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, GOP: May 8, 8 p.m. Candidates vying in the four-way GOP race for state superintendent of schools will face off; the winner of that primary will face Democrat Jana Jones in the November general election.

STATE CONTROLLER, GOP: May 2, 8 p.m. State Controller Brandon Woolf debates GOP challenger Todd Hatfield.

STATE TREASURER, DEMOCRATS: May 2, 8:30 p.m. Two Democratic candidates for state treasurer, Deborah Silver of Twin Falls and W. Lane Startin of Boise, will face off; the victor in that primary race will face incumbent GOP Treasurer Ron Crane in November.   

ATTORNEY GENERAL, GOP: May 1, 8 p.m. Third-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden faces Boise attorney C.T. “Chris” Troupis in the GOP primary contest.

That’s nine debates on seven days, all in the month of May, all broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television. As always, the Idaho Press Club will provide the Idaho reporters who will serve as panelists questioning the candidates; the League of Women Voters will handle time-keeping duties; and Idaho Public TV will provide the moderators and produce and broadcast the debates.

Two women sue Boise State over sex assault response

Two former Boise State University students are suing the school because they say athletic officials ignored their reports of sexual assault and harassment by a star athlete, the AP reports; the women are represented by nationally known attorney Gloria Allred, who has handled similar lawsuits in several other states. They contend that multiple Boise State University athletic officials knew the athlete who abused them had a record of serially harassing and assaulting fellow students, and that the school's failure to take action spurred the athlete to continue the behavior.

The lawsuit says a “men's star track and field athlete” openly sexually harassed female athletes at practices and coaches didn't intervene. BSU relieved its head track and field coach, J.W. Hardy, from his coaching duties in April 2013. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Idaho ACLU chief to leave for Washington, D.C. post

Monica Hopkins, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho since 2008, will leave in May for a similar position with the organization in Washington, D.C., the group announced today. Hopkins' last day will be May 16; in her new job, she’ll be executive director of the ACLU in the Nation’s Capital. The Idaho ACLU said it plans “a very deliberate and thoughtful process” to select Hopkins’ replacement; you can read their full announcement here.

Candidate with domestic violence record may withdraw, Canyon County GOP politics in an uproar

Canyon County GOP politics are in an uproar after the GOP candidate, unopposed in the primary, for longtime Rep. Darrell Bolz’ seat turned out to have a criminal record for domestic violence; Idaho Statesman reporters Dan Popkey and Cynthia Sewell report today that the candidate, Greg Chaney, also has two bankruptcies on his record. He told the Statesman he’s now found God and he and his third wife are living frugally; Chaney’s record was first disclosed last week by the Idaho Press-Tribune.

But here’s the political fallout: Bolz told the Statesman he’s having second thoughts about supporting Chaney – whom he escorted around the Capitol at the close of the session. “It’s very disconcerting, OK?” Bolz told Popkey. A new write-in GOP candidate has emerged for the seat, Brian Bishop, a Harvard-educated attorney in Caldwell and BYU graduate who says he’s very serious about his run. And Chaney now says he might withdraw, after meeting with Bishop tonight at a Canyon County Republican Central Committee meeting. Canyon County GOP Chairwoman Melinda Smyser told the Statesman that all candidates, including Chaney and Bishop, will have a chance to speak at the 7 p.m. meeting at the Canyon County Courthouse, which will be open to the public.

 Legislative District 10 is the same one where then-Sen. John McGee resigned in disgrace in 2012 after a sexual harassment scandal involving a female Senate aide, a year after he’d kept his Senate GOP leadership post despite a DUI conviction. The other current District 10 representative, Brandon Hixon, 32, was elected two years ago despite revelations that he’d had five misdemeanors by age 21. Said Bolz, “People are just beginning to wonder what the devil’s going on in District 10.” Popkey and Sewell’s full report is online here.

Candidate: Instead of campaign donations, give to local schools

Randy Jensen, a middle school principal from American Falls and one of the four Republicans vying for the GOP nomination for state schools superintendent, has a rather unusual campaign message for folks on this day-before-tax-day: Don’t donate to my campaign, donate to your local schools instead. “Hopefully people will look at this and say, ‘This is the kind of superintendent we’d like, one that wants to put money toward kids and not spend money on campaign stuff,” Jensen said.

He’s not turning away all campaign donations. “If somebody sends me a check, I’m not going to rip it up,” he said. But he’s decided he doesn’t need a lot of campaign funding, and will be reaching out to voters personally and electronically, while encouraging potential donors to take into account Idaho’s generous tax credit for donations to schools.

“In Idaho, if you donate $500, you immediately get a $250 tax credit,” Jensen said. “So that means the most you can pay is $250. But then if you itemize, you save about $160, depending on your tax bracket. So it costs you just about $90.” Jensen said schools can end up with more than five times as much money if people donate to them instead of candidates. “If I wanted to send a mailer out to the 100,000 people that voted in the last three Republican primaries, that mailer would cost $30,000,” he said. “I would rather have $150,000 go to schools.”

Jensen said he’s meeting this afternoon with four major corporations in his area, and he’s hoping to talk each of them into, instead of donating $1,000 to his campaign, donating $5,000 to schools. “I could generate $4,000 for my election – hopefully instead I can generate $20,000 for a program at a school,” he said. Jensen said even if he doesn’t win his race, his purpose is to help schools. “What most people don’t realize is they can donate $500 to a school and their out-of-pocket expense is typically going to be less than $100.”

He faces John Eynon, Andy Grover, and Sherri Ybarra in the May GOP primary; the victor will face Democrat Jana Jones in November.

Four Republicans who want to head Idaho’s schools…

None are particularly well-known; all are educators; and all are seeking a key statewide office that’s become a lightning rod for controversy under the current superintendent. Twin Falls Times-News reporter Kimberlee Kruesi runs down the four GOP candidates vying for a chance to run for state superintendent of schools, with two-term Superintendent Tom Luna retiring. The winner will face Democrat Jana Jones in November, who is unopposed in the primary. Kruesi’s report is online here, talking with Andy Grover, Randy Jensen, John Eynon and Sherri Ybarra.

Congressional candidate built career in part on going after people for unpaid medical bills

As the 2nd District congressional race heats up, with money pouring in from outside groups and name-calling ads from both sides on TV in southern Idaho, Idaho Statesman reporter Sven Berg took a look Sunday at GOP challenger Bryan Smith and his career as an attorney in Idaho Falls. Smith, whom incumbent Congressman Mike Simpson is criticizing in TV ads as a “personal injury lawyer,” actually has made his career as something of a debt collector, Berg reports, founding or co-owning two firms that buy unpaid medical debt from doctors and other creditors, and working closely with Smith’s law firm, sue the debtors who don’t pay, forcing wage garnishments and bankruptcies.  

An Idaho Falls bankruptcy attorney estimated that one of the firms has triggered a third to half of Bonneville County’s bankruptcies in recent years. Berg’s full report is online here.

The week that was…

On tonight’s “Idaho Reports” program on Idaho Public Television, I join Jim Weatherby and co-hosts Melissa Davlin and Aaron Kunz for a discussion of current events, from election politics to agency rule-making. Also, Davlin and Seth Ogilvie discuss rifts in the Idaho Republican Party and report on a District 34 race, in which freshman GOP Rep. Douglas Hancey is being challenged in the primary by Ron Nate; it’s the first in a series focusing on some of the legislative races around the state.  The show airs at 8 p.m. tonight; it re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time, 9:30 Pacific; and plays on Boise State Public Radio on Sunday at 7 p.m. After it airs, you can watch it here online any time.

Wasden: ‘Fight for heart and soul of the Republican Party’

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says this year’s primary election in Idaho has brought “a bigger fight,” saying, “I think it’s a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.” “There are people like me who read the Constitution and believe we should do what the Constitution says; there are other folks who kind of think that they should follow a certain set of philosophical viewpoints,” Wasden told The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board on Friday.

“The rational Republicans want to sit down and read the Constitution and do what it says,” Wasden declared. Wasden is Idaho’s longest-serving state attorney general; he’s seeking a fourth term, and faces a challenge in the primary from Boise attorney C.T. “Chris” Troupis, the lawyer who represented the Idaho Republican Party in its successful lawsuit against the state to close the GOP primary to anyone other than registered Republicans; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Denney touts backing from Labrador, Ron Crane

Lawerence Denney, candidate for Idaho Secretary of State, has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday to announce endorsements from 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador and state Treasurer Ron Crane. Labrador is one of Denney’s three campaign co-chairs, he announced when he filed to run for the office on March 12. Denney also has posted endorsements on his website from 11 other state lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star.

Denney is one of four candidates vying for the GOP nomination for Secretary of State; the others are chief deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, former Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise, and former Sen. Evan Frasure, R-Pocatello.

Otter declines to fill out Idaho GOP platform survey, submits letter instead

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has declined to fill out a form certifying that he agrees with each and every tenet of the Idaho Republican Party platform, including repealing the 17th amendment – direct election of U.S. senators – and returning to the gold standard. Instead, Otter submitted a letter to the party saying, “I have chosen not to fill out the specific policy sections of the disclosure statement. A brief statement cannot fully encompass my positions on these issues.”

He included some statements of his overall philosophy, and wrote, “I believe that repealing the 17th Amendment is unnecessary if the 10th Amendment is fully and properly applied, but discussion and debate on that alternative is healthy for our republic. I oppose adopting the gold standard for our currency because of the critical leadership position the United States must take in the global market, but I support auditing the Federal Reserve in the interest of transparency and accountability.”

He added, “There are other policy statements in the platform with which I generally agree, but I do not believe those statements adequately serve the purpose of completely informing voters on key issues.” You can read Otter’s full letter here. Among the other gubernatorial candidates in the GOP primary, Russ Fulcher and Walt Bayes both filled out the party’s form and checked that they agree with every item in the platform, without comment; candidate Harley Brown hasn’t submitted a form.

Toryanski adds senators to campaign team

Former state Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise, has announced the addition of three current state senators to his campaign team as he vies in a four-way GOP primary for Idaho Secretary of State: Sens. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, Jim Rice, R-Caldwell; and Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston. Toryanski counts 11 and two former ones among his campaign committee; you can see his full list here.

Toryanski faces fellow Republicans Phil McGrane, Lawerence Denney and Evan Frasure in the GOP primary; the winner will face Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, in November.

Former state Controller Donna Jones endorses McGrane for Secty of State

Former state Controller Donna Jones has endorsed Phil McGrane in the four-way GOP race for Idaho secretary of state. McGrane, chief deputy Ada County clerk, faces former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, former Sen. Evan Frasure of Pocatello, and former Sen. Mitch Toryanski of Boise in the May 20 primary; the winner will face Democratic Rep. Holli Woodings of Boise in November, who’s unopposed on the Democratic ticket.

Jones was elected state controller in both 2006 and 2010, the first woman to serve in that position; she resigned in 2012 to recover from severe injuries suffered in a car accident, and was replaced by her then-chief deputy, current Controller Brandon Woolf. She’s also a longtime GOP activist and former executive director of the Idaho Real Estate Commission who served 12 years in the Idaho House, including serving with Denney. She called McGrane “the only qualified candidate in this race that can get the job done.” You can read McGrane’s full announcement here.

ISP highway drug seizures add up

In the past year, the Idaho State Police has seized more than 720 pounds of marijuana during traffic stops, more than 58 pounds of meth, and more than 30 pounds of cocaine. That’s for the calendar year 2013, and it’s only counting major seizures – those that were above reporting thresholds, which are 1 pound for marijuana, 2 ounces for meth or cocaine, and 1 ounce for heroin.

California was the most common state of origin for the seized drugs, accounting for 23 of the 80 seizures in 2013. Oregon was second at 17, Idaho third at 11, and Washington fourth at 10.

“This is just our numbers from our highway interdiction and our highway enforcement,” said Teresa Baker, ISP spokeswoman. “This isn’t the drugs that we seized from our investigations.”

In 2012, ISP reported 78 seizures on the highways, including 645 pounds of marijuana, 5.57 pounds of heroin, and 2 pounds of methamphetamine. “There are a lot of drugs coming into the state from other states,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of interstate drug trafficking.”

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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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