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Eye On Boise

Archive for August 2004

School lawsuit decision

You can read the Idaho Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion
on the school facilities case on the Internet. The 17-page opinion is actually pretty clear and straightforward – it says when the Legislature tried get out of the long-running school lawsuit by passing a law essentially canceling the suit, it acted unconstitutionally. The law, HB 403, was thrown out as unconstitutional special legislation, and as a violation of the separation of powers.

The case revolves around a long-running lawsuit filed by school districts against the state over inadequate funding for school construction and repair. The districts essentially won the suit in 2001 when a lower court declared Idaho’s current funding system unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to fix it. Some incremental changes in Idaho’s funding system were approved, but lawmakers opted basically to try to ban the lawsuit rather than make more major changes. The Supreme Court said they can’t do that.

About the only thing in the court’s opinion that isn’t clear is the statement at the beginning that the court “affirmed in part and reversed in part” the earlier decision by a 4th District court that HB 403 was unconstitutional. The state appealed the lower court’s decision to the Supreme Court. In fact, the opinion appears only to affirm the lower court, and it even awards court costs to the respondents, the school districts. Nothing appears to be reversed.

A call to the Supreme Court didn’t clear up the mystery. Chief Clerk of the Court Fred Lyon said the court had had several similar inquiries, and he’d passed them on to the opinion’s author, Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout. Later, he got word that no further clarification would be offered.

Look where it got them

Here’s something interesting: Just two of the North Idaho Panhandle’s state legislators had perfect scores on the ratings of voting records this year by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the state’s most influential business lobby. IACI is used to lawmakers agreeing with it. Overall, the group said lawmakers voted with it 88 percent of the time in the 2004 session.

But the two 100 percent scorers from up north - Sen. Kent Bailey, R-Hayden, and Rep. John Campbell, R-Sandpoint - are both out of the Legislature. Four-term Rep. Campbell retired, and first-term Sen. Bailey was beaten in the primary by Michael Jorgenson.

Two-ring political circus

In Boise, you can hardly tell there’s a presidential race on — there are no ads and little fuss, since Idaho’s handful of electoral votes are virtually guaranteed to go to the Republican candidate.

But just six hours to the west, where I headed for a wind-surfing vacation in Oregon, the race is on.

At a tiny Thai restaurant on the Oregon Coast, the two guys at the next table ardently debated the candidates’ merits as military leaders — one was for Bush, the other for Kerry. Then, as we headed back from the Coast, to the Columbia River Gorge, freeways were shut down, police lights flashed, and helicopters hovered as President Bush traveled in a motorcade from the Portland Airport to a talk with a small-business group at a Beaverton high school.

At the same time, Democratic challenger John Kerry was addressing a huge rally and rock concert in downtown Portland’s Riverfront Park, and on the radio, I heard him say to cheers, “I’ve got three days in the Columbia River Gorge, and I’m going wind surfing!”

That explains the unusual billboard outside Hood River, pictured here, which shows a giant picture of Kerry wind-surfing, with the slogan, “Hood River welcomes John Kerry.”

Just what they deserve

Really, it was just a typo, and not a commentary that seven southwestern Idaho counties that got a health care grant didn’t deserve it. But with a single “r” mysteriously missing, a press release today from the state Department of Health & Welfare does, in fact, say that the grant program is for “Medically Undeserved Areas.”

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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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