Archive for November 2005
“We regard this as a fundamental violation of the basic principle that the people shouldn’t be excluded from their own business,” said the group’s founder and president, Keith Allred, a Harvard professor and professional mediator. A majority of the group, however, did favor allowing closed meetings under very limited circumstances, including to discuss pending litigation or security matters.
The Legislature currently is facing a lawsuit from the Idaho Press Club, charging that closed meetings of official legislative committees violate the state Constitution. The Idaho Supreme Court will take oral arguments in the case on Jan. 9. Allred said, “If the Press Club prevails before the Supreme Court, committees will likely be required to always be open to the public. However, if the Supreme Court finds that the Legislature has the constitutional authority to close committee meetings … The Common Interest would actively urge legislators to revisit current Senate and House rules.” He added, “Even if the Legislature has the constitutional authority to close committee meetings for any reason, our members – the common citizens of Idaho – do not feel that that is wise policy.”
He invited people to review the extensive briefing materials on the group’s website. “While our members came out decidedly against the current policy, we invite all concerned citizens to review our briefing materials, draw their own conclusions, and share those conclusions with their legislators,” Allred said.
The group also announced the four issues it will focus on for the upcoming legislative session: Property taxes, K-12 education funding, overcrowded prisons, and eminent domain. Members will research the issues, and if the group then takes a strong position one way or the other, will advocate for that position in the Legislature.
The Common Interest now has more than 700 members from all political persuasions and all corners of the state, Allred said. The donation-supported group, whose founding board members also include prominent former legislators from both parties like former Sen. Laird Noh, R-Kimberly, and former Sen. Marguerite McLaughlin, D-Orofino, is designed to give citizens who aren’t part of any special interest a chance to have a voice in the political system. All members must commit to voting in the primary and general elections.
Member Anne Hutchinson of Meridian, a retired Hewlett-Packard employee, said, “This gives us a chance to really see the issues and think them through. We get great information on both sides of the issue.”
Said Allred, “The only thing we have in common is that we’re Idahoans who care about the state.”
“Kootenai County has grown so quickly that whatever advantage it got from the redistricting commission has evaporated,” Post-Register editorial writer Marty Trillhaase wrote. “Eastern Idaho’s lawsuit says the north is 13,318 people light for the number of lawmakers assigned to it. But Kootenai County’s population alone has jumped by more than 14,200 since 2000.” That means if updated figures are used, Eastern Idaho could actually lose even more representation, as districts are adjusted to match the population and make sure they still reflect the one-person, one-vote rule.
“As bad as the ‘02 plan was for eastern Idaho, a 2005 plan could be even worse,” Trillhaase wrote. “Until this region figures out how to expand its economy and population to keep up with the western and northern sections of Idaho, every reapportionment will force us to yield legislative clout to those regions. We’re playing a losing game here. There’s no need to rush into the next round.”
“I just think it makes sense,” an enthusiastic Kempthorne said after the press conference, “because if you do nothing, we know the outcome.”
One sign of how excited the governor is: This is the first of his press conferences that I can remember that started right on time. Typically, Kempthorne’s press confabs get going about 10 minutes late, sometimes more; though his press secretary, Mike Journee, loyally reports that the conferences start whenever the governor starts speaking, “so they always start on time.”
The congressional hearing featured a panel of oil company CEOs, followed by a panel of state attorneys general. “The good news is that the attorneys general told us they have investigated price gouging thoroughly, and it is not occurring as widely as it has been portrayed,” Craig said. “The bad news is that gas pricing is so hard to understand and even harder to explain, that five CEOs could not explain to me why gas in Idaho is more expensive than in Washington, D.C.”