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Eye On Boise

Archive for September 2008

The full ruling

The Idaho Supreme Court earlier rejected a lawsuit from 10 individuals and the Idaho Republican Party seeking to toss independent candidate Rex Rammell off the ballot for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat, offering a speedy ruling as counties were about to print their ballots for the November election. Now, the court has come out with its full written opinion in the case. In an opinion written by Chief Justice Dan Eismann, the unanimous court found that “the Secretary of State is required by statute to place Rammell’s name on the ballot.” You can read the full opinion here.

Simpson: ‘Greater risk for taxpayers is not acting’

2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson said today that his vote for the financial bailout bill was “not to protect the fat cats on Wall Street, but to help Main Street by stopping the decimation of saving and investments, and the inability for businesses to borrow money for improvements and to pay their employees. Here’s Simpson’s statement:

“I did not make this vote lightly. Rather, it was one of the toughest votes I have ever cast. I voted yes on the bill because I sincerely believe the greater risk for taxpayers is in not acting. The bill we voted on made substantial improvements over the President’s initial offer including robust protections for taxpayers, an end to golden parachutes for corporate executives, and substantial limits on how the Treasury can use the funding made available. My first priority in looking at this bill was protecting taxpayers, retirees, small businesses, farmers, and Idaho families from the fallout of a major economic decline. I am not sure where we go from here but whatever course of action is required by Congress I will continue to focus on its impact on the people of Idaho – not the fat cats of Wall Street.”

House kills bailout bill - for now

The House has killed the $700 billion bailout bill on a vote of 206-227. It’s not clear what will happen next.

Crapo votes against bill after claiming credit

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo voted against the big appropriations bill in the Senate over the weekend, after touting the millions in North Idaho research projects that he helped get included in the bill. Crapo released this statement:

“Congress has once again failed to fulfill its Constitutional responsibility to fund the federal government. This bill is a stop-gap and isn’t a responsible way to fund the critical programs of the government. It was presented as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, and the American public deserves better than that. We voted this afternoon on a ‘must-pass’ omnibus bill, with no opportunities for amendment or debate. It is a bill brought up for expediency’s sake, and it avoided all the hallmarks of good legislation. It has been rushed through in an effort to avoid debate over the separate appropriations measures, and I cannot support this type of process. While it is imperative that we make certain that the federal government and its programs are properly funded, this is not the way to do that. My ‘no’ vote demonstrates my concern over how this legislation has been handled and reinforced my belief in having a full and open debate over the measures that come before Congress.”

The spending bill, which funds everything from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security in 2009 to veterans affairs, loans to auto manufacturers and home heating assistance for the low-income, passed the Senate on Saturday on a 78-12 vote. Two days earlier, Crapo joined Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson in touting the millions in high-tech defense research projects the bill funds in North Idaho. Crapo said then, “It is rewarding to see that Congress is, once again, recognizing the important national security contributions made by Idaho universities, research entities and businesses. These critical projects are among the most cutting-edge research efforts anywhere in the country.”

He personally brought two of those North Idaho projects to the table for consideration: A $2 million appropriation for Unitech Composites Inc. in Hayden to develop and provide the Army with lighter compressed air canisters for helicopters, and $1 million for Alliant Techsystems (ATK) of Lewiston, formerly Blount, to develop lighter-weight aluminum cartridges for ammunition for use by the Army.

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig voted in favor of the bill, as did 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson. 1st District Rep. Bill Sali voted against it, and didn’t sign on to the news release with the other three delegation members touting the North Idaho projects, which also include millions for research at the University of Idaho and the U.S. Navy installation at Bayview.

Otter orders 1 percent holdback

Gov. Butch Otter has ordered a 1 percent holdback in the state budget, cutting $27.3 million mid-year. “Acting in moderation now is the prudent and fiscally responsible thing to do,” the governor said at a news conference. He ordered state agencies to hold an additional 1.5 percent of their budgets “in reserve” in case further budget cuts are needed, but didn’t cut that additional amount at this point.

Otter had ordered state agencies to prepare plans for budget cuts of 1 percent, 2 percent, and 2.5 percent. Asked why he chose the lower figure, Otter said, “That’s now what it appears, because we got to it early enough.” But he noted the additional 1.5 percent being held in reserve, “until we give you an all-clear signal.” That might not come until spring, or could be as soon as November, Otter said.

Hardest hit by the holdback will be the state Department of Health & Welfare, which will have to trim $5.4 million from its budget right away, and state colleges and universities, which must cut out $2.8 million. Otter said the 1 percent cut shouldn’t impact services to the public. Some agencies will hold off on part of their employees’ salary increases or bonuses because of the cuts, he said. “I would tell you that no essential services are going to be hurt.”

The mid-year budget cut, Otter’s first, came because state revenues plummeted compared to projections, even though lawmakers set a conservative budget this year that fell more than $40 million below projected tax revenues. Mike Ferguson, Otter’s chief economist, said, “Basically what we’re seeing is a tremendous amount of turmoil in the financial markets. … We will continue to monitor the situation.”

Rammell: Risch elk order was a crime

Independent Senate candidate Rex Rammell is going after Republican rival Jim Risch again over Risch’s order to kill elk that escaped from Rammell’s elk farm in 2006, when Risch was governor; he’s already filed a civil lawsuit. “The attorneys have just stumbled onto some law and they believe the case can be made, and we’re going to file charges that Jim Risch broke the law, and not only broke the law, committed a felony,” Rammell told Eye on Boise. He’s holding press conferences today, first this morning in Fremont County, and then this afternoon outside the Idaho Supreme Court. In an interview yesterday with the Idaho Press Tribune’s editorial board, Rammell discussed his plan; read the Press Tribune story here. Risch’s campaign told the Press Tribune it’s up to prosecutors whether charges are filed, and said Rammell’s pitch is just “Rex trying to drum up publicity.”

Risch, LaRocco weigh in on financial crisis

Idaho U.S. Senate candidates Larry LaRocco and Jim Risch weighed in on the national financial crisis yesterday, LaRocco calling a press conference and detailing his favored solution and Risch, in Washington, D.C., responding by phone to questions from a couple of Idaho reporters.

LaRocco, a former stockbroker and former managing director of the American Bankers Association, favors a mechanism similar to the Resolution Trust Corporation, created in the 1990s during the savings and loan crisis; he said it protected homeowners, sold off failed institutions and restored confidence in the markets. “I believe a similar mechanism can work this time,” LaRocco said, “but it must not be a blank check for the Administration to bail out firms that it deems ‘too big to fail.’ That would punish not only taxpayers, but businesses that have played by the rules.” He also said CEOs of failed institutions shouldn’t be permitted to leave with “golden parachutes.” The organization, LaRocco said, must be run by “a bipartisan, professional staff, and to have a firm deadline for finishing its work. … It must also contain a guarantee of repayment to the taxpayers who bear the burden of this crisis. I could not vote for a recovery mechanism that didn’t contain such a guarantee,” he said.

The AP reported that Risch, attending meetings with lawmakers and campaign fundraisers in Washington, D.C., this week, didn’t offer any specific ideas for solving the crisis but said more government regulation is needed to prevent future financial meltdowns. “Clearly, regulation is way overdue,” Risch told the AP. “The best model we have is the type of oversight put in place after the bank crashes of 1929 and the updating of those over the years.”

In his written plan, LaRocco also addressed energy and health care. “Once stability has returned to the market, we must address two other dysfunctional systems that hold the potential to become major economic emergencies down the road – our health care system and our dependence on foreign oil,” he said. Click below to read the full story from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

Risch campaign: ‘Smoke and mirrors’

Matt Ellsworth, campaign director for Jim Risch’s U.S. Senate campaign, had this response today to the Idaho Democratic Party’s FEC complaint against Risch:

“This is a desperate act of a desperate party with a candidate who is 28 points behind. When voters are turning away from you on the issues, baseless attacks are all that are left. This mailing was 100% paid for by the Risch Campaign; proper postage, printing, sorting everything. This complaint is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.”

Ellsworth said that while the non-profit Idaho Right to Life bulk-mailing permit stamp appeared on the fundraising solicitation, the Risch campaign actually paid for the mailing, at the full political rate, paying the difference between that and the non-profit rate. “We paid directly to the mail house,” Ellsworth said. “We don’t own a bulk mail permit stamp.” Click here to see an image of the mailing, and here to read the letter to the FEC from the Idaho Democratic Party.

Daily Kos poll: Sali leads Minnick, 46-35

And in yet another poll, yet another result: Daily Kos has published a poll of 400 likely Idaho voters in the 1st Congressional District, taken Sept. 17-18, that found GOP Rep. Bill Sali leading Democratic challenger Walt Minnick, 46 percent to 35 percent; here’s a link. “This race is by no means out of reach for Minnick,” Kos says, adding, “but the race remains uphill.”

Poacher gets jail time, $21K in fines

A Pocatello man has been sentenced to 45 days in jail, $21,450 in fines and restitution and 10 years probation for poaching, plus he’s lost his hunting and fishing privileges for life. Russell D. Mee, 53, was sentenced for illegal killing and wasting of deer, after poaching at least three deer in Arbon Valley in 2007. If he violates the probation, which requires him not to accompany anyone engaged in hunting, fishing or trapping and not to possess any wild animal or parts, he’d be ordered to serve a full 10 years in prison. “I think this sentence sends a message to would-be poachers: If you choose to steal animals from the people of the state of Idaho and are caught, it could have a significant negative impact on the rest of your life,” said Idaho Fish & Game conservation officer Scott Wright. Mee was sentenced by 6th District Judge Peter McDermott for the Power County offense.

Rammell poll: Risch 39.5%, LaRocco 33%

Rex Rammell, independent candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Larry Craig, has released further results from a poll he commissioned in late August in the race, in part to dispute a national Rasmussen Reports automated poll on Sept. 9 that showed Republican Jim Risch with 58 percent. Rammell’s poll, asking a head-to-head question about three candidates in the race – Risch, Rammell, and Democrat Larry LaRocco – showed Risch with 39.5 percent, LaRocco with 33 percent, Rammell with 4.2 percent, and 23.3 percent undecided.

The poll then followed up with a question supplying name, age and occupation for each of the three candidates. “LaRocco was identified as a 62-year-old former banker and former congressman, Jim Risch as a 65-year-old trial lawyer and current lieutenant governor, and Rammell as a 47-year-old veterinarian and former elk rancher,” according to the Rammell campaign. “The following numbers were reported: Risch 40%, LaRocco 30.8%, Rammell 10.4%, with 18.8% undecided.” Click below to read Rammell’s full report on his poll results, which include a finding that a plurality of Idahoans are dissatisfied with the two-party system.

They caught it just in time

Deputy Idaho Secretary of State Tim Hurst confirmed this morning that 1st District state Senate candidate Lew Langness isn’t on the ballot, having withdrawn in a June 18 letter to the Secretary of State. “We made a mistake and didn’t take him off the database, so when we sent the certification to the clerks, his name was still on that list,” Hurst said. “We’re contacting the clerks to tell ‘em he shouldn’t be there.”

Legislative District 1 takes in all of Boundary County and part of Bonner County. In Boundary County, Hurst said, the ballots were at the printers, but hadn’t been printed yet when word came through about the error. “So they’ve made that correction,” Hurst said. “I’m still trying to get hold of Marie Scott in Bonner County.” If the Bonner ballots already have been printed with Langness’ name on them, Hurst said, “They’ll either mark his name out or reprint the ballots, whichever she chooses to do.”

It’s still rerun season?

Wayne Hoffman, campaign spokesman for 1st District Rep. Bill Sali, confirms that the footage used in Sali’s new campaign ad – the incumbent’s first television spot of the campaign season, though his Democratic challenger, Walt Minnick, has been blanketing the airwaves for seven weeks – is the same footage Sali used in his campaign ads when he first ran two years ago, with different narration. “It’s good footage,” Hoffman said. “That’s no big deal.”

‘Someone made a boo-boo’

Lew Langness of Bonners Ferry was a little surprised to get queries about his stands on issues and why he’s running for the state Senate against Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, because, Langness said, “I’m not really a candidate.” Lew’s wife, Linda, the Boundary County Democratic Central Committee chairwoman, got him to agree to serve as a “placeholder” for several other potential Democratic candidates who were deciding whether or not to run. But then they all backed out.

“I stuck my husband in the awful position of putting his name in as a placeholder,” Linda Langness told Eye on Boise. “We had a couple of potential candidates, and then all the candidates said, ‘No, I won’t do it.’” Lew Langness ran as a registered write-in candidate in the primary election, and got the required 50 write-in votes to qualify for the November general election ballot. “But it was almost immediately afterward that the candidates declined to run,” Linda Langness said. “So I called the secretary of state. … They said, ‘Oh, just don’t send in the fee and he’ll be dropped.’ So if he wasn’t dropped, someone made a boo-boo.”

Lew Langness’ name still is on the Secretary of State’s official list of candidates posted on the office’s Web site; he’s a retired professor of psychiatry and anthropology. Tracie Isaac, a deputy county clerk for Boundary County, when told of the situation, responded, “Oh, dear. Well, I’m not aware of that.” After checking, she said, “We do have him on our ballot as a Democrat for the state Senate, legislative district No. 1.”

Linda Langness said she was disappointed that the other prospective candidates didn’t step forward. Asked why she got her husband to serve as a placeholder rather than taking on that role herself, she said, “Because I was involved in too many things. And also, I was afraid I might get elected. … I have no desire to be a candidate.”

Why they’d need cross-party support

I’ve gotten a few questions from people wondering why any Idaho candidate who’s a Republican would be interested in cross-party support, since the R’s hold such an overwhelming advantage in the state (“Candidates tout cross-party support”). Here’s why: There’s no political party with which a majority of Idaho voters identify. This year’s BSU Public Policy Survey found that 40 percent of Idahoans say they’re Republicans (down 4 percent from 2007), 28 percent say they’re independent (down 3 percent from a year earlier), and 25 percent say they’re Democrats (up 7 percent from 2007). Libertarians were at 1 percent; the remaining 6 percent were other, don’t know, or refused. That means any party candidate needs support from not just fellow partisans to win majority support in Idaho – support from independents and/or members of the opposite party also is required.

Otter: ‘I am hoping for the best’

Gov. Butch Otter says he’s “hoping for the best” - that a mid-year budget cut won’t be necessary after all. But, he said, he wants to be prepared for cuts if they’re necessary. State agencies have until next Wednesday at 10 a.m. to get him their plans for cuts of 1 percent, 2 percent, or 2.5 percent. Here’s a statement from the governor:

“I am hoping for the best, I am absolutely hoping for the best. But I am planning for the worst. And I think the two and half percent represents the worst. And the best would be that we continue to go through the budget year without any kind of reduction or any kind of a holdback. But rather than trying to manage through a crisis, I think that if we see things that are problematic I want to have a plan to be able to go forward with that. I met with legislative leadership. Every legislator got the same letter this morning that went to every agency head.”

When Idaho governors cut the budget

With Gov. Butch Otter poised to order his first mid-year cut in the already-approved state budget, here’s a look at the most recent such holdbacks ordered by Idaho governors:

2003: Gov. Dirk Kempthorne ordered a 3.5 percent holdback on all state agencies except public schools and higher education. He later lowered it to 1.9 percent for the state Department of Health and Welfare.
2002: Gov. Kempthorne ordered a 2 percent holdback on state agencies, 1.5 percent for public schools. When shortfalls continued, he ordered an additional 1 percent across the board. It was the first permanent holdback on public schools in Idaho.
1997: Gov. Phil Batt ordered a 2.5 percent holdback in September, and recommended offsetting cuts to public schools from the state’s budget reserve fund. Improving revenues in the spring allowed the school funding to be replaced.
1996: Gov. Batt ordered a 2 percent temporary holdback on state agencies and schools; lawmakers covered the school funding from budget reserves.
1992: Gov. Cecil Andrus vetoed a legislative decision for a 1.1 percent holdback on agencies other than schools, but allowed the cut to stand for the legislative and judicial branches; he then ordered a 0.3 percent holdback in May when revenues continued to slip.
1986: Gov. John Evans ordered a 2.5 percent holdback, but the Legislature responded with a 4.5 percent cut passed over the governor’s veto. Sales taxes were raised temporarily from 4 percent to 5 percent; the increase later became permanent.

And here’s a link to my full story on today’s developments.

Idaho candidates tout cross-party support

Both candidates for North Idaho’s seat in Congress are now saying party labels don’t really matter, after Democrat Walt Minnick released a list of 60 “Republicans for Minnick” and GOP incumbent Bill Sali named a Democratic county commissioner as one of his campaign co-chairmen. “We hear from people all the time who are loyal Democrats, don’t like Walt Minnick, don’t like his position on issues and find they have more support on the things they care about from Bill,” said Sali’s campaign spokesman, Wayne Hoffman. The Sali campaign has named only Benewah County Commissioner Jack Buell; Hoffman said other Democratic supporters didn’t want to be named. Minnick’s cross-party supporter list includes prominent business leaders, former GOP elected officials and longtime party loyalists. You can read my full story here at spokesmanreview.com, and here’s a link to Minnick’s list.


Timber up, stocks down

There was good news and bad news on the financial front for the state Land Board this morning. On the positive side, the state made $8 million on timber harvests on state endowment lands in August, one of the highest August levels in the last several years, state Lands Director George Bacon told the board. “That’s good news,” he said. With private timber land owners reducing their harvests, some because their lands already have been cut over in recent years as less timber was cut on federal lands, state endowment lands are the last game in town. The August figure was up from less than $5 million in July; in September, it’s projected to rise to $8.7 million.

On the down side, there was the report on the endowment fund investments, the big fund whose earnings benefit public schools and other state institutions. August was “positive 0.3 percent,” reported Andy Potter of the endowment fund investment office. “Does that include yesterday?” Gov. Butch Otter responded. “No, it does not – yesterday was kind of a down day,” Potter said. “Kind of!” Otter retorted. As of Aug. 31, the state endowment fund stood at $1.1 billion, down 1.4 percent from the start of the fiscal year. But today, Potter reported, the fund is down 5.87 percent since the start of the fiscal year. Yesterday’s single-day loss: $25.7 million. However, he said, it could have been worse. “Our managers have performed very well.”

Idaho PUC building going on auction block

Idaho’s top state officials, meeting as the state Land Board, have voted unanimously to auction off the state office building that now houses the Idaho Public Utilities Commission’s offices, along with two other tenants. The office building, called Central Washington Place, is at 602 N. 5th St. in Boise, right across the street from a state high-rise office tower and in what’s called the “capitol mall” area near the state capitol. But a “comprehensive financial analysis” of state endowment-owned buildings in the capitol mall area concluded that this one isn’t a good one for short- and long-term earnings to the state endowment fund. “It was determined that it would be in the best interest of the beneficiaries to auction the Central Washington Place commercial property,” according to a staff report presented to the Land Board.

The minimum bid was set at $3.3 million, and the auction will take place in February of 2009. The 1973 building, which has a parking garage below, is 30,087 square feet on 0.84 acres; it’s fully occupied and would have to be sold subject to the existing leases with tenants. According to law, proceeds from the sale would go into a fund for purchasing other property that could generate gains for the endowment.

Otter backs personnel rule changes

Gov. Butch Otter’s office issued this statement this afternoon on two controversial personnel rule changes his administration imposed on Aug. 24:

“The changes detailed in the temporary rule represent responsible stewardship of limited taxpayer resources and are consistent with best management practices in any large organization – public or private. It’s the right thing to do. The Legislature will have the opportunity to review and make its own determination on the rules in January. In the meantime, we look forward to discussing this personnel function with any legislator who has questions or concerns.”

Two different polls, two different results

Two different polls were released yesterday in Idaho’s U.S. Senate race, the hot race for the open seat created by the retirement of Sen. Larry Craig. But the results were so different as to suggest they were for different races.

Independent candidate Rex Rammell released results of his poll, conducted from the end of August to Sept. 2, asking 550 likely Idaho voters who they’d choose in the Senate race – after being told the “name, occupation and ages of the three leading candidates.” Rammell is the youngest at age 47; Republican Jim Risch and Democrat Larry LaRocco both are in their 60s. The results: Risch, 40 percent; LaRocco, 30 percent; Rammell, 10 percent; and 20 percent undecided.

On the same day, Rasmussen Reports, which conducts automated polling across the nation, issued its own Idaho Senate poll, which queried 500 likely Idaho voters on Sept. 9. The firm found 58 percent for Risch and 30 percent for LaRocco; no numbers were released for other candidates or undecided voters. The Rasmussen poll found high favorability ratings for Risch – 62 percent – with LaRocco at 42 percent. It also reported that 49 percent of respondents gave Gov. Butch Otter good or excellent ratings for job performance.

The previous poll released in the race, from Idaho pollster Greg Smith, found 23 percent still undecided in the race, Risch with 41 percent, LaRocco 29 percent, and Rammell 3 percent. It was conducted Aug. 18-22 and queried 600 likely Idaho voters. The race also includes Libertarian Kent Marmon and independent “Pro-Life,” formerly known as Marvin Richardson.

Idaho to lay off sick workers sooner

Idaho state employees who become seriously ill and go on disability now will be laid off after 12 weeks, rather than the previous six months, the Otter Administration has decided. The unilateral change in rules for state workers, one of several implemented by Gov. Butch Otter’s Division of Human Resources on Aug. 24, has angered state employees and lawmakers who say they weren’t informed, let alone consulted. “That’s going to create a more difficult atmosphere for us to work in, in the coming session,” said Sen. John Andreason, R-Boise, chairman of the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee. “I have people calling me telling me how difficult it is holding onto their highly qualified employees now. With this kind of a change it’s going to become more difficult.”

A union that represents about 450 state employees held a rally against the rule changes this week, and is calling on workers and others to weigh in during a public comment period on the new rules that starts Oct. 1. “It’s mean – it’s mean-spirited,” said Alex Neiwirth, organizer for the Idaho Association of Government Employees Local 687, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. “Who wants to be the person that tells someone, ‘OK, well, good luck, I hope your cancer treatment goes well, but your job’s not going to be here if it takes you more than three months’?”

Judie Wright, administrator of the state Division of Human Resources, said that rule change and another, eliminating a current rule that allows state employees to take up to two hours off with pay for occasional medical appointments, were included in a wide-ranging package of temporary rules that took effect Aug. 24. Those two were the major changes; the others updated various obsolete and duplicative rules to match state laws.

“It just allowed agencies the opportunity to be able to fill some of those critical positions quicker” when an employee is out on disability, Wright said. “For some of the more critical jobs, they can’t fill on a short-term basis with temps. This gives them the opportunity to fill those positions.” Ill workers who are laid off are placed on a register; once they’ve recovered, they’d be eligible for rehiring if the agency has an opening in a comparable job. Here’s a link to my full story at spokesmanreview.com.

Just there ‘to use the facilities’

Here’s a link to the video of today’s arguments in Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals to withdraw his guilty plea in an airport men’s room sex sting, and here’s a link to my full story in today’s Spokesman-Review. In the arguments, Craig attorney Billy Martin told the court, “There’s no evidence in the record to support that appellant was there for any reason other than a legitimate reason, to use the facilities.” Also, Minnesota prosecutor Christopher Renz told the court that friend-of-the-court arguments from the American Civil Liberties Union that Craig’s actions were protected free speech don’t apply, because Craig’s actions in the stall weren’t “expressive conduct.” “He did not intend to express, according to him, anything by his conduct,” Renz told the court. The justices have 90 days to issue their ruling.

Craig’s attorney: ‘That was invited conduct’

Attorneys for Idaho Sen. Larry Craig have just finished urging a three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals to let Craig withdraw his guilty plea to disorderly conduct charges in a 2007 airport men’s room sex sting. “He looked in the crack. … He fidgeted with his hands. … Within a few minutes, according to the evidence in this case, he tapped his foot,” Craig attorney Billy Martin told the court. “We are challenging the insufficiency of the facts.”

The Republican senator is trying to withdraw his guilty plea to a reduced charge in the 2007 incident, but a lower court judge already has rejected the bid. Today, he took his case to the Court of Appeals, which will issue its ruling in the coming weeks. Craig wasn’t present for the arguments; he was scheduled to be in Washington for several official hearings and meetings.

Martin told the appellate justices, “Your honor, what we think happened here is that Sgt. Karsnia thought something was about to happen. … The tapping of the foot and moving of the hand … there is no indication in this record that anybody saw that other than the police officer.” And, he told the court, “That was invited conduct.” After Craig tapped his foot under the restroom stall wall, the officer tapped back, prompting Craig’s subsequent tapping and gestures. That shows Craig couldn’t have thought he was offending the officer, which is part of disorderly conduct, Martin argued. “He’s invited that conversation.” He also argued that the disorderly conduct statute requires “others” to be present for the conduct, and that only the officer could see it.

Minnesota Prosecutor Christopher Renz told the court, “Others were actually present and therefore it’s a non-issue and more of a red herring than anything else.” Craig himself testified that the stalls were full, and said that’s why he looked through the gap into Sgt. Dave Karsnia’s stall before entering the adjacent stall – to see if the stall was occupied. However, Renz noted, one look would have answered that question; the senator looked “multiple times.”

While Martin argued that the plea agreement Craig signed didn’t provide sufficient facts to prove the disorderly conduct crime, merely outlining the legal basis of what constitutes the crime and admitting that, Renz said the complaint, which was attached, gave full detail of all the facts. “I think the complaint clearly sets out a crime of disorderly conduct,” he told the court. The crime doesn’t require the conduct to be of a sexual nature, he noted. “All we’re talking about is the conduct of multiple intrusions into an occupied stall space.”

The justices questioned attorneys on both sides, but all three hit Martin with most of their queries. When he argued that a mail-in plea should require more information about the facts of the case, such as would occur if the defendant were present and queried by the judge, a Judge Natalie Hudson asked Martin “what if any effect that would have on the district courts here in Minnesota, in terms of workload, caseload – I mean, these are just some practical implications.” Martin responded that he’s a former city prosecutor, and “I don’t think that would be any more work. … It would protect a citizen who may be innocent of a crime before a judge.” Martin said he’s asking for “a recognition by this court that a trial court has an obligation to ensure there’s sufficient facts. … Every now and then you have to find a way to correct a flaw in a procedure.”

‘Don’t know anybody that dumb’

Independent U.S. Senate candidate Rex Rammell is none too happy after being accused – unsuccessfully – of submitting invalid signatures in his bid to qualify for the ballot. “If you’re gonna accuse somebody of fraud and perjury, you better be able to back it up,” Rammell said today. “What U.S. Senate candidate in his right mind would forge signatures on a petition for the U.S. Senate? I mean, I don’t know anybody that would be dumb enough to do that.”

The Idaho Supreme Court last week threw out a lawsuit from 10 individuals and the Idaho Republican Party seeking to remove Rammell from the ballot on two grounds – claims that some of the signatures he turned in were invalid “due to forgery, perjury, misrepresentation of current addresses, miscounts and persons that have moved from their registered residence address and other reasons,” and that he filed as an independent candidate “when he was and is, in fact, affiliated with a political party,” the GOP. The court will issue a detailed, written opinion in the coming weeks, but immediately issued an order rejecting the suit, saying Rammell met all legal requirements to be on the ballot.

Rammell said he collected 1,261 signatures, and county clerks verified 1,007 of them – more than the 1,000 needed to qualify. The Secretary of State’s office noted in court documents that if some of the 1,007 were challenged, the rejected signatures also should be re-examined to see if any were improperly rejected. The office also noted that three eastern Idaho counties had changed residents’ addresses due to a new enhanced 911 system without updating those residents’ voter registration cards; that handwriting analysis comparing petition signatures to voter registration cards in some cases compared petition signatures to cards signed more than 30 years ago; and that one complaint about a voter in Madison County involved mistaken identity with another voter with a similar name.

“Of the 1,261, I collected 600 of ‘em myself,” Rammell said. “My wife collected another hundred, friends and family collected the rest – it was all volunteer work, all good, honest people out beating the street.” Rammell said he collected most of his knocking on doors in Rexburg in March. “I remember how cold it was,” he said. “I went door to door.”

Pro-Life: ‘Not a one-issue candidate’

The Idaho U.S. Senate candidate who legally changed his name to Pro-Life says he’s not a single-issue candidate. “That’s the real falsehood, that I’m a one-issue candidate – I’m not,” he told me in an interview. “I’ll take on any issue. I try to determine what the truth is.” As an example, Pro-Life, formerly known as Marvin Richardson, noted that while he and his family usually go out on the streets with signs each week to protest abortion, in the past week they’ve been protesting at McDonald’s restaurants “holding signs that said ‘McDonalds is pro-gay.’” The candidate said he’s objecting to McDonalds corporate policies supportive of gay and lesbian employees. “We were at six McDonalds last week,” he said. He said he’s also against the war in Iraq, because, “Unjust war is murder and this is an unconstitutional war and we shouldn’t be over there.”

Protesting abortion and other issues, he said, is “just what we do every day. And if we didn’t live so far out in the country, I’d like to have a house on a busy street – I’d just be out in front of my house holding my sign.”

Duncan sentencing moved back

Final sentencing for Joseph Duncan in federal court in Boise on the seven remaining non-capital federal charges against him has been moved back to Nov. 3, from the previously scheduled Oct. 15 date. The court announced the change “in order to facilitate the completion of the presentence report and the schedules of all counsel.” Duncan’s already received death sentences on three counts for the murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene in 2005; the remaining counts involve his kidnapping of Dylan and then-8-year-old sister Shasta. He’s pleaded guilty to all counts.

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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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