After two weeks off, it's time to catch up on the news, and though the holidays aren't generally a time for lots of Idaho political news, there's been plenty. Among the highlights: Gov. Butch Otter is working on a state-backed investment fund for startups dubbed the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, or iGem, and will pitch it to lawmakers when they convene next week. You can read AP reporter John Miller's full story here. Sixteen Idaho legislators have taken a pledge posed by an ex-DUI offender who urged them to vow that “no beverage alcohol will pass your lips during the 2012 legislative session,” while several others declined, including Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, who responded that as a Catholic, she wouldn't pledge to abstain from holy communion; read Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey's report here.
Miller revealed that a stash of cash at the Idaho state Veterans Division has grown to $31 million and state auditors say there are no restrictions on how the state spends that money; the figure is nearly equal to cuts Idaho made from its Medicaid program during last year's legislative session, and some lawmakers are concerned it wasn't brought up earlier. You can read Miller's full story here. And the prolific Miller, who was not on vacation, also reported that legislation is in the works to stop cities and counties from regulating local oil and natural gas development; you can read that article here.
After Idaho's first execution in 17 years, the state Department of Correction tallied up the costs of executing Paul Ezra Rhoades, and it came to $53,411; read a full report here.
Now it's 2012, and the Idaho Legislature will convene on Monday, with Gov. Butch Otter's State of the State and budget address scheduled for 1 p.m. MT/noon Pacific. The Legislature's Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee meets this Thursday and Friday; Otter and other officials address the AP legislative preview on Thursday; the Idaho Supreme Court will hear arguments on redistricting on Thursday afternoon; and the Legislature's Health Care Task Force meets Friday at 1:30.