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Eye On Boise

Archive for February 8, 2013

The week that was…

On tonight’s “Idaho Reports” program on Idaho Public Television, I join Jim Weatherby, David Adler, Aaron Kunz and host Greg Hahn to discuss the week’s developments in the Legislature. Plus, Greg has a lively interview with Sens. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, on the health insurance exchange issue; it’s not to be missed.  Theshow 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.

Greg also has an announcement: He’ll become associate vice president for communications and marketing at Boise State University on March 5. He’ll continue to host Idaho Reports for a transitional period after he starts at BSU.

Ed task force won’t make recommendations to 2013 Legislature, leaves $34M in limbo…

The governor’s education stakeholders task force, which is meeting all day today, has announced that it won’t make recommendations to the 2013 Legislature, leaving $34 million that both the governor and state Superintendent Tom Luna earmarked in their budget recommendations in limbo, Idaho Education News reports. Otter told the Idaho Press Club this morning, “Outside the task force, we have a lot of recommendations for what to do with the $34 million.” Idaho EdNews reports that both Senate Education Chairman John Goedde and House Education Chairman Reed DeMordaunt are calling for the money to stay in the  public school budget, not be diverted elsewhere; you can read Swindell’s full report here.

Testimony at H&W listening session: Mental health services, dental coverage, Medicaid expansion

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Increased mental health services, improved dental care coverage and Medicaid expansion topped the list of priorities presented to Idaho lawmakers during a hearing on health and welfare issues. About three dozen people testified at the joint Senate and House Health and Welfare committee hearing Friday morning, many focusing on what they said is a dire need for increased access to mental health care. Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson told lawmakers his department responds to an average of 20 calls each day for residents experiencing a mental crisis, and Boise loses an average of one person a day to mental illness. He says the state needs to treat people with mental illnesses early instead of waiting for them to reach a crisis.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Otter: ‘I don’t hope anybody but me runs for governor’

When Gov. Butch Otter addressed the Idaho Press Club this morning, he was asked about the possibility of his going up against GOP Congressman Raul Labrador in a bid for the governorship in 2014. “I don’t hope anybody but me runs for governor,” Otter said, when Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey asked him whether he’d relish a run against Labrador after Labrador notably opposed Otter on everything from his 2009 gas tax proposal to this year’s health insurance exchange issue.

Popkey details Otter’s comments on his blog here, including a story from Otter’s days in Congress that involves then-President George W. Bush. Otter indicated today that he’ll be running again, but he’s not ready to make his formal announcement. “It’s not backing away,” he said. “I’m just not going to be pushed into a calendar. I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind right now. You know, I just, I am planning on it; I am fundraising; I’m doing those things that I can at the same time I’m trying to govern the state of Idaho.”

Senate committee introduces anti-marijuana resolution

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho legislators are pushing back against measures in Western states where voters recently relaxed marijuana laws. The Senate's State Affairs Committee unanimously voted in favor Friday of introducing a resolution opposing marijuana use in any form, clearing the way for a full hearing. The resolution also urges President Barack Obama and the Justice Department to enforce existing federal marijuana laws. Republican Sen. Chuck Winder of Boise said the statement is a response to the growing acceptance of marijuana use in neighboring states. Winder said law enforcement along Idaho's western border are dealing with an influx of drug trafficking after Washington voters approved of recreational use and the medical use of marijuana in Oregon and Montana. Winder said he hopes the federal government takes steps to oppose Washington's law and help states battle illegal trafficking of the drug.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Hannah Furfaro.

Rev & Tax overwhelmingly backs governor’s HOME tax credit revisions

The House Revenue & Taxation Committee has voted overwhelmingly in favor of HB 88, the governor’s bill to revise and expand the Hire One More Employee (HOME) tax credit. Only Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, opposed the move, which sends the bill to the full House for debate. There was extensive testimony in favor of the bill, and just one person speaking against it, Parrish Miller of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, who read a statement from the group’s head, Wayne Hoffman, objecting that the bill creates “winners and losers.”

Among other changes, the tax credit bill adds an additional $1,000 credit if the new employee is a veteran; removes a requirement for employer-provided health insurance for the new job to qualify for the credit; changes the amounts and wage levels; and removes ties to the employer’s rating with the state Department of Labor for use of the unemployment insurance program.

Rev & Tax members had lots of questions; the Otter Administration responded by bringing in extensive financial information about the credit, including detailed charts. “We had some good, positive testimony,” said Rep. Gary Collins, R-Nampa, Rev & Tax chairman.

Judge sides with conservationists in megaloads lawsuit in federal court

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge has sided with environmentalists and ruled the U.S. Forest Service erred by not exercising its regulatory authority when the state allowed huge trucks to haul giant oil refinery equipment along U.S. Highway 12. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a decision Thursday that handed Idaho Rivers United a victory in the case. The group sued the government in 2011 after the state allowed ExxonMobil's Canadian unit to ship hundreds of so-called mega-loads from Idaho's Port of Lewiston along the two-lane highway. The roadway runs through a scenic corridor protected by the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. IRU claimed the forest service neglected its duty by not getting involved in the decision-making process. Winmill agreed, saying the agency has the authority to intervene in such cases.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

A piece of Idaho history on display…

As the Idaho State Historical Society began its budget presentation this morning, JFAC Co-Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, told director Janet Gallimore, “I never know quite what you’re going to bring, but it gets better every year.” The Historical Society was founded in 1881 and established as a state agency in 1907; it’s busy this year with the Idaho Territorial Sesquicentennial, the 150th  anniversary of the creation of Idaho Territory on March 4, 1863.

In line with that, Gallimore brought a rare and significant historical document to display to the committee. “This piece is the actual document of Lincoln’s appointment of William Wallace as our first territorial governor,” she told the committee. “I think that this document speaks volumes. It’s an amazing piece.”

The document is two-sided; on one side is the formal appointment, signed by President Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward; on the other, Wallace certifies that he’s not affiliated with the confederate states.

Gallimore said Wallace treasured the document and kept it after his service as Idaho’s territorial governor; it remained in his family for many years, but in 1982, his descendants in Virginia donated it to the state of Idaho for preservation by the Historical Society. Wallace selected Lewiston as Idaho’s first capital in 1863; that note prompted Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston, to inquire as to when the state seal would be returning there. At that point, Bell adjourned the JFAC meeting, and lawmakers gathered around for a close-up view of the historic document.

Displays highlight programs that serve people with disabilities

The fourth-floor rotunda of the Capitol this morning is filled with displays highlighting organizations that serve people with disabilities. Meanwhile, many of those same services are being discussed downstairs in the Capitol Auditorium, where a “listening session” held by the House and Senate Health & Welfare committees has drawn a big crowd.

Otter ‘grateful’ for 8-1 vote in favor of his health exchange bill

Of yesterday’s 8-1 vote in favor of his state health insurance exchange bill, Gov. Butch Otter said this morning, “I was grateful yesterday to see the vote come out of the Senate committee.” He noted that every Republican on the panel voted in favor of the bill. “I can’t tell you how difficult of a position I’m in,” Otter said. “I wanted nothing to do with Obamacare. I was proud of the fact, and bragged about it … the fact that Idaho was the first to sue, to pass legislation to initiate a suit against Obamacare. … We exhausted all of those remedies from court.”

Otter said that early on, “I made a promise that unlike a lot of other states, I would not use … an executive order to do that. The Legislature would, and they wanted to be, part of the process.”

Otter stands behind Hurlock for F&G commissioner, says she’s qualfied and choice was ‘a no-brainer for me’

Gov. Butch Otter told the Idaho Press Club this morning that he’s met with several senators who opposed the confirmation of his latest Fish & Game commissioner appointee, Joan Hurlock; the Senate Resources Committee voted 5-4 to recommend she not be confirmed. “I think the process worked,” Otter said. “I think the (selection) committee did a great job of vetting all the candidates, including Joan. … And in talking to some of the committee members, one of the things that impressed them the most about Joan was her desire to get kids involved with the Fish & Game. And that’s been a goal of mine since I made every agency director read ‘Last Child in the Woods,’ which I thought was a tremendous book, and I tried it out on my own grandkids and it works, it gets ‘em away from the TV, it gets ‘em away from the game boy, and they’re actually out looking at life.” Otter said the choice of Hurlock for the commission was “a no-brainer for me.”

He said, “That’s now in the hands of the Senate, where I’m grateful that it is, and that’s where it should be.” He said he told Hurlock, “This is not going to be pretty, but I think you’re qualified. … I think you’d be a good Fish & Game commissioner, if you want to stay in this, I’m with you.”

Otter: Revision of 2008 law possible route on personal property tax phaseout…

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter told the Idaho Press Club this morning that the personal property tax issue “takes up probably at least 50 percent of every Thursday morning leadership meeting,” when he meets with legislative leaders, “where we discuss the what-ifs and the where-ats, how are we going to get our arms around that.” He said, “I see potentially maybe four or five still unfleshed-out directions that we’re going to take.”

Otter said he’s sticking to his “do no harm” mantra for local governments, which stand to lose $141 milllion a year from their local property tax funding base. Among the possibilities, Otter said, is “maybe going back and revisiting Marv Hagedorn’s bill from a couple of years ago, where if you recall, we had a trigger on growth and a trigger on income … and exempting the first X number of dollars. … What would that cost us in the long run? I see that as a potential.”

H&W committees invite public testimony at ‘listening session’

There's a lot going on today for a Friday. This morning from 8-10 in the Capitol Auditorium, the House and Senate Health & Welfare committees are taking public testimony in an open “listening session.” It's being streamed online; you can watch live here.

Also this morning, Gov. Butch Otter has his annual on-the-record confab with the Idaho Press Club; I'll be reporting on what he says. JFAC is holding budget hearings on the state Department of Administration, the Permanent Building Fund, and the state Historical Society starting at 8; the House Rev & Tax Committee has its hearing on HB 88, the governor's “Hire One More Employee” Act, at 9; and a slew of legislation is up for introduction in the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning at 8, including Sen. Chuck Winder's bill to oppose legalizing marijuana in Idaho for any purpose. Another batch of bills is up for introduction in the House Local Government Committee this afternoon at 1:30, including several dealing with land use and urban renewal. The House goes into session at 11, and the Senate at 11:15.

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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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