Former state Controller Donna Jones has endorsed Phil McGrane in the four-way GOP race for Idaho secretary of state. McGrane, chief deputy Ada County clerk, faces former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, former Sen. Evan Frasure of Pocatello, and former Sen. Mitch Toryanski of Boise in the May 20 primary; the winner will face Democratic Rep. Holli Woodings of Boise in November, who’s unopposed on the Democratic ticket.
Jones was elected state controller in both 2006 and 2010, the first woman to serve in that position; she resigned in 2012 to recover from severe injuries suffered in a car accident, and was replaced by her then-chief deputy, current Controller Brandon Woolf. She’s also a longtime GOP activist and former executive director of the Idaho Real Estate Commission who served 12 years in the Idaho House, including serving with Denney. She called McGrane “the only qualified candidate in this race that can get the job done.” You can read McGrane’s full announcement here.
In the past year, the Idaho State Police has seized more than 720 pounds of marijuana during traffic stops, more than 58 pounds of meth, and more than 30 pounds of cocaine. That’s for the calendar year 2013, and it’s only counting major seizures – those that were above reporting thresholds, which are 1 pound for marijuana, 2 ounces for meth or cocaine, and 1 ounce for heroin.
California was the most common state of origin for the seized drugs, accounting for 23 of the 80 seizures in 2013. Oregon was second at 17, Idaho third at 11, and Washington fourth at 10.
“This is just our numbers from our highway interdiction and our highway enforcement,” said Teresa Baker, ISP spokeswoman. “This isn’t the drugs that we seized from our investigations.”
In 2012, ISP reported 78 seizures on the highways, including 645 pounds of marijuana, 5.57 pounds of heroin, and 2 pounds of methamphetamine. “There are a lot of drugs coming into the state from other states,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of interstate drug trafficking.”
A Spokane man says he was pulled over by the Idaho State Police on I-84 just inside the Idaho state line last summer, and accused of having marijuana solely because he had Washington license plates and had his car windows open. “At that point, my jaw just dropped,” said Paul Dungan, 58. “I said ‘No.’ I told him, ‘This is the way I cruise in the summer time … so I don’t fall asleep.’ … He said, ‘I want to search your car,’ and I said, ‘No, you have no right to search my car.’”
Dungan said after nearly an hour of “haranguing me … he finally backed off.” Dungan wasn’t cited for anything; he hadn’t been accused of any traffic offenses. “I was definitely profiled,” he said. “I’m a 58-year-old white guy, and I haven’t ever been profiled, even when I was a young teenager in southern California raising hell-type stuff. What a horrible feeling.”
The Idaho State Police could find no record of Dungan’s stop. “I’m not saying that he’s lying at all – we just can’t find it,” said Teresa Baker, ISP spokeswoman. She said the agency conducts numerous traffic stops that in the past year have yielded big drug seizures – 720 pounds of marijuana, 59 pounds of methamphetamine and 30 pounds of cocaine, just in 2013. “There are a lot of drugs coming into the state from other states, whether it’s Oregon, Washington, Nevada, up through Utah, Montana,” she said. “We are constantly patrolling the highways looking for criminal activity. … If someone breaks a traffic law, no matter how minor someone might think the traffic law is, they can be stopped.”
Dungan’s story follows the release this week of ISP’s video of a traffic stop in January of 2013 in which a Colorado man charges he was targeted because of his Colorado license plates, detained at the same rest area, and his vehicle taken to a nearby jail and searched before he was let go after nothing illegal was found. Both Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana; Idaho hasn’t. In addition, Idaho is nearly surrounded by states that permit the use of medical marijuana, which Idaho strictly forbids. Darien Roseen of Pagosa Springs, Colo. has filed a federal lawsuit against the Idaho State Police over his stop, saying his constitutional rights were violated and he was profiled on the basis of his license plate.
“I’m sure we’re not the only two guys that are in the states now that have legalized marijuana that those guys are harassing down there,” Dungan said. “I find it really annoying. I’ll never drive through that area again. If I’m going down to the Boise area, I’m going down through McCall and Banks and take the scenic route and through.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Republican contender in the race for a western Idaho legislative district has had run-ins with the law. The Idaho Press-Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1iy2Li3 ) Greg Chaney was charged with domestic battery in the presence of a child in 2009. Prosecutors said in court documents that Chaney pushed his then-wife, snatched her cell phone when she tried to call police and threatened to kill himself with a steak knife. The charge was later amended to disturbing the peace; Chaney was convicted of that charge and of misdemeanor malicious destruction of property. The representative hopeful acknowledged the incident, but said he has changed his ways. Chaney is running unopposed in the primary for the seat being vacated by Caldwell Republican Rep. Darrell Bolz. He will face Democrat Leif Skyving in the general election.
A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor, is refusing to fill out a National Rifle Association candidate questionnaire, saying it’s “biased and loaded with leading questions that do not allow me to accurately state my position on gun laws.” In a letter back to the NRA, he wrote, “The leading questions and multiple-choice answers in your questionnaire allow for only polarizing and extreme positions.” He noted in particular a question about Idaho’s guns on campus bill, SB 1254, that passed this year. “I believe this bill was not necessary and creates more problems than it solves,” Balukoff wrote. “University presidents, faculty and students should have the ability to determine the culture of their college campus. That culture should not be dictated from the Statehouse.”
You can read both Balukoff’s letter and the NRA questionnaire online here. Balukoff faces Terry Kerr of Idaho Falls in the Democratic primary in May; GOP Gov. Butch Otter, who backed SB 1254 and signed it into law, faces Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who also supported the bill, along with two other GOP primary challengers, Harley Brown and Walt Bayes.
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Rivers United and the Nez Perce Tribe are in mediation with the U.S. Forest Service to end a lawsuit concerning megaloads on U.S. Highway 12 in northern Idaho. Kevin Lewis of Idaho Rivers United said Wednesday the groups are seeking to have the federal agency come up with specific rules concerning gigantic loads traveling on the northern Idaho route that includes a federally designated Wild and Scenic River corridor as well as tribal land. The groups sued the Forest Service last year, and U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in September granted a preliminary injunction halting shipments. His ruling required the Forest Service to conduct a corridor review, and the agency on Monday released a document attempting to assess impacts the giant loads have passing through the rugged area.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter Keith Ridler.
Video of an Idaho State Police traffic stop obtained by The Spokesman-Review under the Idaho Public Records Law shows an ISP trooper pulling behind a pickup truck with Colorado plates as soon as he sees it, following it into the “Welcome to Idaho” rest stop, then badgering the 69-year-old driver to allow a search for drugs. The hard-rock radio station that the trooper was listening to provides a soundtrack, interspersed with commercials; when the trooper first sees Darien Roseen’s truck, the radio is blaring the Scorpions’ “No One Like You.”
“Why’d you pull in here so rapidly?” trooper Justin Klitch asks Roseen in the January 25, 2013 dash-cam video. “Uh, I had to go to the bathroom,” Roseen responds. “You didn’t have to go to the bathroom before you saw me,” the officer says, to which Roseen responds, “That’s true - No, I did have to.” “I’m telling you, you pulled in here to avoid me, that’s exactly what you did,” the trooper says. “I mean, you almost hit the curb, you almost ran off the road. You definitely didn’t want me around you for some reason. … Why are your eyes glassy today?”
The traffic stop led to hours of detainment and a fruitless search of the truck that yielded nothing illegal; Roseen has filed a federal lawsuit over it, alleging he was profiled and illegally searched because of his license plate – which was from Colorado. He also has a Washington state driver’s license. Both Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana; Idaho hasn’t.
The ISP said in a statement last week that it is conducting an internal investigation into the allegations in the lawsuit. “We would like to assure the citizens of Idaho and the visitors to our state that the Idaho State Police holds all of its employees to a high standard which includes following the Constitution of the United States and the laws and constitution of the State of Idaho,” the agency said. You can watch the video and see our full story here.
Andy Grover, one of four Republican candidates vying for the nomination for state superintendent of schools, has announced the endorsements of 18 other Idaho school district superintendents for his run; Grover is the superintendent of the Melba School District. “I am the only candidate that’s been a superintendent, and has that experience to continue to move education forward,” said Grover, 42, who’s helmed the Melba district for the past four years after previously serving as a high school principal, teacher and coach; he’s also a former Marine. You can see Grover’s list here, which includes superintendents from Preston and Bonneville to Genesee and McCall-Donnelly.
The other candidates in the GOP primary race also are educators; they include Randy Jensen, a longtime middle school principal from American Falls; John Eynon, a teacher and Idaho core standards opponent from Cottonwood; and Sherri Ybarra, a school administrator and former teacher and principal from Mountain Home. The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Jana Jones, former chief deputy state superintendent and a longtime educator, in November; she’s unopposed in the Democratic primary. Jones narrowly lost to two-term GOP incumbent Tom Luna in 2006.
Of the 400 pieces of legislation enacted by the Idaho Legislature this year – 357 bills and 43 resolutions or memorials – just one required specifically among its provisions that copies of it be furnished to the Idaho Capitol Correspondents, who are the reporters credentialed to cover the legislative session. I know, because, having toiled as chairman of the correspondents association for some years, I have never before been called upon to assist the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives in performing this solemn duty.
The measure in question? It’s HCR 38, a concurrent resolution by freshman Rep. James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian, commemorating 2014 as the 60th anniversary of the addition of the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. Holtzclaw said in the measure’s Statement of Purpose that the resolution is intended to “highlight its legacy to American citizens.”
Thus, shortly after the session ended, I was contacted by the chief clerk’s office about distributing the copies to the more than 55 credentialed Idaho capitol correspondents. I emailed the electronic copy of HCR 38 to all correspondents. I received a couple of responses, including one tongue-in-cheek request for a notarized copy, and another from a reporter who claimed he’d been “wondering when we would get our personal copy.” Now, today’s mail has brought the official copy, dutifully mailed out by Chief Clerk Bonnie Alexander.
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Former Republican Rep. Mark Patterson of Boise has taken the initial step in filing a lawsuit against Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney after Raney stripped Patterson of his concealed weapons license last year. The Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/1hXoZxr) in a story on Monday that Patterson last month filed a tort claim, a precursor to a lawsuit against a public entity. Raney revoked Patterson's concealed weapons permit in late October for not revealing an attempted rape conviction from 1974. However, as long as he remained a legislator, Patterson was able to continue carrying a concealed gun without a permit. But he quit the Legislature in January. Patterson declined to comment. Sheriff spokesman Patrick Orr says Raney doesn't consider the county vulnerable to Patterson's claim.
In just 60 days, southwestern Idaho has gone from what looked to be a “poor” irrigation season, with much lower levels of water available than normal, to a “normal” water season with full irrigation allotments and flows. “It is amazing how quick things can turn around,” said Tim Page, project manager for the Boise Project Board of Control, which oversees five area irrigation districts. That was thanks to the big late-season snowfall in the high country that extended the season and built snowpacks up from subpar levels to healthy ones; click below for the Boise Project Board of Control's full irrigation season announcement. It includes this news: Starting April 9, the project will begin filling more than 460 canals and laterals in Ada and Canyon counties, meaning it's time to caution kids not to play in dangerous canals.
March precipitation amounts ranged from 103% to 190% of normal, according to the Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The water year started with four dry months from October to January,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist with the Idaho NRCS. “The water supply made an amazing recovery due to the February and March precipitation.” However, he noted that some areas of the state still face water shortages, including the Big Wood, Big Lost, Little Lost, Oakley, Owyhee, and Salmon Falls basins.
More than 150 people attended an auction over the weekend at which the state Department of Lands auctioned off 21 cabin sites at Payette Lake on which renters have built cabins or homes; 20 of the 21 sold to the current renters. The other lot sold for $42,000, or $5,000 above the appraised value of the land; the purchaser also will be required to pay the appraised price for the improvements to the former renter.
The auctions were for the land only; they took in a total of $6.07 million for the state endowment fund, which benefits state institutions including schools. All but three of the lots sold for appraised value to the current renter with no competitors bidding; the competitive bidding on the other three brought in an additional $33,200 over the appraised values. You can read a full announcement here from the state Department of Lands. The renters of the 21 lots voluntarily joined the auction in hopes of getting title to the property under their cabins, though they also risked being outbid; the state is trying to get out of the cabin-site renting business and into more profitable investments for the endowment. The lots auctioned included six on the lakefront.
The governor’s education improvement task force met today in the form of two new committees working on teacher compensation and school structure and governance, Idaho Education News reports, and the groups hope to report to members of the State Board of Education and Gov. Butch Otter by August or September on detailed strategies for implementing the original task force’s 20 recommendations. During the 2014 legislative session that concluded March 20, lawmakers partially implemented 13 of the 20 task force recommendations. Accomplishing the full program is “clearly an effort that will require a lot of work,” said Richard Westerberg, task force head.
Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin reports that after Mike Lanza of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together complained last week that he was booted off the task force for joining Democrat A.J. Balukoff’s gubernatorial campaign, George Harad represented the group at today’s meeting, though Lanza also attended and took notes. You can read Corbin’s full report here.
An official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says an Idaho agency spent $2.5 million in leftover welfare funding correctly, contrary to the findings of a state audit, the AP reports. Idaho's Legislative Services Office released an audit last week that examined how state agencies spent federal money. In the report, the auditors concluded that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare wrongly used the money left over from the 2008 budget for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to cover salaries instead of using it to help pay for food, housing and other assistance.
But department officials contested the auditors' finding, saying that federal rules changed at the start of fiscal year 2009 to allow states to spend leftover funds on all services that help keep needy families together — including the costs of providing those services, like salaries. The department used the money to cover part of the salaries of social workers who focused on keeping the state's poorest children out of foster care by placing them with extended family members when their parents could not care for them. After the audit was released, state welfare officials sought guidance from the federal agency to see if they'd done the right thing.Yes, said Karen Code in an email sent to the state; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
Attorneys for the state of Idaho are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities, the AP reports. Otter signed the law in February after Idaho's $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos showing cows being abused at a southern Idaho dairy unfairly hurt business. The Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy For Animals released the videos, which showed workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating cows in 2012. Attorneys for Otter and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden filed the motion to dismiss last week, saying the law violates neither free speech nor equal protection, and the opponents don't have legal standing to challenge it; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone. The plaintiffs say the law was designed to criminalize whistle-blowers.
Idaho’s state tax revenues in March came in $11.1 million over projections – 7.7 percent – and 12 percent higher than March of 2013. That puts year-to-date tax revenue at $1.9217 billion, which is 0.8 percent ahead of forecasts and 4.7 percent higher than at this point last year. You can see the full General Fund Revenue Report here for March from the governor’s Division of Financial Management.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Ecology is buying environmental services and waste management company The Environmental Quality Co. in a stock deal valued at $465 million that will help expand its environmental services offerings and broaden its geographic reach. Boise-based U.S. Ecology, through its subsidiaries, provides radioactive, hazardous, PCB and non-hazardous industrial waste management and recycling services to commercial and government entities, such as refineries and chemical production facilities, manufacturers, electric utilities, steel mills, medical and academic institutions and waste brokers. Privately held Environmental Quality, based in Wayne, Mich., has facilities in the Eastern U.S., including one hazardous waste permitted landfill located outside of Detroit, 13 waste treatment and recycling facilities and 21 dedicated service centers. The company is owned by an affiliate of New York private equity fund Kinderhook Industries LLC. The acquisition is expected to close in the second or third quarter.
Boise State has landed a commitment from four-star quarterback Brett Rypien, a junior at Shadle Park High School in Spokane and the nephew of former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Mark Rypien. The younger Rypien wore a number 11 BSU jersey at Boise State’s scrimmage over the weekend, the number worn by former star BSU quarterback Kellen Moore. Spokesman-Review sports writer Greg Lee writes that Rypien is “arguably the best quarterback in Greater Spokane League history,” where he’s broken record after record; he broke his uncle’s Greater Spokane League career passing record of 4,965 yards last September. Rypien passed up offers from WSU, his uncle’s alma mater, Washington, Arizona State, Oregon State, Colorado State, Mississippi State and Idaho.
“I wanted a good coaching staff, good facilities and an atmosphere I could see myself being successful in for four years,” Rypien told Lee. “Boise State definitely has all of that for me.” You can read Lee’s full report here, and a full report from Idaho Statesman sports writer Chadd Cripe here. Rypien would join the Broncos in 2015.
A negative-ad campaign is targeting Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and six other members of the Senate Banking Committee because of a bipartisan bill that Crapo co-sponsored to reform the mortgage finance industry, Idaho Statesman reporter Zach Kyle reports. The $1.6 million ad blitz from the “60 Plus Association” is aimed at protecting the interests of shareholders in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-created mortgage finance companies; the bill would phase them out of existence.
“First, it was Obamacare,” says the narrator of the TV ad. “Millions of Americans had health care plans canceled. Now, Mike Crapo is teaming up with Obama to take over the mortgage industry.” Crapo said the ad misrepresents the bill as big-government and him as liberal. “The people of Idaho know me better than that,” Crapo told the Statesman. Kyle’s full report is online here.
On tonight’s “Idaho Reports” program on Idaho Public Television, I join Jim Weatherby and co-hosts Melissa Davlin and Aaron Kunz for a discussion of the political developments of the week, from the Supreme Court decision on campaign finances to endorsements in the Secretary of State’s race. Also, Davlin talks with House Speaker Scott Bedke about federal land transfer proposals and examines that issue; and Kunz and Rocky Barker report on the Boulder-White Clouds national monument issue. The show 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.