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Eye On Boise Betsy Z. Russell

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2009

Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, and James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, and Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, prepare for Friday night's "Idaho Reports" program on Idaho Public Television. (Courtesy photo / Idaho Public Television)

On 'Idaho Reports' tonight...

On tonight's "Idaho Reports" program on Idaho Public Television, I join Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise; Rep. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello; and Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert; along with BSU political scientist emeritus Jim Weatherby and host Thanh Tan, to discuss the legislative developments of the week. Among...

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Gov. Butch Otter answers questions from reporters after a bill-signing ceremony on Friday. Otter threw cold water on an idea being promoted by House GOP leaders as an alternative to a gas-tax hike - instead imposing a conditional, economically-triggered shift from the state's general fund to pay for road work. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Cold water from Otter

Gov. Butch Otter, talking with reporters after two bill signing ceremonies this morning, didn't come right out and say the conditional, economically-triggered general fund shift proposal is unacceptable to him as a means of funding transportation, but he sure threw cold water on the idea....

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Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, speaks at a ceremony for legislation to help disabled police officers; he sponsored the bill, SB 1111. At left is Gov. Butch Otter. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Guv praises bill to help disabled officers

With uniformed officers standing by, Gov. Butch Otter and Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, praised legislation today that will help permanently disabled law enforcement officers with health insurance costs for their families. At a formal signing ceremony for the bill, SB 1111, Otter and officers...

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When the House convened on Friday morning, only 44 members were present out of 70. The House addressed formalities, but took up no bills; it adjourned 15 minutes later. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

'Life goes on'

The House convened this morning at 8:30 Boise time, and was done by 8:45. There were 26 members absent out of the 70-member chamber. When Majority Leader Mike Moyle moved to adjourn until 9:30 on Monday morning, Assistant Minority Leader James Ruchti responded, "Mr. Speaker,...

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THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 2009

Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, has long promoted a change in how Idaho's car registration fees are structured for different ages of vehicles. Gov. Butch Otter picked up on Henderson's idea in his latest bill. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

The fee-rate brackets idea

Here's how Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, explained his idea about changing the bracket for car and light truck registration fees, a proposal that raises $3.1 million without changing registration fees, back in March: Henderson said he’s been promoting his idea about changing the “bands,”...

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TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 2009

Gov. Butch Otter vetoes a stack of 25 budget bills on Tuesday. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Guv vetoing 25 budget bills 

Gov. Butch Otter is vetoing 25 budget bills, telling lawmakers he'll continue the vetoes until they act on his transportation plan. "We've got to continue to try, because every day the problem is going to get worse," the governor declared. "They're all bills that need...

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Press, lobbyists, lawmakers and other interested people wait for House GOP leadership to show up for a press conference; the leaders were tied up in a meeting with the governor on Tuesday afternoon. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Weird, wacky and wild...

In the latest development on this weird, wacky and wild 100th legislative day, the House Republican leadership called a press conference for 1 p.m., but when the hour arrived, spokesman Chuck Malloy had to stand up and tell a capacity crowd, "The leadership has been...

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. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Another 100 days?

Following the House defeat of the transportation bill, the House went at ease at Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, was presented with the "crow" to commemorate carrying a bill that receives fewer than 20 votes. Then, Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, noted that a century mark...

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Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, opens debate in the House on the amended transportation funding bill on Tuesday. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

House debate is on...

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, the sponsor of HB 96a, told the House, "I think this bill is properly before the House and the full House deserves to vote on it." Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, spoke in favor, saying citizens and those passing through Idaho...

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On the House floor just before convening, lawmakers read newspapers with headlines asking whether they'll yield to Gov. Butch Otter's veto threats. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

House is back in

The House has come back on the floor, its caucuses concluded, and will be taking up the amended transportation bill, HB 96. In this photo, just before the bell rang to convene, representatives looked at newspapers with headlines asking, "Will House yield to Otter's threat?"

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The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee goes back to work Tuesday morning, on the 100th day of the legislative session, after the House killed a major budget bill that had passed the Senate, and the governor vetoed eight budget bills that now must be redone. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

'No good deed goes unpunished'

Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, co-chair of JFAC, started off this morning's JFAC meeting - on the 100th day of the legislative session - saying, "It does bring to mind a saying I heard that no good deed will go unpunished - and some of our...

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MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2009

Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, urges support in the Senate on Monday for an increase in Idaho's gas tax to fund more road maintenance. "My constituents want good roads, they want to be able to travel," he said. "This takes money." (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Senate votes in favor of gas tax hike 

The Senate has voted 21-14 in favor of HB 96 as amended, which not only removes an ethanol exemption from fuel tax, but now also raises Idaho's gas tax by 3 cents per gallon next year and another 3 cents the following year, and raises...

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Possible amendments... 

The proposed amendments to HB 96, the ethanol bill, appear to add in the increased Department of Motor Vehicle fees previously proposed in a Senate bill; add in a gas tax increase of 3 cents per gallon next year and 3 cents the year after;...

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Sens. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, and Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, participate in an open Senate Minority Caucus on Monday afternoon, while the Senate's majority caucus met behind closed doors. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Dems caucus, wait for GOP

Senate Democrats met in an open caucus, and while they discussed and debated what's going on, they're essentially waiting to see what the majority Republicans will do. The Senate GOP caucus still is meeting behind closed doors; meanwhile, the House has adjourned for the day.

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Sen. Joe Stegner helps Sen. John Andreason, right, to a celebratory piece of birthday cake. At left is Senate doorkeeper Bob McDonald. Both McDonald and Andreason celebrated their 80th birthdays this week. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Celebrating a double 80

Both Senate Doorkeeper Bob McDonald and Sen. John Andreason, R-Boise, are celebrating 80th birthdays - McDonald tomorrow and Andreason today - so senators paused before convening their afternoon session to join the two and their families for celebratory cake and ice cream. McDonald has been...

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SUNDAY, APRIL 19, 2009

"Spuddy Buddy," a figure that promotes Idaho potatoes, was among the "Idaho trinkets" that U.S. Sen. Jim Risch presented to Idaho military members he met while on a tour of the Middle East. Risch's trip also included meetings with the heads of state of five nations; he's Idaho's first senator on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees in nearly three decades; the last one was Sen. Frank Church. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

This spud's for you...

On the turbulent border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, an Idaho soldier who's serving on a multi-national security force now has a new Spuddy Buddy figure, a box of Idaho candy and a Senate medallion, after his home-state senator came by on an international...

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SATURDAY, APRIL 18, 2009

On this week's "Idaho Reports" program on Idaho Public TV, from left, Jim Weatherby, Betsy Russell, Sen. John McGee, Sen. Kate Kelly, Rep. Scott Bedke, and host Thanh Tan discuss recent developments in the Legislature. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

The week that was...

This week on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public TV, I joined BSU political scientist emeritus Jim Weatherby, Senate Transportation Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell, Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, and House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, along with host Thanh Tan, to discuss the...

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FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2009

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, presents a resolution in the Senate on Friday honoring North Idaho College on its 75th anniversary. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Senate passes resolution honoring NIC

The Senate has unanimously passed a resolution saluting North Idaho College on its 75th anniversary, after several senators had glowing things to say about the Coeur d'Alene college. When the resolution, HCR 30, cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene,...

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House members mill around before going into session on Friday morning, the 96th day of this year's legislative session. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

And now it's the 96th day...

The House has started its session, after some initial milling about, and is taking up Health & Welfare budgets that top its Third Reading calendar. GOP leaders said they'll do a few bills from the calendar, suspend rules and take up a few appropriations from...

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THURSDAY, APRIL 16, 2009

Senate Democrats meet in an open caucus on Thursday. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Talkin', talkin', talkin'...

Senate Democrats are in their open caucus, talking. Senate Republicans are still behind closed doors in their caucus, talking. And the House is in the midst of a protracted debate over a bighorn sheep bill.

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GOP leaders back a redistricting bill in the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday. They include, from left, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls; House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale; Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, and House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

'Cavalry' rides in for redistricting bill 

House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, was presenting the redistricting bill to his committee this morning when he got a tough question. Glancing behind him, he said, "I see the cavalry is here," and deferred to Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, House...

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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15, 2009

House kills budget bill 

The House has voted 18-51 on SB 1222, killing the big, final budget bill that passed the Senate yesterday on a 34-1 vote. It's not clear what'll happen next on that; now the House has gone on to begin debating the controversial liquor license law...

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TUESDAY, APRIL 14, 2009

Sens. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, left, Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, and Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, participate in a Senate Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon, at which senators agreed to amend two transportation bills. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Read all about it...

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on today's developments, as lawmakers in the House and Senate clashed over the budget and transportation funding. In this photo, from the Senate Transportation Committee meeting, Sens. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, and Shawn...

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MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2009

Statehouse reporters Jared Hopkins of the Twin Falls Times-News, left, and John Miller of the Associated Press, right, try on additional ugly ties Monday in the tiny Capitol Annex press room. Statehouse tradition holds that reporters' ugly ties at the end of the session will help prompt lawmakers to wrap it up and leave town. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

How ugly it is...

Statehouse reporters have been wearing ugly ties for some time to try to spur the session to end (tradition holds that lawmakers will be so dismayed by the press' hideous neckwear that they'll just want to leave town), but it hasn't worked yet. We're still...

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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