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Eye On Boise Betsy Z. Russell

FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2009

Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, left, House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, center, and Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, right, discuss the legislative events of the week on Friday night's "Idaho Reports" program on Idaho Public Television. (Courtesy photo / Idaho Public Television)

The week that was...

On tonight's "Idaho Reports" program on Idaho Public Television, I joined BSU political scientist emeritus Jim Weatherby, Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, and Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, along with host Thanh Tan, to discuss the legislative events...

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A one-two punch...

Here's a link to my full story in today's Spokesman-Review on the governor's setbacks yesterday in his transportation initiative, a one-two punch with the House killing its last remaining bill to raise the state's gas tax and the joint budget committee directing a $17 million...

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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 2009

Reps. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, left, George Eskridge, R-Dover, and Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, at Wednesday morning's JFAC meeting. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Boat sticker appropriations clear JFAC

Among the technical fixes and trailer bills being approved by JFAC this morning is one to give Parks & Rec spending authority to run the new quagga and zebra mussel boat sticker program, which has passed both houses and has an emergency clause. The parks...

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TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2009

Mike Weems, a restaurant/bar operator from Bellevue, testifies in favor of SB 1148, Gov. Butch Otter's bill to revamp Idaho's liquor license system and do away with the current population-based quota system. The bill was up for a hearing Tuesday afternoon in the House Judiciary Committee, where it drew a big crowd of people for and against.  (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Full house for liquor license bill hearing

People are spilling out the doorway and standing around outside in the foyer for the liquor license bill hearing in the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon. The bill, SB 1148, passed the Senate on March 26 on a 23-12 vote; a task force convened by...

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MONDAY, APRIL 6, 2009

House Speaker Lawerence Denney said Monday that lawmakers are on track to end the session a week from Friday, a prospect he called "doable." (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

'Week from Friday is doable'

House Speaker Lawerence Denney says things aren't as off-track for ending the legislative session as they may seem. "Actually, I think we're doing pretty well," he told Eye on Boise. "JFAC still has one more big battle with personnel costs." The joint budget committee will...

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Rep. Marge Chadderdon, R-Coeur d'Alene, shown here in the House on Monday, is having a new version of her flag bill drafted after problems surfaced with earlier amendments. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

New version of flag bill in the works

Rep. Marge Chadderdon, R-Coeur d'Alene, says she's got a new version of her flag bill in the works, after problems cropped up with amendments already made to the bill. Chadderdon originally sought to prohibit state or local agencies in Idaho from buying any U.S. or...

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Jan Eyth, supervisor of the legislative advisors for the past 25 years, at a surprise 80th birthday party the lobbyists threw for her Monday in a packed statehouse hearing room. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

25 years of herding lobbyists...

Jan Eyth has been the supervisor of the legislative advisers, the lobbyists who use the legislative advisers' room in the Statehouse and check in with her for messages and such, for the past 25 years. Today, the lobbyists threw her a surprise 80th birthday party,...

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The collection of lost-and-found items in the Capitol Annex has been growing all session, and on Monday, oddly, included a pair of women's silver spike-heeled pumps. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Now how did that happen? 

The collection of "Lost and Found" items at the information desk in the Capitol Annex has included various items all session, like a broken umbrella, a set of car keys, etc. It's been growing, however. And today, the collection includes, among other items, a tie,...

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SUNDAY, APRIL 5, 2009

After a closed-door Republican House caucus that lasted more than two hours, House Republicans still were disagreeing strongly with each other over state employee pay cuts and the state budget. Here, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, talks with other caucus members just after the meeting broke up without an agreement Thursday. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

The week that was...

Here's a link to the 12th week of the Legislature in photos as a slide show. It was another week of grappling, without resolution, with big issues like state employee pay cuts and transportation funding. This photo shows House GOP caucus members just after the...

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THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2009

Idaho's capitol press corps dons ugly ties when the session's gone on too long, in hopes that lawmakers will be so disgusted by the hideous neckwear that they'll want to end their session and leave town. It's that time - the ties are out. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

It's getting ugly... 

As Idaho's legislative session dragged through its 81st day Thursday, legislative reporters have donned the traditional ugly ties that signify it's been long enough. Tradition has it that once reporters have decided it's time for the session to end, by sporting hideous neckwear they can...

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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 2009

Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, presents his sovereignty resolution to the Senate State Affairs Committee, saying the federal government shouldn't entice the state with federal money. The panel approved the measure, plus another just after it that asked the federal government to send Idaho money to offer a medical degree. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

A bit of irony on April Fools Day... 

Back to back, the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning passed two resolutions - one that the sponsor said tells the federal government to stop "enticing" the state with money, and one that asks the federal government to send money to Idaho to start an...

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TUESDAY, MARCH 31, 2009

Freshman Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, the swing vote on a school funding-cut bill in the Senate Education Committee, favored amending the bill rather than killing it. He hopes a clause can be removed that would cut nearly $1.5 million from the Boise School District's allocation for student busing.  (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Winder: 'I think we have a chance'

Freshman Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, was the swing vote in the Senate Education Committee on HB 256, the bill to cut state reimbursements to school districts for their student busing costs. He could've killed the bill by supporting the substitute motion from Sen. Gary Schroeder,...

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The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee meets Tuesday. The panel voted unanimously to set a budget for the state's catastrophic health care fund that relies on an increase in counties' deductibles from $10,000 per case to $11,000 for the medically indigent, before addressing possible pay cuts for employees of universities.  (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

CAT fund budget set

JFAC has voted unanimously to set a budget for the state catastrophic health care fund for next year that matches SB 1158, which reforms the program to both raise the deductible for counties from $10,000 per case to $11,000, and institute cost-saving measures. Now, they're...

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MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2009

The Senate Education Committee hears testimony on legislation to allow cuts in school funding. The first bill the panel heard, HB 252, had passed the House unanimously, but barely cleared the Senate committee by one vote. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Tons of debate on school-cuts bills

The Senate Education Committee spent an hour debating HB 252, the consensus bill to allow cuts in school funding when school districts declare financial emergencies, before finally approving it this afternoon by a single vote. The measure passed the House last Tuesday on a 69-0...

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SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 2009

House majority and minority leaders huddle at the speaker's desk to discuss procedural issues, during a brief break in the debate on legislation to cut funding for public school teacher salaries by freezing movement on the salary grid for a year. Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, left, talks to House Education Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, right. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

The week that was...

Here's a link to a slide show of the 11th week of the Idaho legislative session in photos. It was an eventful week, with major budgets set, and major legislation debated in both chambers, both on the floor and in committee. My favorite photo of...

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FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2009

Final motion passes unanimously

The final JFAC motion on the public schools budget, on facilities, came from Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, and passed unanimously, 19-0. Over the whole budget, the difference between the various motions was mainly over how much federal stimulus and state reserve account money to plug...

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Members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee gather in an early-morning workshop meeting to prepare for their biggest day of budget-setting - setting the Medicaid and public schools budgets on Friday morning. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Today's the money day...

Today, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will set budgets including Medicaid and public schools. They make up the largest piece of Idaho's state budget, and debate has been building all session over the prospect of Idaho's first-ever cut in public school funding, which the joint committee...

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THURSDAY, MARCH 26, 2009

Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d'Alene, urges support for his legislation requiring licensing of all Idaho day care centers with four or more unrelated children. Despite overwhelmingly positive testimony at a nearly four-hour public hearing, the House Health & Welfare Committee opposed passing the Senate-passed bill as-is, and indefinitely delayed a decision on possible amendments. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Lawmakers reluctant on day care regulation 19 

Here’s a link to my full story on today’s nearly four-hour hearing on SB 1112a, the day care licensing bill. The bill’s fate is uncertain at this point; the House Health & Welfare Committee voted to hold it at the call of the chairwoman, with...

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Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d'Alene, urges the House Health & Welfare Committee to support legislation setting minimum licensing requirements for all Idaho day-care centers, including criminal background checks. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Sayler: 'A great deal of public sentiment'

Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d'Alene, who has pushed for basic child care licensing legislation for the past five years, told the House Health & Welfare Committee this afternoon, "I think it's the state's responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for child care. It's...

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Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, presents the day care licensing bill to the House Health & Welfare Committee on Thursday. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Full house at day care hearing

The crowd fills the room and is spilling out the door at the House Health & Welfare Committee today, which is holding a hearing on SB 1112, the bill to set basic, minimum standards for all Idaho day care centers, including criminal background checks. The...

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Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, urges the House to support HB 262 to trim teacher pay by freezing movement on the salary schedule and to phase out an early retirement incentive, to save the state $8.1 million next year. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

House passes $8.1 million ed cut 

The House has voted 49-20 for HB 262, to cut $8.1 million from school funding next year by freezing movement on the teacher salary schedule for increased experience for a year, and phasing out an early retirement incentive. "Tough issues call for tough votes, and...

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House majority and minority leaders huddle at the speaker's desk to discuss procedural issues, during a brief break in the debate on legislation to cut funding for public school teacher salaries by freezing movement on the salary grid for a year. Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, left, talks to House Education Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, right. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Dems try to divide school-cuts bill

House Democrats have tried a procedural maneuver, to get HB 262 sent back to committee to divide it into two separate bills. The bill would freeze teacher pay increases on the salary grid for a year, and phase out an early retirement incentive. "The Idaho...

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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2009


Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, opens debate in the House on his bill to cut state reimbursements to school districts for student busing costs. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

'Make districts be efficient' 

Opening debate in the House on his bill, HB 256, House Education Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, said, "The purpose is to make districts be as efficient as possible." Transportation costs are "overhead," he said. "Each dollar spent on transportation is a dollar that doesn't...

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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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