Arrow-right Camera

Eye On Boise Betsy Z. Russell

MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2009

Kevin Settles, owner of Bardenay, testifies to the Senate State Affairs Committee in favor of reforming Idaho's liquor license system, as proposed by Gov. Butch Otter. Idaho's current system, he said, is "a horrible way to do business." (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Liquor reform clears committee

After more than two hours of testimony for and against the bill, the Senate State Affairs Committee has voted 6-3 in favor of SB 1148, Gov. Butch Otter's proposal to reform Idaho's liquor license system, which currently sets population-based quotas for liquor licenses but has...

Continue reading this post »


Members of the Idaho Women's Commission plan for their last meeting, after the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee eliminated their funding on Monday. From left are director Kitty Kunz, and commissioners Dawn Shepherd of Riggins, Sonna Lynn Fernandez of Nampa, and Fran Dingel of boise. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Women's Commission planning last meeting 

"It's so disappointing" said several members of the Idaho Women's Commission, who gathered with Director Kitty Kunz in the Capitol Annex hallway after JFAC voted 15-5 to eliminate their funding and staffing. They were talking about scheduling their final meeting, and whether they had enough...

Continue reading this post »


Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, joined Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, on Monday to propose zero-funding the Idaho Women's Commission and eliminating the agency's operations from the state budget. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

JFAC votes to zero-fund Women's Commission 

The Idaho Women's Commission would receive no state funding next year and its only part-time employee would be eliminated, under a budget that just won 15-5 approval from the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, made the motion for zero funding. She said each...

Continue reading this post »


State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna watches the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee set his budget for next year. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

JFAC sets superintendent's budget

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee has set a budget for state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna that relies on a federal grant to fund a longitudinal data system, plus allows Luna to carry over $80,000 from this year's budget for that purpose. Gov. Butch Otter had...

Continue reading this post »

TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2009

House State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher pitches his bill to permit pharmacists or "any person" to refuse to provide a prescription to a patient on the basis of conscience. Fifteen people signed up to testify at the hearing on the bill on Tuesday morning. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Lots of interest in pharmacist conscience bill

There's a packed hearing and 15 people signed up to testify on Rep. Tom Loertscher's bill to allow Idaho pharmacists, or "any person," to refuse to provide a prescription to a patient on the basis of the person's conscience. Under questioning from House State Affairs...

Continue reading this post »


MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2009


Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, proposes financial disclosure legislation. On the left is Senate Assistant Majority Leader Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, and on the right, Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Disclosure law proposed in Senate 

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, and Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, introduced legislation this morning in the Senate State Affairs Committee to end Idaho's distinction as one of just four states in the nation with no financial disclosure requirements for its state...

Continue reading this post »


Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, proposes legislation to crack down on employers who hire illegal aliens, 3/16/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Jorgenson proposes illegal alien bill 

Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, brought legislation to the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning to penalize Idaho employers who hire people who aren't legal U.S. residents. Jorgenson read his oath of office as a legislator to the committee, and said that's why he's bringing...

Continue reading this post »

FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 2009


Legislative budget director Cathy Holland-Smith briefs the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee as the panel prepares to set budget target figures for the coming year. That number, lowered by recession-hit state revenues, then drives all budget decisions for state agencies, which must fit within it. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Deep in the numbers...

Legislative budget director Cathy Holland-Smith is briefing JFAC members on all the numbers, in preparation for the committee setting budget target numbers for both the current and the 2010 fiscal years. The background is complex as can be, and every theoretical change - whether or...

Continue reading this post »

THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2009

This photo shows the Hyde Park district in Boise's historic North End, a neighborhood - and legislative district - that state budget director Wayne Hammon spoke disparagingly of when he presented the governor's budget and stimulus recommendations to JFAC on Thursday. Of the area, which tends to vote Democratic, Hammon said, “The future of Idaho is not contained in the North End.” (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

LeFavour's defense of the North End 

Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, offered a chance to defend her district after it was dissed by state budget director Wayne Hammon (he told her, “The future of Idaho is not contained in the North End”), had this to say: "The Statehouse is in my district...

Continue reading this post »

TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 2009

Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, champions his anti-quagga mussel legislation in a long afternoon hearing Tuesday at the House Environment Committee. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Quagga mussel bill heads to full House

After a long, packed hearing, the House Environment Committee voted overwhelmingly to approve Rep. Eric Anderson's quagga mussel bill, which requires every boat owner in the state - motorized or not - to purchase a sticker to help fund boat-washing efforts to keep the invasive...

Continue reading this post »

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 25, 2009

House Health & Welfare Chairwoman Sharon Block urges the House Revenue & Taxation Committee to pass much-debated legislation to raise Idaho's beer and wine taxes - unchanged for more than four decades - to fund substance abuse treatment services in Idaho. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Beer, wine tax increase killed 11 

After three days of long and intense hearings, the House Revenue & Taxation Committee has voted 13-5 to kill legislation to raise Idaho's beer and wine taxes. The measure, HB 140, was designed to raise a tax not raised in more than four decades, to...

Continue reading this post »

FRIDAY, FEB. 20, 2009

Activists gather outside the Capitol Annex on Friday to urge lawmakers and the governor to use federal economic stimulus funds to avoid state budget cuts. Meanwhile, both the Legislature and the governor are preparing for a week or more of study before deciding how to approach use of the stimulus money. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Stimulating times at the Statehouse 

A small group of activists gathered on the Capitol Annex steps at mid-day today to urge Gov. Butch Otter and lawmakers to make use of the federal economic stimulus funds. Holding signs with slogans like, "It's our $$ Take the Stimulus" and "People not Potholes,"...

Continue reading this post »

SUNDAY, FEB. 15, 2009

A day after news of millions in federal stimulus funds came raining down on Idaho's state capitol, the local ski hill, Bogus Basin, was hit with a most welcome 10-inch dump of fresh powder. It also happened to be Valentine's Day. (Charlie Russell / Special to The Spokesman-Review)

The week that was...

The fifth week of this year's Idaho legislative session was a tumultuous one, opening with Gov. Butch Otter's return to the legislative battlefield after shoulder surgery, pushing for his transportation package, and closing with painful decisions on deep new state budget cuts. But just hours...

Continue reading this post »

FRIDAY, FEB. 13, 2009

Legislative budget writers gather for an early-morning briefing about possible new budget cuts. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

A 5 percent pay cut for all state employees?

Among the possibilities for balancing next year's budget in light of dropping state revenues: A 5 percent cut in funding for personnel at all state agencies and institutions and public schools, which could come in the form of an across-the-board pay cut, furloughs or other...

Continue reading this post »

THURSDAY, FEB. 12, 2009

Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Boise to attend the Special Olympics pairs figure skating competition and visit with athletes on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009. Biden is leading a delegation to the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho.  (Matt Cilley / AP Photo)

Veep is in Boise

Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in Boise for his visit to the Special Olympics, about four hours late due to weather delays. The welcoming party greeting him at his plane included Gov. Butch Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Attorney...

Continue reading this post »

MONDAY, FEB. 9, 2009

Rep. Phyllis King, D-Boise, left, and Stan Olson, superintendent of the Boise School District, right, discuss the impact of proposed state budget cuts on the Boise district. Boise-area lawmakers invited local school officials in to discuss how the cuts would affect local schools; House Education Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, said he encourages all lawmakers to talk with their local school officials. Nonini said he's hoping to unveil legislation later this week to change state laws to allow the cuts. 2/9/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

What the cuts would mean to school districts

Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, left, and Boise School District Superintendent Stan Olson, right, discuss the impact of proposed state budget cuts on the Boise school district. Boise-area legislators invited Olson and other local district officials to the Capitol Annex for the discussion. House Education Chairman...

Continue reading this post »

THURSDAY, FEB. 5, 2009

Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, House tax chairman, pitches his election consolidation bill to the House State Affairs Committee, 2/5/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Big election consolidation bill introduced

This year's version is 89 pages long, plus another separate bill on funding that's a mere eight pages. The aim: Reform Idaho's election system so that all local elections, whether they're for city, county, sewer district, cemetery district, school board or what have you, are...

Continue reading this post »


Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, tells the Senate why he proposed legislation to offer to give Idaho's wolves away to any state that wants them. If there are no takers, Schroeder said, that would add more legal weight to the state's argument that it needs to kill some wolves to protect livestock and big game herds. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Senate backs bill to export wolves

The Senate has voted 31-3 in favor of SB 1015, which would require the state Fish & Game Department to ask all other 49 states if they want any of Idaho's wolves. "The question is whether we need to kill wolves to protect livestock and...

Continue reading this post »

TUESDAY, FEB. 3, 2009

Lt. Gov. Brad Little addresses the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee at the close of his budget hearing, telling lawmakers the governor is doing well after shoulder surgery, 2/3/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

He only got the six hours

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, at the close of his budget hearing before JFAC today, was asked by Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, "Do you and Gov. Otter plan on rodeoing at the same time?" Little responded with a chuckle, "He keeps telling me it was the...

Continue reading this post »

MONDAY, FEB. 2, 2009

As the Senate Resources Committee hears a briefing about wolves and considers a bill asking that "surplus" wolves in Idaho be transferred to other states, a large wolf pelt hangs on a wall behind them, brought by committee Chairman Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow. Shown here in front of the pelt is Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

'We can ship some to California'

Senate Resources Chairman Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, a fur trader, brought a large wolf pelt to the committee hearing today and had it hung prominently on the wall as the committee prepared to hear a briefing on wolves and consider a wolf-transfer bill that Schroeder's proposed....

Continue reading this post »

FRIDAY, JAN. 30, 2009

Volunteer firefighters from across Idaho are out in front of the Capitol Annex for two days of live fire training, using a training simulator trailer borrowed from Wendover, Nev. that simulates conditions during a house fire, and to bring their story to state lawmakers. They're backing legislation they hope will attract more Idahoans to volunteer as emergency responders, 1/30/09. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Where there's smoke...

Volunteer firefighters from throughout the state are out in front of the Capitol Annex today, for two days of live fire training (starting yesterday), using a fire simulator trailer borrowed from Wendover, Nev., and a chance to tell lawmakers their story. Greg Redden, executive director...

Continue reading this post »

THURSDAY, JAN. 29, 2009

The "Panic-Stricken Brainy Chickens," a robotics team consisting of eight fifth-graders from Post Falls, is at the Capitol Annex today as part of a presentation to lawmakers that stresses the value of math and science education. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

'Panic-Stricken Brainy Chickens'

Eight fifth-graders from Post Falls are taking the state Legislature by storm today, making presentations to the education committees in both houses, greeting state Supt. Tom Luna after his budget pitch, and generally livening up the Capitol Annex in their white lab coats and laboratory...

Continue reading this post »

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.

Follow Betsy online: