Posts tagged: Butch Otter
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter today signed SB 1254, the bill to allow guns on Idaho public college and university campuses - over the objections of the colleges - into law. “As elected officials, we have a sworn responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States - not only when doing so is easy, convenient or without cost, but especially when it is not,” Otter wrote in his signing statement. “This legislation challenges us to fulfill that charge, and we will.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Otter was pushed to veto the bill in recent days by the mothers of shooting victims in college mass shootings across the nation, and by Idaho student leaders. He said he concluded that Second Amendment rights have some exceptions, but wrote, “This is not the circumstance to carve out another.” Otter concluded, “We all will be watching closely to ensure the interests of Idaho citizens are served while their constitutional freedoms are protected.”
The Idaho Falls Post Register has a report today about how Gov. Butch Otter ended up appearing in what eventually turned out to be a soft-core porn movie, years after he agreed to provide horses to a California movie crew working on a “low-budget horse opera” that was filming near Weiser. Reporters Nate Sunderland and Jeff Robinson report that the movie, which began filming in 1993, was released straight to video as an R-rated film in 1997 and rereleased as unrated in 2003; DVDs of the film remain for sale on Amazon.
Staffers for Otter said the final version, which they hadn't seen, apparently is nothing like the film Otter signed on for; then the state’s lieutenant governor, he acted the part of a sheriff in a few scenes in the film, none of which contained any explicit content or themes. The other content apparently was added years later.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has ordered the state police to conduct a criminal investigation of understaffing and falsified documents at a private prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The governor made the decision Tuesday after meeting with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Otter wrote in a letter to Idaho State Police Col. Ralph Powell that after reviewing the available information, including an audit completed by the forensic auditing firm KPMG, he now believed the public would benefit from a formal criminal investigation. Otter had previously supported Powell's decision not to investigate the company. CCA has operated Idaho's largest prison for more than a decade. The company acknowledged last year that CCA employees falsified documents to hide understaffing at the prison in violation of a $29 million state contract.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
Gov. Butch Otter has sent out a press release urging lawmakers to allocate $14.45 million to keep the Idaho Education Network functioning in the face of withheld federal funds. “The Governor’s request to the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee would maintain funding for the IEN and prevent disruption of services to Idaho schools and districts on the network,” Otter's release says. “Despite an inquiry for clarification, the IEN has received no word from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) – the entity that oversees federal E-rate funding – about when reimbursement can be expected.” Click below for Otter's full release.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s latest campaign finance report shows that three billionaire Nevada casino operators who have been leaders in a push for online gaming in Nevada and New Jersey gave $60,000 to Otter’s re-election campaign, Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reports; his full Sunday story is online here. Popkey reports that the contributions came after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined Otter for a campaign fundraiser at the Sun Valley home of one of the casino moguls, Steve Wynn, on Dec. 6; after that lunch fundraiser, Otter and Christie flew to Coeur d’Alene for a larger rally and fundraiser.
Popkey reports that after Christie spoke at the Sun Valley event, Otter said he “had the opportunity to make my pitch,” talking about his policies on state spending, the economy and unemployment. “And the first thing out of some of their mouths was ‘What’s your donation law?’ ” Otter told the Statesman. “I said, ‘$5,000 max, it can come from an individual or a corporation.’ ”
Wynn petitioned New Jersey regulators on Jan. 10 for a license to operate online gaming in New Jersey, Popkey reports. Brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertittas’ Station Casinos began offering legal online gaming at UltimatePoker.com in April, when Nevada became the first state to sanction the business; the site has since expanded to New Jersey as well.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said he has more than $700,000 in cash to wage a campaign against his Republican primary challenger, state Sen. Russ Fulcher. Otter filed his latest campaign report Tuesday, outlining his 2013 fundraising when he brought in $901,000, largely from business groups. Fulcher hasn't filed his report. Meanwhile, Otter hasn't formally announced he's running for a third term. Among Otter's biggest supporters were trucking lobbyists, cigarette-maker Altria, retailer Wal-Mart and wealthy Emmett rancher Harry Bettis, who gave $7,500. The J.R. Simplot Co., owned by family of Otter's ex-wife, Gay, gave $10,000. Direct-marketing company Melaleuca and its owner, GOP booster Frank VanderSloot, also gave $10,000. Among Otter's biggest expenditures was more than $16,000 to Arena Communications, a Utah company that helps do mailing and other services for Republican politicians.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter today applauded the proposals of the state's justice reinvestment project, calling the plan a “no-brainer.” “While our crime rate is among the lowest in the nation, our recidivism rate is increasing,” Otter said. “This framework outlines a variety of sensible changes we can make as a state that will greatly impact both public safety and the amount of taxpayer dollars that go towards corrections. This is simply a no-brainer for me, and I hope the Legislature sees a similar value and acts accordingly.”
The recommendations, already endorsed unanimously by an interim legislative committee, include an array of improvements to treatment, supervision, parole and probation procedures, restitution and data systems over the next five years, along with limiting stays behind bars for non-violent offenders to 100 to 150 percent of their fixed terms; they’re now serving more than 200 percent of their fixed terms on average, and staying behind bars twice as long in Idaho as they do in the rest of the country. Under the plan, they’d get out earlier, but be supervised on parole. The plan estimates that an investment of $33 million in reforms over the next five years will save the state more than $255 million on prison costs.
Click below for Otter’s full statement.
Gov. Butch Otter has named an eight-member working group headed by former House Tax Chairman Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, to study ways to improve operations at the Idaho State Tax Commission, including how the commission's rule-making process could be improved and whether restructuring is in order. Tax Commission Chairman Rich Jackson will be among the group. “I have a lot of confidence in our four Tax Commission members, but there’s always room for improvement, especially where public confidence is involved,” Otter said; click below for his full announcement. The commission came in for criticism from state senators last year for being difficult to work with, though no specifics were cited; several years ago, a whistle-blower's report raised questions about how the commission handled secret settlements with big taxpayers.
Sen. Russ Fulcher is ripping Gov. Butch Otter’s proposal for a new $2 million wolf control fund. “I don’t know what we need to spend $2 million for,” Fulcher said on the Nate Shelman radio show on KBOI radio this afternoon. Fulcher, who is challenging Otter in the GOP primary, said Otter’s plan would “create another bureaucracy in order to manage this.”
Otter announced the new fund in his State of the State message this week, telling a joint session of the Legislature, “One form of growth we don’t want to encourage is in the wolf population that was imposed on Idaho almost 20 years ago. With your unflinching support, we were able to fight through the opposition of those who would make Idaho into a restricted-use wildlife refuge and take back control of these predators from our federal landlords.”
He said, “We’re hunting them now, and they’re a trophy hunting species. But the population is still growing, and our resources remain at risk.” Otter’s proposed state budget for next year calls for spending $2 million in state general funds, on a one-time basis, to start up the new fund, and then adding contributions each year of $110,000 apiece from hunting licenses and the livestock industry to sustain the fund. “This three-pronged approach will provide the revenue needed to more effectively control Idaho’s burgeoning wolf population and ease the impact on our livestock and wildlife,” Otter said to applause.
Wolf control is a touchy subject; Idaho currently is being sued over its move to hire a professional hunter to exterminate two wolf packs in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, and federal wildlife agencies have lost a chunk of their funding for such efforts to federal budget cuts in recent years.
Fulcher said wolves are “not a trophy species,” they’re a “predator.” He said, “Why wouldn’t we just increase the number of (wolf hunting) tags and let one predator take care of another? … This is an emotional issue in this state. I don’t know why we need another bureaucracy.”
Gov. Butch Otter has appointed Boise attorney Ilana Rubel to the Idaho House, to fill the District 18 vacancy created when he appointed then-Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, to the Idaho Senate; Ward-Engelking replaced former Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, who left the state. Rubel, 41, is a litigation partner at the law firm Fenwick & West in Boise. She was one of three nominees presented to Otter by the district’s Democratic Party legislative committee. Click below for Otter’s full announcement.
A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor and chairman of the Boise School Board, has issued a response to GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State message, focusing on education needs, health care and the economy. “While Gov. Otter’s State of the State Address offers a lot of rhetoric about where Idaho needs to go, what he has actually shown us is the limit of his ability to take us there,” Balukoff says. “To give our kids, our economy and our state the future they deserve we need new leadership and to restore funding and make education a top priority.”
He closes his statement with this comment: “Governor Otter is a good person and a likable man, but it is clear that it is time for a new governor to lead our state.” The full statement is online here.
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter aims to build billions of dollars in new or expanded Idaho dams, to capture more water in his state's drought-stricken southern desert for crops, cities and flushing endangered salmon to the sea. He's asking lawmakers to give him $15 million down payment for, among other things, studying whether a new era of dam building make sense, given somebody will have to pay for it. One project he's pushing, a new Weiser River dam, could be used for everything from flood control to electricity. But activist groups are skeptical, saying the project would have been built during Idaho's dam-building heyday — had it made financial sense. Idaho Power, the state's biggest utility, said Tuesday it's monitoring whether new dams fit its hydroelectric system on the Snake River.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Education is the top priority for Idaho for the coming year, Gov. Butch Otter declared Monday, coming even ahead of tax cuts for businesses and top earners. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller; the full detail of Otter’s budget proposal is online here at the state Division of Financial Management’s website.
Senate GOP Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who's running against fellow Republican Gov. Butch Otter in the primary, released a statement on both video and audio this afternoon, reacting to the governor's State of the State message. Fulcher said the governor's speech to a joint session of the Legislature today “offers more evidence that he is out of touch with Idaho’s problems,” and decried Otter's “tepid leadership.” Said Fulcher, “He’s offering more of the same mediocre policies that won’t advance our friends and neighbors on a path toward prosperity and opportunity.” Click below for Fulcher's full statement.
AP reporter John Miller reports that Republicans today dampened expectations about broadening Medicaid health care eligibility this year for poor Idaho residents on the same grounds they balked in 2013: Before taking extra federal money, the existing system should be overhauled to encourage beneficiaries to take personal responsibility for their health. Meanwhile, the state worked last year to get “verbal approval” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to deviate from existing Medicaid programs for newly covered residents, to help meet Otter's goals, Idaho Health & Welfare Department spokesman Tom Shanahan told the AP, but the state would have to actually agree to expand Medicaid before seeking a formal waiver. That's unlikely to happen soon, Shanahan said, since expansion discussions have largely ended. “Unless the state says it's going to do it, we really can't apply,” he said. Click below for Miller's full report.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone on Gov. Butch Otter's announcement today that he's ordering the state Department of Correction to take over the troubled Idaho Correctional Center, the privately run state prison south of Boise; it's a dramatic turnaround both for Otter and for the state. Taxpayers currently pay CCA $29 million per year to operate the 2,080-bed prison south of Boise, which has been the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging rampant violence, understaffing, gang activity and contract fraud. CCA acknowledged last year that falsified staffing reports were given to the state showing thousands of hours were staffed by CCA workers when the positions were actually vacant.
An AP analysis of the costs to run the prison in 2012 found that any savings compared to state-run prisons were more than offset by other factors, including contract oversight costs and the fact that inmates with chronic medical or mental health needs are barred from the facility. That allows it to have a higher staff-to-inmate ratio than state lockups that take all prisoners.
Otter long has been an advocate of privatization. In 2008, he floated legislation to change state laws to allow private companies to build and operate prisons in Idaho and import out-of-state inmates. Later, he suggested privatizing the 500-bed state-run Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino.
House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill both agreed with earlier comments from Gov. Butch Otter this morning about defending Idaho’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage from a legal challenge. Otter said Idaho voters enacted the measure into the Constitution, and the state has a duty to defend that enactment. “My responsibility is to enforce the law and to obey the Constitution,” Otter said; four same-sex couples are now challenging the ban as unconstitutional in federal court.
Said Hill, “Is it a wise use of funds? It’s always a wise use of funds to defend our Constitution.” He said both the governor and the Attorney General have that duty.
Click below for Gov. Butch Otter's full announcement that he's ordering the state to take over operation of the Idaho Correctional Center, the troubled privately operated state prison south of Boise that's been the target of numerous lawsuits and scandals. Otter said he's been advised that it looks like the state can operate the prison for “very, very close to the $25 million” a year that the state has been paying the Corrections Corp. of America to operate the lockup.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter closed out his talk to reporters at the AP Legislative Preview this morning by inviting up Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Patti Anne Lodge and House Judiciary Chairman Rich Wills to talk about the state’s criminal justice reinvestment project. The project, in which Idaho is working with the Council of State Governments and the Pew Trusts, already has turned up the news that nonviolent offenders are staying behind bars in Idaho twice as long as they do in the rest of the nation, and that Idaho suffers from a “revolving door” of recidivism, in which offenders go back behind bars again and again.
Otter said he’ll stand behind the reforms necessary to change that. “Certainly I’m going to support those, and I hope everybody supports those,” the governor said. “It’s the right thing to do.” He said, “One of the changes we are trying to make is to prepare those people for citizen life.” He said some go to prison because of a “small mistake,” and then, after an extended stay, “they turn out to be a criminal as a result of the behavior that they’ve learned in the prison. … We want to avoid that.”
There's also a push on to improve the state's public defender system; Otter said he'll address that in his State of the State message on Monday.
Even though he’s challenging him in the GOP primary, Gov. Butch Otter said today that he’ll still welcome Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, to legislative leadership meetings in his office during this year’s session. Otter said both he and Fulcher have the interests of the people of the state at heart. “I think we will work in that direction,” he said. “I have reason to believe that the Senate and all their leadership team will work to that direction as well.”
Otter said it’s “entirely up to Sen. Fulcher” whether he continues to attend leadership meetings in Otter’s office. “I have no reason to change the membership,” he said. “The Senate has decided who that leadership team is, and I’m going to welcome that team into my office.”