Posts tagged: Chuck Winder
When it was time today for the portion of the orientation program for new state lawmakers where they hear from members of the media – a panel consisting of the AP’s Kimberlee Kruesi, Idaho Public TV’s Joan Cartan-Hansen and myself – legislative services director Eric Milstead wasn’t having much luck getting the lunch conversation to pipe down so the panel discussion could start, when a loud, attention-grabbing whistle was heard from off to one side, prompting immediate silence. The whistler? Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, who just happens to be celebrating his 69th birthday today. “I tell everyone it’s the 30th anniversary of my 39th birthday,” Winder said. “It just sounds better.”
Asked about the crowd-calming, attention-grabbing whistle, Winder said, “I have an older sister that taught me how to do that when I was a kid.” He added with a smile, “It comes in handy for unruly crowds.”
The bill for outside legal fees for the Idaho Legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee has now swelled to $61,375, according to documents obtained by The Spokesman-Review under the Idaho Public Records Act. The law firm Holland & Hart has submitted invoices to the Legislature for work from April to August totaling $19,613; that’s on top of the $41,762 the firm already had been paid before then.
The joint interim committee, which is looking into how Idaho could demand to take over federal public land within the state, hired Holland & Hart lawyer Bill Myers, former solicitor for the U.S. Department of Interior, to advise it. Myers’ most recent charges to the state, at $420 an hour, include charges for a phone conversation and email with Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood in July; charges to review a Montana Senate resolution and correspond with Montana state staffers; charges to meet with committee co-chairman Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise; charges for legal research; and charges to participate in meetings in Montana and Utah. The joint panel's other co-chairman is Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale.
“I think getting good sound legal advice is well worth it,” Denney told Eye on Boise today. “Of course we have been criticized for not using the Attorney General, but I’m not sure the Attorney General has any attorneys on staff with the time or the expertise that Bill Myers has. So I think for us to get good sound legal advice, I think it’s a good idea for us to hire outside counsel.” Legislative committees can get legal advice from the Attorney General without charge. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
A legislative interim committee investigating prospects for state takeover of federal public lands has spent more than $40,000 on a private attorney, the AP reports, tapping into a new legislative legal defense fund. “We've hired legal counsel from outside of state government primarily because we didn't feel as the Legislature that we were getting the help that we needed from the attorney general's office, once they determined the legal prospects of the case against the federal government on this didn't have much merit,” said Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise. “They didn't give us a whole lot of imagination or creativity on what the political solutions might be. So we've gone to an expert attorney … to use his background and expertise to help us with this process.”
Committee member and Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said she was disappointed the panel was not informed that private attorney William Myers was being considered before his hiring. “I think it was done rather hasty without letting the rest of the committee know,” she told the Associated Press. “But they're using taxpayer money. I would have preferred for them to be more transparent.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi.
The FAA has announced the six states it’s chosen to be test sites for drone technology, and Idaho’s not among them, nor is Washington. Instead, the six states are Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia. Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, who sponsored legislation last year seeking the test-site designation, said he’s disappointed, but still sees a future for drone technology in Idaho. “It means we have to develop another tack,” Winder said. “I think there’s still a lot of assets in Idaho that relate to unmanned aircraft systems,” including the Idaho National Laboratory, forestry, agricultural and fish and wildlife operations and more. “There’s a real need to develop curriculum and people that understand the programming and the potential for the use of these unmanned systems.”
Winder said Idaho can still pursue designation as a “Center of Excellence” for drone technology, including both public and private efforts and university programs. “A lot of times with military bases and siting, a lot of politics play into it,” said Winder, a former Navy pilot. “We’re a pretty small state, we don’t have a lot of political clout, and we may have just lost out on that basis alone.”
Becoming one of the six test sites “would’ve generated a significant number of jobs and expansion of our curriculum in our universities and colleges,” Winder said, “so I think it would’ve been really good for the state. But I think through this Center of Excellence, we can pursue a lot of those same goals, probably without as much participation by the FAA.”
Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey reports today that Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, has decided against a challenge to Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, after his estimated vote count came in at a tied 14-14. “For me to run with that close of a vote would have been divisive,” Winder told Popkey. Now, Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, has decided to make a last-minute challenge to Davis. Lawmakers in both houses will hold leadership elections in closed-door caucuses the evening of Dec. 5, prior to the Legislature's upcoming Dec. 6 organizational session. You can read Popkey's full report here.