Posts tagged: idaho legislature
Idaho Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, has joined with two retired senators from his district to form a new PAC that will interview legislative candidates and endorse and support those with the most skill at economic development. Henderson is joining former GOP Sens. Jim Hammond and Dick Compton in the new political action committee, which they’ve dubbed “Job Creators PAC.” The three are filling its coffers with their leftover campaign funds; Henderson, 91, is retiring after his current term in the House.
“Government does not create jobs, we enable jobs,” said Henderson. “We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and we think we’ll be able to make a good assessment of the potential effectiveness of candidates.” In addition to the three former lawmakers, a dozen other District 3 residents have signed on to help with the effort. Henderson had more than $16,000 left in his campaign fund as of the last reporting period.
Five-term Idaho Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, who is 91, announced today that he won’t seek a sixth term in the upcoming elections, and instead will endorse North Idaho businessman John Chambers, 59, a semi-retired executive at Ground Force Manufacturing, to succeed him in office. Chambers filled in as a substitute for Henderson for the first few weeks of this year’s legislative session after Henderson broke his hip during a vacation mishap in Hawaii.
Henderson is a former Kootenai County commissioner and mayor of Post Falls who’s had a long career in public service; he's also a retired marketing executive and newspaper publisher and a World War II Army veteran. Henderson’s wife, Betty Ann, serves on the Post Falls City Council.
In 2012, Henderson was named chairman of the House Business Committee a day after he celebrated in his 90th birthday; a year earlier, he’d given up his coveted seat on the joint budget committee after five years to focus his legislative work more on economic development. He sponsored key legislation that year to help Idaho aircraft parts businesses that has now led to major expansions in employment by some of those firms in the state.
After celebrating his 90th birthday during the Legislature’s December 2012 organizational session, Henderson said, “My parents said they gave me some durable genes, and that’s what it takes.” He is Idaho's oldest state lawmaker.
Rep. Mark Patterson’s House seat will be vacant when Idaho’s legislative session opens next week, Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey reports, because of Patterson’s decision to make his resignation effective at midnight on Jan. 5. Patterson, R-Boise, was urged to resign by his GOP legislative district committee, after the revelation last month that he pleaded guilty in a 1974 rape case; that news surfaced after the Ada County sheriff revoked Patterson’s concealed weapon permit for not revealing the case in his application. The first-term lawmaker claimed the sheriff was after him because of legislation he proposed.
Popkey reports that the District 15 GOP committee set a Dec. 27 meeting to consider nominees to replace Patterson, hoping to get the required three names to Gov. Butch Otter in time to have the seat filled by Jan. 6. But Otter’s office reviewed state law and concluded that the committee would have to wait until after Patterson’s resignation took effect, so the meeting was canceled. “Our interpretation of the statute is the vacancy must occur before the process can begin,” said Jon Hanian, Otter’s press secretary. “We’re prepared to fill that seat as quickly as they can make the nominations, but we’re going to do it by the book.”
Popkey reported that the committee is now targeting Jan. 9 or 10 for its meeting, after which Otter must make the appointment. He also reported that Patterson will continue drawing his legislative pay until his resignation takes effect; he’ll receive his last full biweekly paycheck for a gross of $632.23 on Jan. 3, followed by a pro-rated check on Jan. 17 for his final days in office. Popkey’s full report is online here.
Freshman Idaho Rep. Brandon Hixon, R-Caldwell, has defaulted on his home mortgage and hasn’t paid a house payment since June of 2012, four months before he was elected to the Legislature. The news, first reported by the Caldwell Guardian and detailed in a Sunday article in the Idaho Press-Tribune, surfaced in a legal notice printed Friday in the newspaper, which said Hixon’s Caldwell home is set for auction in March. Hixon, however, says he’s been negotiating a home mortgage modification with his lender, Wells Fargo, and expects that to be completed by late January, averting any foreclosure auction.
“We’ve got a plan drafted and I think it will work out just fine,” Hixon told Eye on Boise. “This doesn’t have any kind of impact on my ability to be an effective legislator. Obviously it’s a trying time, when it comes right down to it, but I think we’ve worked through it diligently. We’re going to come out leaner and stronger as a family from this thing.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Hixon, who at 32 is currently the youngest member of the Idaho Legislature, narrowly defeated Democrat Travis Manning in 2012, though the district is heavily Republican. During the campaign, the Press-Tribune, Hixon’s hometown newspaper, reported that Hixon had five misdemeanors by age 21 for such offenses as urinating in public and minor in possession of alcohol, and 15 infractions, mostly for traffic violations, between 1998 and 2009, along with small-claims court orders to pay past-due rent in 2003 and 2005. Hixon told the newspaper then, “Obviously I’ve changed. … It’s not a reflection on what’s going to happen in the future. You basically grow up. You understand what true responsibility is.”
Hixon said his financial problems aren’t a sign of a return to his youthful mistakes. “I haven’t had so much as a speeding ticket in the last four and a half years,” he said. “I think what’s important to remember here is the fact that I gave up a very high-paying job to come to my service to the people of Legislative District 10. This is personal, and we’ll work it out.”
Hixon, who is married with four children ranging in age from 2 to 13, said he resigned from his job as an insurance agent for Liberty Mutual in May of 2012, after the firm belatedly informed him it viewed legislative service as a conflict of interest with his employment. Since then, he’s been an independent agent, but said his business has suffered due to his legislative service. “It’s taken time away from my business as an insurance agent,” he said. “The time demands on a legislator are pretty significant.”
Hixon said his constituents have been supportive. “I’m not a multimillionaire retired legislator, I’m a working guy,” he said. “I think I’m very in touch with the people. … People say, ‘This guy’s a regular guy, an average guy who’s having troubles like hundreds of thousands of Idahoans, and obviously he’s getting it taken care of.’”
He added, “I’m up-front about everything from Day 1. That’s what everybody needs to understand. I don’t think it’s been any big secret that it has been a financial crunch for me. But at the end of the day, we’re not on state assistance, we’re not out there begging for a handout, we’re taking care of it.” Click below for his full statement.
Gov. Butch Otter has appointed Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, to the Idaho Senate, to replace former Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, who resigned to move to the Seattle area; Ward-Engelking was the top choice of the Democratic Party committee for the legislative district. “Rep. Ward-Engelking was part of an exemplary freshman class in the Idaho House,” Otter said, “Now she has the opportunity to continue her work in the Idaho Senate, where I’m confident she will continue to serve the people of District 18 well.
The district committee now must submit three nominees to Otter to fill Ward-Engelking's House seat.
Chuck Malloy, a former editorial writer at the Idaho Statesman and former aide to the House Republican Caucus from 2007 to 2010, has announced he's seeking the appointment to serve out the remainder of the House term of Rep. Mark Patterson, R-Boise, the embattled freshman representative who said this week he's resigning; Malloy said he would not run for a full term in the post. “My aim is not to launch a political career, or walk away with a sweepstakes prize. My sole interest is to provide a service to the people of my district and the state I love,” he said. Malloy said he's one of seven people laid off from the Idaho Statesman just after Thanksgiving, and said the state of Idaho's economy is a big concern for him. Click below for his full announcement. When a legislator resigns, the party committee for that district, from the party of the former legislator, submits three nominees to the governor for appointment, and the governor chooses from among the three.
Three names have been forwarded to the governor to replace Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, who resigned from the Senate to move to Seattle. Atop the list, submitted by the legislative District 18 Democratic central committee: Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, who now represents the same district in the House. Listed second was Lawrence Crowley, president and director of the Energy Strategies Group, and third, Elizabeth “Beth” Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.
If Otter selects Ward-Engelking, a similar process would then be followed to fill her House seat.
Idaho Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, broke a hip while vacationing in Hawaii this week, but he says he’ll be up and going in time for the start of the legislative session on Jan. 6. “Oh, absolutely – I won’t miss it,” Henderson said from the hospital on the island of Kauai, where he’s awaiting surgery. “What I’ve got is a minor fracture of my right hip. … The surgeon this morning said about five days after the surgery, you’ll be able to walk.”
Henderson, who celebrated his 91st birthday last Friday, said, “I was in a condo I wasn’t familiar with, walking around in the middle of the night. I tripped on a chair leg and fell.” He added, “I should’ve turned the lights on.”
Henderson and his wife, Betty Ann, were vacationing on Kauai for a week and had planned to return Sunday, but now they’ve extended their stay until the middle of next week. “We’re here with friends, and they’ve got a car,” Henderson said. “This is a great place, really picturesque.” So far during the vacation, he said, the friends have enjoyed a cruise halfway around the island on which they saw whales and dolphins, and visits to several state parks; he said he’s particularly appreciated the tropical flowers and jungle greenery. “Yesterday it was 82 degrees,” he said.
Henderson is a fifth-term state representative, and is also a former Kootenai County commissioner and mayor of Post Falls.
Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how Gov. Butch Otter today continued to tamp down expectations for the election-year legislative session that will convene on Jan. 6, just months before Idaho’s May 20 primary election. Addressing the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho, Otter promised “more of the same” from him, with a lean, cautious approach to new spending or programs, despite the state’s recovering economy. The governor’s already drawn a primary challenge from Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, and a Democratic challenger, A.J. Balukoff; every seat in the Legislature also will be on the ballot.
Idaho Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said she expected caution from the governor in an election year, but was “disappointed” by what she heard. “It’s our job to do good policy for the people we represent,” she said. “I hope we actually get something accomplished.”
House Speaker Scott Bedke predicts that the upcoming legislative session won’t address a big backlog in maintenance funding for the state’s roads and bridges, in part because he said people in his region don’t seem concerned about the roads. “We don’t have clear consensus on that issue,” Bedke told the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho today.
He also urged caution on state spending, saying, “There’s been modest growth in the economy, there’ll be modest growth in the money available as we set budgets, but there’s no runaways there. There’s not a lot of extra new money.” Bedke suggested that business interests pushing for further tax relief on business personal property consider whether they think the state should give up a different tax break to fund that, like the grocery tax credit. “In this time of allocating scarce resources, I think maybe it’s incumbent upon us to talk about this,” he said. “We can get rid of personal property tax. … We can buy down the income tax rates, if that’s what we want to do. But it comes with hard choices.”
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, warned that Idaho’s not investing for its future, from low state employee pay that prompts costly turnover to underfunding for schools, infrastructure and more. “I think we’re going to hear a lot about what’s important in the primary elections,” he said. “So I’m not very optimistic we’re going to be addressing any of these issues.”
Gov. Butch Otter told more than 400 local officials, legislators, lobbyists and others gathered for the 67th Associated Taxpayers of Idaho conference today that the headline for his agenda for the upcoming legislative session should be “More of the Same.” “I would rather be a little short on the front end, and perhaps under-promise and over-deliver,” Otter said. “And that’s what I think we’ve done in the last seven years with the help of the Legislature, and that’s what I’m planning on doing with the rest of my time on office.”
Otter said the state budget that’s set for the coming year likely will represent an increase of between 3 and 3.5 percent. “I would tell you, in my meetings with the JFAC chairs and leadership, we’re going to focus on replenishing some of those institutions that the Constitution tells us is our responsibility – we’ll focus on those first,” he said. “Then, next, other proper roles of government that we can agree need to be replenished. And finally, well maybe not finally, replenish our savings.”
Said the governor, “I don’t know what we would’ve done in 2008 if we hadn’t had $400 million in savings. … I can tell you there’s nothing tougher to do or more dysfunctional in government than a holdback.”
More than half of states now have legislation permitting schools to keep epinephrine auto-injectors on hand to treat students or staff who have unexpected severe allergic reactions, and the Treasure Valley Food Allergy Network is working on proposed legislation for Idaho. Under current law, Idaho schools can’t keep Epi-Pens or other injectors on hand unless they’ve been prescribed for a specific person. Starla Higdon, a pharmacist and head of the allergy network, presented the proposed legislation to the Idaho Legislature’s Health Care Task Force today, but the senators and representatives on the panel took no action. The bill still could be brought forward when lawmakers convene in January.
Rep. Brandon Hixon, R-Caldwell, expressed concern about a clause removing liability for school personnel who administer the injections in good faith even if parents haven’t given advance consent. “I have a little bit of concern with that,” he said. Others questioned the cost to schools. Higdon said the manufacturer of the Epi-Pen has a program that will provide four injectors to each school for free, and discounts on additional ones. A new federal law just signed last month also offers states incentives for passing such legislation.
There’s been a flurry of states passing legislation since a Virginia first-grader died of an allergic reaction in 2012 when an epinephrine injection could have saved her life. Closer to home, a Spokane third-grader with severe peanut allergies died after eating a peanut butter cookie on a school field trip in 2001. “I understand the difficulty,” said Task Force Co-Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, who said he has a granddaughter with severe food allergies. He said of the bill, “It may be a start, but it may need some work as well.”
When Gov. Butch Otter addressed the Associated General Contractors winter meeting on Friday, Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey reports, he was clear about his biggest challenge in the coming year, and why it’s not increasing transportation funding or expanding Medicaid to 100,000 uninsured Idahoans. “Greatest challenge? Gettin’ me re-elected,” Otter told the group, joining in a big laugh. And, Popkey reports, that’s why Otter’s predicting a quick, relatively controversy-free legislative session, putting off the Medicaid debate for another year and launching a poll to see where Idahoans stand on road and bridge improvements, in advance of more debate later on, should he win a third term. Popkey’s full post is online here; click below for an AP version of Popkey's Sunday story on the planned poll.
Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on the rare moment of bipartisanship on school reform in Idaho that occurred today, as Democratic state lawmakers unveiled four far-reaching bills Wednesday, and GOP state schools Superintendent Tom Luna endorsed them. Within hours, GOP Gov. Butch Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, also had encouraging words about the Democrats’ bills, which would enact into law the 20 recommendations from a task force that Otter appointed to chart the future of education reform in Idaho. Those items range from restoring $82 million a year in operational funds cut from the schools in recent years’ budget cuts, to new ways to determine when students should advance to the next grade; here’s a link to the full task force recommendations.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter says he’s working on a five-year plan to implement the recommendations of his education stakeholders task force. But asked about legislation unveiled by Democratic lawmakers today to adopt all the recommendations into law as a framework for the state, Otter said, “I think it’s great. Basically, I’m taking their (the task force's) framework and I’m putting it into a road map.”
Otter, speaking to the Idaho Tribes Summit this morning, said, “I’m going to be as aggressive as I can, but it’s going to take five years, I believe, in order to put another $270 million into education.” That’s the total price tag for the recommendations less the $82 million that’s just restoring past cuts – so it’s the “new money,” he said. “Getting that money back is going to take a couple years, but it’s high on our agenda. It’s a total bill of $350 million bucks. I think it’s doable, but I think it’s only doable over five years.”
Otter said in his plan, “I feel confident in being able to write that first year … in ink, but the next four years I’ll probably write that in pencil.” He said he’ll want schools to preserve efficiencies they’ve developed during the years of cutbacks, including a $3.8 million annual savings from energy-efficiency improvements ranging from upgraded lightbulbs to new windows and improvements to boilers. “I don’t want to lose those efficiencies,” he said.
Asked if education reform can be a bipartisan issue in Idaho – after the tumult and rancor over the voter-rejected GOP “Students Come First” school reform laws – Otter said “I think it’s got to. I think it could and I think it should.” With the economy turning around, he said, “Right now we’ve all got a chance to make it a bipartisan issue.”
House Speaker Scott Bedke, asked about today’s unveiling of four bills to implement the 20 recommendations of the governor’s school reform task force by Democratic lawmakers – with support from GOP state schools chief Tom Luna – said, “I’m encouraged by that.” Bedke said, “Over time, I think we can do that. And I think everybody’s pretty committed to that.”
Idaho House and Senate Democrats were joined by GOP state schools Superintendent Tom Luna today as they unveiled four bills designed to implement the 20 recommendations of Gov. Butch Otter’s education stakeholders task force. Both the Dems and Luna said it’s time for improving Idaho’s schools to become a bipartisan issue in the state. “What resulted from this group’s efforts was a bipartisan set of recommendations,” said Rep. Janie Ward-Engleking, D-Boise, who served on the task force. “I know what kind of research, compromise and collaboration went into the recommendations.”
She said, “Our bills provide a framework to implement these recommendations. We certainly know we can’t do everything totally in one year, but we can put that framework in place and begin.” The four bills address the 20 recommendations with one exception, the Idaho Core Standards, the state’s version of Common Core standards for student achievement, because the Legislature already approved that in 2011.
Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, said, “This isn’t a partisan issue. We all know that we need to work together. The public expects us to work together.” Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said, “We’re open to all suggestions. We’re open to anybody else that’s got bills. We’d like to talk with them. When this process is finished, we’d like to have a consensus piece of legislation that is going to pass the House and the Senate and be signed by the governor.”
Luna said he met with the Democratic legislators several times and made suggestions that were included as the bills were drafted. “I think what we have here is something we’ve been looking and searching for for some time, for years, and that is bipartisan support and recognition that we have to do more for our children as we prepare them for the world,” Luna said. “This is a huge step forward, as it creates the bipartisan support for education reform that we’ve wanted, but it’s been elusive.”
Luna’s “Students Come First” school reform laws, which included rolling back teachers’ collective bargaining rights and a new focus on online learning, passed the Legislature without a single Democratic vote; voters resoundingly rejected the laws in the 2012 election.
Gov. Butch Otter, who had backed the rejected laws, then appointed a 31-member task force drawing from all sides in the education reform debate, and it proposed the 20 recommendations. They range from restoring $82 million a year in operational funds cut from the schools in recent years’ budget cuts, to new ways to determine when students should advance to the next grade. A teacher career ladder would bring big pay increases along with a new tiered licensing program, and the state would step up classroom technology, teacher mentoring and training, advanced opportunities for students and more.
Burgoyne said, “This legislation does not set timetables. It says these are the goals that the state of Idaho seeks to achieve. It gives specific authorization for rule-making. It directs, in some cases, that the germane people return to us for proposed legislation for specific implementation.” Said Luna, “I think it’s a very positive day.”
The Idaho Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee is taking public testimony this morning on proposals to have the state take over title to federal public lands. So far, most has been solidly against the idea. Opponents expressed concerns over Idaho’s vast public land being sold off to private owners; an economist said the state of Idaho would incur billions in costs that it can’t afford; and a foresters association expressed concern over road management costs the state would take on.
An exception was Russ Smerz, an unpaid lobbyist for Tea Party Boise who said he was speaking for “23 different liberty groups around the state of Idaho,” including 14 tea party groups, the John Birch Society, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Idaho Open Carry and more. “We do support the transfer of federal lands to the state,” he told the committee. “Basically it’s increased school funding, better managed by the state than the feds, and the historical precedent that has been set by the eastern states.” Jeff Wright of Boise County spoke in favor of transfer; he said his county is 90 percent federally owned. “We can’t develop an economy because we’re not allowed to,” he said. “I think it’s time that Idaho took control of their own destiny.”
Buster Gibson, vice chair of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, spoke against the move. “I come from a long line of leaders and we do not have a settlement or a treaty with the federal government,” he told the committee. “Land title for southwestern Idaho has never been transferred to the United States. … That is our land, my people’s land. It has not been patented and we do not want the state of Idaho to manage it for us. We want the federal government to continue the management or to give it back to us and compensate us for it. We still hold Indian title to this land and that’s where our relationship to the federal government stands; it’s not to the state of Idaho government. … You have no right to take this land or to manage it. You’ll leave us with two options: We can fight you in federal court, or we’ll fight you in the nation’s capitol.”
Jack Trueblood told the lawmakers, “I fear the ultimate result would be the sale of much of those lands, and there’s nothing that restricts access like a no-trespassing sign.” The committee has another public comment period set for 1:30 to 2:40 p.m. today, as part of its all-day meeting in the Lincoln Auditorium in the state Capitol, which also includes a series of presentations. You can listen live here.
Former longtime state Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, D-Prichard, has passed away at age 80. She represented North Idaho’s Silver Valley, and during her final years in office was the only Democrat among North Idaho’s increasingly GOP-dominated legislative delegation. Shepherd served in the House from 2000 to 2010, before she was defeated by GOP Rep. Shannon McMillan. A retired restaurant/tavern owner, Shepherd was known for departing from her fellow party members in the House to cast votes she said reflected the views of her district – often polling and keeping track of her constituents’ input via their calls and emails.
“Mary Lou invented constituent service,” said former House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum. “I remember her as always on the phone with some agency working on a solution for a constituent. She was hard-working, cared deeply about Idaho and her district. … She had a large number of legislators on both sides of the aisle who were very fond of her.”
When Shepherd lost her bid for a seventh term in 2010, she said she’d “enjoyed just about every moment” of her legislative service, and offered her successor this advice: “To listen well, don’t make assumptions … and at all times remember who you’re representing and how they want to be represented.” She and her husband Jim raised seven children.
Eleven Idaho schools are only a few months into their technology pilot projects, funded by a $3 million appropriation from the Legislature this year, but lawmakers will soon have to decide whether to put more money into such projects. Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert writes today that lawmakers will have some anecdotal evidence from the field when they arrive for their session in January, but test results may be scarce. Nevertheless, state Superintendent of Schools is requesting another $3 million. You can read Richert’s full report here, which includes an update on the projects around the state.