Posts tagged: Idaho politics
First District Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador pledged today to keep working on immigration reform, despite having walked away last week from a bipartisan group of eight members working to craft a House bill. “I promise you, this does not delay the process,” he told a dozen members of the Coalition for Immigrant Rights of Idaho, who stood chanting in the foyer of his office for nearly 40 minutes before Labrador emerged from a conference call. Labrador then talked with the group, answering questions in both Spanish and English, for the next 45 minutes, in a conversation that was sometimes friendly, but occasionally heated. “Just this morning, John Boehner announced that he wants immigration reform done by the Fourth of July,” Labrador said. “My goal is to have immigration reform done by the end of this year.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Labrador said his differences with the bipartisan “Group of Eight” went beyond the health care issue he pointed to last week – that he believes immigrants should cover their own catastrophic health care costs, rather than qualify for coverage under Obamacare. He said he’d earlier “agreed to disagree” with the group over guest worker programs, and he saw what had been overall agreement on a broad array of issues disintegrating as the lawmakers got into the details of crafting a bill, with the health care issue as the second big disagreement. “My goal is to make sure that something good passes,” he said, adding that he didn’t believe the bill the bipartisan group was working toward would end up passing the GOP-dominated House.
“I decided that there’s a better way,” Labrador said. He said he’s working with members of the House Judiciary Committee, on which he serves, and he expects an array of reform bills to come to that panel. “What we’re probably going to do is a more step by step approach,” he said. But once the House has passed something, it’ll have to go to conference with the Senate. “In the conference, it’s going to have to be a bipartisan solution, whatever happens,” he said. “When it gets to the conference, it will be comprehensive.”
Ruby Mendez, a 21-year-old intern organizer for the Idaho Community Action Network from Star, said, “We have supported you when you were practicing law, and we have even voted for you so you can fix our immigration system.” But she said she and others in Idaho’s Latino community were surprised and disappointed by Labrador’s move last week. “I think as a Latina in Idaho, I’ve seen many of my family and friends be affected by a broken immigration system,” she said. “To see the injustice, it’s been a tough task. … We represent here in Idaho 11 percent – we’re a growing community.”
The Idaho group stresses keeping families together; Labrador said he shares that goal. “This is the main reason that I have not walked away from immigration reform – we have to do the right thing for America,” he said. “We have a broken system, and I worked in the system for 15 years. I saw families broken up. … We can’t allow the immigration system to stay this way.”
Labrador said he doesn’t fully support the current Senate bill as written, but might in the future depending on how it’s amended. “I’m doing everything I can,” he told the group. After they left his office, Labrador said he’s gotten differing reactions from other groups since quitting the bipartisan reform talks last week. “Actually, most people are happy,” he said. “A lot of people in Idaho don’t want me to do any immigration reform.” But, he said, “I’m trying.”
The Atlantic has an interesting profile of Idaho 1stDistrict Rep. Raul Labrador this week, headlined, “Does the Fate of Immigration Reform Depend on This Idaho Congressman? Puerto Rican-born, Tea Party-purist, GOP-leadership-defying immigration attorney Raul Labrador has confounded expectations throughout his political career.” In the piece, Labrador talks about immigration reform, saying, “Most hardcore conservatives in the House come from rural agricultural districts, so we understand the need for reform.”
Labrador also tells the Atlantic, “The old guard believes that if we fix the immigration we will all of a sudden get 43 percent of the Hispanic vote. We won't. In fact, I don't think we will get much credit for fixing the immigration problem.” But he does see broader political advantages. “If we fix this problem, [Hispanics and minority voters] will listen to us on other issues.” You can read the full article here.
It's more than a year before the primary election, but Idaho Sen. Jim Risch announced today that he'll seek re-election in 2014. “When I ran for this office just over four years ago, I said our country was facing many challenges,” Risch said in a statement. “Those challenges not only remain, they have gotten worse.” Click below for Risch's full announcement.
Larry Kenck, the new chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party, has issued a statement blaming “years of failed GOP policies” for Idaho’s ranking as the state with the highest percentage of workers earning the minimum wage. “Idaho has suffered from decades of GOP policies that do very little to encourage high-paying businesses to relocate to Idaho or to stay in Idaho,” Kenck declared; you can read his full statement here.
Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reports today that 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador had been scheduled to appear at two eastern Idaho county GOP “Lincoln Day” events last weekend, but instead canceled. That suggests he may be backing off from the idea of challenging Gov. Butch Otter in 2014; Labrador has said he's mulling that but hasn't decided.
“If he was trying to do everything he could to challenge Gov. Butch Otter in the May 2014 primary, he would have been on the stump rather than with his family in Eagle,” Popkey writes; the eastern Idaho GOP events offered a chance for exposure in the 2nd Congressional District, where Labrador isn't as well known as in his own 1st District. “Coupled with Labrador's co-hosting of a fundraiser for Otter's re-election campaign Monday in Washington, D.C., the cancellations signal that he might be shying from the risk of facing a well-funded, well-liked governor who has been in statewide or congressional office continuously since 1987,” Popkey writes; you can read his full report here.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party is stepping down. Larry Grant announced this week this week that he won't seek another term, sending the state's minority party searching for a new leader. Grant was elected to the post in 2011 and in his announcement he touted his efforts to recruit an effective party staff and help field a cast of competitive candidates in the 2012 election. Grant says he didn't achieve all he set out to do, but he says he's proud of the accomplishments during his tenure. His term ends next month. The party will hold an election Feb. 23 during its state central committee meeting. Last year, Democrats held on to their 20 seats in the Idaho House and Senate and helped defeat a package of education laws approved in 2011.
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador says he's waiting to see what happens in Congress and efforts to reform immigration before deciding whether to run for Idaho governor. Labrador is among several Republicans who have been contemplating a bid to be the state's next chief executive. Labrador told the Idaho Statesman his top priority is getting something done on changing the nation's immigration system and laws. The second-term congressman says he is likely to make a decision early this year whether to run for governor in 2014. Labrador says contrary to what many people may think, he hasn't made up his mind on running for the state's highest office. Meanwhile, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has said he intends to seek a third term, though Otter has not yet made a formal announcement.
The feud that's broken out into the open between Idaho GOP Congressmen Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador - detailed in a Sunday story in the Idaho Statesman by reporter Dan Popkey - is the top political news of the day in Idaho. Click below for Popkey's full report, via the Associated Press. Simpson told Popkey that Labrador has forever undermined his effectiveness in Congress by plotting to overthrow Speaker John Boehner and publicly refusing to vote for his re-election on Jan. 3; consequences could include Idaho getting punished when Labrador pushes legislation, with the state the ultimate loser. In response, Labrador called Simpson a “bully” and “an old-school legislator that went to Washington, D.C., to compromise,” Popkey reported.
“That's how you get to a $1 trillion deficit, by just tinkering around the edges,” Labrador said. “But I think we live in a new world where we have some very serious fiscal issues in America, and you need to have people who are willing to say 'no' to a lot of things — things that are very popular back home — and that are willing to put their political careers on the line.”
Popkey has an update here today on his blog, entitled, “Just how much do these guys dislike each other?”
As Election Day approached, Moscow Republican House candidate Cindy Agidius noticed her campaign account filling with money from prominent GOP lawmakers, from districts hundreds of miles from hers in northcentral Idaho, AP reporter John Miller reports. House Speaker Lawerence Denney of Midvale chipped in $1,000 from an internal GOP account, while Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star gave $500. Cash from Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke of Oakley and Rep. Christy Perry of Nampa also went into her coffers.
“It was always interesting to see where the money came from, especially since I didn't ask for it,” Agidius, who won Nov. 6 by just 123 votes, told the AP. More than a show of support for a partisan colleague in a tight race, however, this election cash infusion for Agidius and dozens of other Republican candidates across Idaho underscores the tense internal House GOP fight now being waged for leadership posts; click below for Miller's full report previewing Wednesday's hotly contested House GOP leadership elections.
Idaho Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, whose touting of a tea party plan to upset the presidential election results through an electoral college boycott got national attention after I wrote about it in my Sunday column, now says she's ready to drop the idea, which experts said was based on a misreading of the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“I floated an idea out there on November 19 about the electoral college,” Nuxoll wrote today in a message posted on Twitter. “Our country is a country of opportunity to discuss ideas and effect progress and change. I believe in less government, more opportunity and I will fight for that motto because of my love for this state and country and our exceptionalism. But there is no upside to division in our country now since we are all in this together. Some have rejected the idea, so lets drop it and continue on. To villify me because you don't like the idea is unnecessary.”
A state senator from north-central Idaho is touting a scheme that's been circulating on tea party blogs, calling for states that supported Mitt Romney to refuse to participate in the electoral college, in a move backers believe would change the election result. Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, sent an article out on Twitter headed, “A 'last chance' to have Mitt Romney as President in January (it's still not too late).”
Constitutional scholar David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, said the plan is not “totally constitutional,” as touted in the article, but is instead “a radical, revolutionary proposal that has no basis in federal law or the architecture of the Constitution.” Adler dubbed it “really a strange and bizarre fantasy.”
Said Nuxoll, “Well I guess that's one lawyer.” You can read my full Sunday column here at spokesman.com.
It was Idaho Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna himself who made the motion at the state Board of Education this morning to repeal the rule requiring that every Idaho high school student take at least two online classes to graduate from high school. “Proposition 3 was overturned by the voters,” Luna said. “Overturning Proposition 3 in and of itself did not remove the two.” But, he said, “Because of the actions of the voters on Nov. 6th … the perception in the public definitely was that the language on the ballot itself made a reference to the online graduation requirement, and so I think it's proper that we remove that as part of the pending rule.”
His motion to repeal the rule passed on a 7-1 vote, with just board member Emma Atchley objecting.
“My biggest concern is that if we do not go forward with the online requirement, and we spend a year deciding whether we're going to have it or how we're going to have it, and we all end up wanting it in the end anyway, we've just lost another year,” she said. “I understand the political reality, but I think it's very important that we do not in the end say that we shouldn't have at least some online learning.”
Board member Rod Lewis said, “I hope that we do have the opportunity to talk further about this issue. If you really look at what's happening in post-secondary institutions and the change that is occurring there, I think it is going to be increasingly important that we have students at the end of the day know how to take classes online effectively. That will be an increasing component of their post-secondary education and our goal is to prepare students for that time.”
Board member Richard Westerberg said, “All that being said, and I agree with all of that, the vote was not equivocal. It was a pretty strong vote from the populace, and it was very specific the way it was listed on the ballot. … I think … we need to reaffirm what the voters told us.”
Board member Don Soltman agreed; he chaired the board's subcommittee that set the two-courses rule. “The committee of the board that looked at this looked solely at coming up with a number of online requirements,” he said. “Without exception, every hearing that we had across the state, the issue always came up of … opposition to the law itself. And as we addressed those publics when we met, we explained to them that the law was in place, that the charge of the committee was only to identify the number of courses required under the law. But I can say without hesitation, at every hearing there was opposition to the law expressed.”
Luna said a “different process” is needed on the issue. “I do believe we made the right decision today,” he said.
Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls, president of the Idaho State Board of Education, said what the voters said last week “matters a great deal.” He said, “If people aren't satisfied with what we're doing, they're not going to support further change.”
The board will hold a special meeting Monday to vote on a series of rule changes, including possibly repealing the requirement that Idaho high school students take two online courses to graduate from high school; doing away with a funding scheme that automatically diverts school districts funds to online course providers if students opt to take courses online, with or without their school district's permission; and considering whether to reconsider rules regarding teacher and principal evaluations. Those follow voters' overwhelming rejection last week of Propositions 1, 2, and 3, repealing the “Students Come First” school reform laws that lawmakers enacted in 2011.
During the campaign, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, the author of the “Students Come First” laws, said repeatedly that the online graduation requirement wouldn't go away even if voters rejected Proposition 3, because it was in a state board rule.
Edmunds said, “I still believe that online education is part of the future. I am not certain that the two credits is necessarily the answer. It creates a one size fits all approach.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
There also are two other rule changes on the State Board of Education's agenda for Monday's special meeting that are a result of the rejection of the “Students Come First” laws by voters: One regarding “fractional ADA,” and another regarding teacher and principal evaluations. The agenda calls for fractional ADA to be repealed, while the evaluation issue may wait for input from stakeholders.
“Fractional ADA” refers to Average Daily Attendance, which is the basis on which school districts receive their state funding, as it's tied through a complex formula to the number of students. Under “fractional ADA,” which was repealed in Proposition 3 by voters last week, a portion of Idaho school districts' state funding is automatically diverted to an online course provider, if students or parents choose to take some of their courses online. The “Students Come First” laws allowed students to make that choice for up to half their high school course load, with or without the permission of their school district.
State Board spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney said that rule is legally required to be repealed, now that the state law authorizing the payments scheme has been repealed by voters. State Board Chairman Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls said, “That actually was the subject of discussion many times with superintendents and administrators and even with teachers, trying to understand what impact that had on them. It has a much deeper impact that I originally thought.” Said Edmunds, “The funding issues are very significant.”
The original “Students Come First” laws passed in 2011 allowed students to choose to take their entire high school course load online at state expenses under the fractional ADA formula; a 2012 revision cut that back to half their course load.
Idaho school teachers who earned $38.8 million in merit-pay bonuses last year under the now-repealed “Students Come First” school reform laws still must be paid those bonuses for their work last school year, according to an Idaho Attorney General's opinion released today by state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna. “This is very good news,” Luna said. “I've been trying to do pay for performance since I was elected in '06.”
But Luna had raised questions about whether the repeal of the laws on Nov. 6 might stop the state's ability to make the payments for last year, which were scheduled to go out to school districts on Nov. 15. The legal opinion, signed by Deputy Attorney General Andrew J. Snook, found that the effective date of the repeal of the law is Nov. 21, when Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa will convene the board of canvassers to certify the election results, after which Gov. Butch Otter will issue a formal proclamation. “Furthermore, the operative events that gave rise to teachers or administrators qualifying for Pay for Performance bonuses all occurred during the 2011-2012 school year,” the opinion said. Therefore, the law's provision that school districts can make the payments to teachers up to Dec. 15, 2012, still stands, as it's “merely ministerial” acts that occur between last school year and that date to get the payments made.
Voters overwhelmingly rejected all three referenda on the Nov. 6 ballot regarding the “Students Come First” laws, repealing all three laws. Proposition 2 was the merit-pay bonus plan.
The Twin Falls Times-News reports today that House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, has publicly announced his run for Speaker of the House, taking on current Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale. “It's time for a change,” Bedke told the newspaper. Leadership elections will take place at closed-door party caucuses Dec. 5, on the even of the 2013 Legislature's organizational session Dec. 6. Last week, Denney told the Idaho Statesman that he planned to “aggressively” campaign to keep his leadership post. You can read the Times-News' full report here from reporter Melissa Davlin.
The Legislative Council, the Legislature's leadership group that meets outside the legislative session, is gathered in the House Majority Caucus Room this morning; so far, it's heard reports on interim committees and task forces and discussed training sessions planned for new legislators this year - there are 33 out of 105. Plans include extensive new ethics training. Next up: A report from the Idaho Attorney General's office and legislative staff on the impact of voters' rejection of Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the school reform referenda.
I'll be on Idaho Public TV's “Dialogue” program tomorrow night, along with Greg Hahn, Gary Moncrief, and host Marcia Franklin, to discuss the election results. Among them: I've been looking at how we ended up with the exact same party split in the Legislature as before the election, 28 Republicans and 7 Democrats in the Senate, and 57 Republicans and 13 Democrats in the House.
Here's how: The Democrats picked up one seat in the House when Janie Ward-Engelking beat Julie Ellsworth. But that was offset by the Republicans' pickup of retiring Rep. Wendy Jaquet's seat in District 26, which was narrowly won by Steve Miller.
In the Senate, the Dems had a pickup when Branden Durst beat Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise. But the election of Rep. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, to the seat formerly held by Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, was a pickup for the Republicans, offsetting the other one.
Dialogue airs Friday at 8 p.m.; there's more info here.
Here's a link to my full day-after-the-election story at spokesman.com, on how after Idaho voters decisively rejected the “Students Come First” school reform laws on Tuesday, leaders on both sides were calling today for a new start on education reforms in Idaho, with all the stakeholders at the table.
House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, told Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey today that he's planning to “aggressively” campaign for another term as speaker - though popular Assistant majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, also is seeking the post. “The game is on,” Denney said. “We know the players.” The campaigning starts Sunday at the Legislature's North Idaho tour, which runs through Tuesday in Lewiston and Moscow and which nearly all lawmakers are expected to attend; you can read Popkey's full post here.