Posts tagged: Idaho State Police
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has appointed Lt. Col. Ralph Powell director of the Idaho State Police, also elevating Powell to the rank of colonel. Powell has been acting director since Col. Jerry Russell retired in January; he’s been deputy director since 2012 and is a 30-year ISP veteran. Click below for Otter’s full announcement.
Col. Jerry Russell, director of the Idaho State Police since January of 2007, plans to retire on Jan. 18, Gov. Butch Otter announced today. “I couldn’t have asked for a better director, a better leader or a better example of a true public servant than I’ve had with Jerry Russell,” Otter said. “I regret losing him, but I know that one of his priorities has been establishing and maintaining a strong bench of leaders at ISP who can continue his great work. … I wish him the best in all his future endeavors.” Click below for Otter's full announcement.
Forty percent of marijuana seizures in Idaho consist of Oregon medical marijuana, according to Idaho State Police records - legal in that state in the right circumstances, but not for anyone across the border in Idaho. On the stretch of I-84 where ISP Trooper Justin Klitch patrols, it's 53 percent, the AP reports. That's led to an odd phenomenon on the Idaho border, in which longtime Idahoans risk arrest to go home from picking up their pot in Oregon, and they often get caught. “It's like crossing the Berlin Wall,” an Idaho woman told AP reporter Nigel Duara. “It's like going into another country.” Click below for Duara's full report.
The Idaho State Police have announced that a veteran state trooper who was sharply criticized in an Idaho Supreme Court decision issued Friday - for offering false testimony that helped land a North Idaho man a 25-year prison term for murder - has been placed on administrative leave with pay. Here's the ISP's statement:
“With the May 27th announcement of the Idaho Supreme Court's decision in State of Idaho v. Jonathan W. Ellington, the Idaho State Police is fully aware of the significant issues involved with this case. As is standard procedure, the ISP has started an Administrative Investigation into the issues identified by the Idaho Supreme Court. The ISP regards this as a serious matter and fully intends to complete a thorough investigation. The involved employee has been placed on administrative leave with pay, and since this investigation involves a current employee in a personnel matter, the ISP will not be able comment further.”
The unanimous high court decision said, “It is extremely disturbing to this Court that an officer of the law would present false testimony in any case, especially a murder case. In this case, however, it is impossible to believe there was any truth to the testimony of Cpl. Rice. It is abhorrent to this Court, as it would be to any other court, that a man can be sentenced to twenty-five years for second-degree murder based primarily on the false testimony of a trooper of this State.” The court tossed out the conviction and sentence, which stemmed from a road-rage incident, and ordered a new trial.
The Idaho State Police will begin using an electronic system to issue traffic citations starting July 1, with the result that the process of writing out a citation for a stopped motorist will drop from 5 minutes to less than a minute. “E-Ticketing will bring vast improvements to a process that hasn’t had any major changes in the past 50 years,” said ISP Capt. Eric Dayley, who’s overseeing the statewide project. Troopers will use hand-held bar code scanners to input driver’s license and vehicle registration information, the citation will be printed out and handed to the driver without need for a signature from the driver, and the citation will be transmitted electronically to the computer databases for the courts and ISP.
Dayley said the new system, funded by a $900,000 federal grant last fall, will increase accuracy as well as speeding up the citation process. “This will result in reduced time on the side of the highway for our troopers and the public, which is safer for both.”
If the Idaho State Parks & Recreation Department got no replacement for the gas tax money it’s now receiving for off-road recreation, it’d lay off 10 people and endanger programs that now result in grants to local government entities - $32 million over the last 20 years - and pay for everything from snowmobile trail grooming to boat ramps to trails to fixing roads and bridges at state parks. Dave Ricks, acting state parks director, told a legislative task force today that tourism is Idaho’s third-largest industry, and brings $3 billion a year into the state’s rural economies. The loss of recreation funding would impact that, he said.
The Idaho State Police has some suggestions for how to make up the loss of roughly $20 million from its budget when gas tax funds the ISP now receives shift to highways in a year: Raise vehicle registration fees by $5, to generate $8 million; raise driver’s license fees by $5 to generate $1.7 million; place a surcharge on tires, batteries, vehicle and other transportation-related items, to generate up to $13 million; charge a half-percent fee on all new car sales to raise $10 million; raise transfer, new and out-of-state title fees by $5 to generate $2.7 million; and/or tap into the state’s general fund whenever other funding sources fall short. One catch: Some of those fees, including those for driver’s licenses and titles, already were increased by lawmakers this year.
The hole that looms to be filled in the Idaho State Police budget is actually larger than some may think, a legislative panel heard this morning. The fiscal year 2010 budget gives the ISP $15.7 million from the state highway fund, which largely comes from gas taxes; that will go away on July 1, 2010. But Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, noted, “We’ve gone down with both the parks and ISP budget the last two or three years. … Are we going to deal with what they’ve lost, or are we going to deal with what’s currently there today?” If the current gas tax funds are replaced for both agencies, he said, there’s “still a shortfall.” Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, responded, “An excellent question … I don’t know the answer to it. … The language in the resolution calls for us to replace the funds that were there, so that’s our first priority.”
Legislative budget analyst Dick Burns told the task force that the highway fund money available to ISP has fallen significantly short, prompting the Legislature to make up part of the shortfall from an ISP personnel fund and part from state general funds. “The revenues will not be there to support that,” Burns told the panel. In fiscal year 2009, he said, “We supplied over $3 million in general fund money to purchase cars and so forth. … To do it right may require in the area of $20 million to $21 million.” Cameron commented, “We see a little bit of the depths of the problem.”
When the legislative task force ended up with time for some comments from the public this morning, off-road enthusiast Tom Crimmins of Hayden Lake was the first to step to the podium. “I recognize that you have a difficult task and challenge ahead of you - I wish you well,” he told the lawmakers. He said recreationists look forward to working with the lawmakers, but they’re none too happy. “Beginning in 1963, the recreational community agreed up-front … that giving out a bunch of $10 and $12 refunds cost the state more than it should,” he said. Those were refunds for gas tax paid on gas that never got burned on the roads, because it went into recreational, off-road use for boats, snowmobiles, dirt bikes or other off-road vehicles. So recreationists agreed to pay the tax, as long as the portion they paid was designated for trails. “Now it appears that the Legislature has chosen to renege on their part of the deal,” Crimmins told the panel. That puts recreationists in the position of either trying to get that decision reversed - his preference - or asking for their refunds back.
“I understand the Legislature’s reluctance to raise fuel taxes in this economic climate,” Crimmins told the task force. But if the task force is going to identify new funding sources, “It still appears to be a tax on somebody - it’s just a smaller target,” he said. Task force Co-Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, responded, “Frankly, it wasn’t my idea to make the transfer the way it’s done.” But, he said, “The way I read the task force requirements, our job is not to find a funding source for transportation. … That ship has sailed. Our job is to sort of fill the hole that was created last year.”
Crimmins suggested perhaps tapping the sales taxes that are paid on boats and other off-road vehicles and their parts and accessories to replace the trails funding, but Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, noted that those sales tax proceeds now go to the state’s general fund - so the result would be tapping the general fund. “There’s already a shortfall,” he said. “I guess that’s the old adage of robbing Peter to pay Paul.” Crimmins said, “If the Legislature chooses not to increase taxes, which is what they did, and now they appoint a committee of eight folks to find a way to increase taxes on a smaller group of folks, that seems to me to be somewhat disingenuous.”
Crimmins was followed by four other off-road recreation enthusiasts. Sandra Mitchell of the Idaho State Snowmobile Association told the panel Idahoans treasure their recreational use of public lands, and it boosts not only their qualify of life but also the state’s economy. “They took away timber for the most part, they took away mining, but what they left was recreation,” the former staffer for then U.S. Sen. Steve Symms told the task force. Recreationists are proud, she said, that “we pay our own way,” in part through the gas tax. “We believe it is a fair and equitable use of fuel tax that’s burned off-road.” Karen Crosby of the Idaho Recreation Council warned that the funds now provide matching money for federal grants that have paid for recreational trails all over the state.
Recreationists were there in force at today’s legislative task force meeting, many wearing specially printed-up name tags that said in bright red above their names, “Hello,” and below their names, “I WANT MY GAS TAX BACK.” The Idaho Recreation Council printed them up, said Wendy Coome of the Back Country Horsemen, along with bumper stickers to match - and she promised there’ll be plenty of them seen around the state. Speaking on behalf of “the equine users of the back country,” Coome told the panel that several years ago, horse groups proposed legislation to impose a tax on horse trailers to fund equestrian trails. “We were shot down,” she said. “We were offering you a source of funding, and it never made it out of committee. Somebody might want to go back and look at that again.” She said the bill had an agricultural exemption, but the Idaho Farm Bureau and the Cattlemen’s Association opposed it anyway. “We had a majority of all the horse groups behind us,” she said.
Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, said he’d like to take a look at that proposal right away.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, spoke out sharply after Sen. Dean Cameron’s opening remarks at a legislative task force meeting this morning, objecting to Cameron’s statements that the task force can’t simply shift funding for state parks and the Idaho State Police to the general fund when the agencies lose gas tax funding in a year. “I am troubled by your statements,” Labrador told Cameron. “It sounds like you’ve already decided what we’re going to do, so I’m not sure what we’re doing here.” Cameron said, “I apologize that you’re troubled,” but said he was relying on the wording of the legislation that created the panel. It instructs the panel to identify “dedicated” funding, which Cameron, co-chair of the Legislature’s joint budget committee, noted is budgetary “vernacular” for money that doesn’t come from the state’s general fund.
“I’ll be the first to tell you that if we’re unsuccessful, that does put the pressure on the general fund,” Cameron told Labrador, adding that he sees it as the panel’s job to avoid that. “I have no preconceived notions as to where that alternative funding source should come from,” Cameron said. “You will hear a presentation from the state police on some ideas they have. … They haven’t been investigated fully yet.” Cameron said today’s meeting should “lay a foundation” for the panel’s deliberations. “Does that give you any further ease, representative?” he asked Labrador. “I will listen to the presentation,” Labrador responded.
As the Legislative Task Force that’s charged with finding new funding sources for state parks and the Idaho State Police to replace gas taxes they’ll lose one year from tomorrow began its first meeting this morning, Co-Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, told the joint House-Senate panel that they must find money that’ll be available “on an ongoing basis,” which he called “a key phrase.” “It is not for us to come up with one-time money,” he told the lawmakers on the panel. The group also can’t turn back the clock to undo this year’s Legislature’s decision to shift the gas tax money away from the two agencies, he said. “That’s really not an option for us. Nor is it an option for us to shift responsibility to the general fund.” If the general fund must fill the gap, he said, “it will mean that this task force has failed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to work on failed task forces. I want to find a solution.”