Posts tagged: Lawerence Denney
The Federal Lands Interim Committee, a joint legislative interim committee co-chaired by Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, has scheduled a seventh public hearing, this one in Sandpoint on Sept. 12. That’s in addition to the six already scheduled over the next two months, including Sept. 11 in Kamiah and St. Maries; Oct. 9 in Idaho Falls and Soda Springs; and Oct 10 in Twin Falls and Hailey.
The move already has prompted a “jeer” from the Lewiston Tribune’s editorial page that Denney “just happens to be making a series of statewide swings at taxpayer expense, right in the middle of campaign season, including stops next month in Kamiah and St. Maries.” Denney, former speaker of the House and current House resources chairman, is running for Idaho Secretary of State; he faces Democrat Holli Woodings in the November election.
Denney said, “We thought that it was important that the people have their say in what they think about the state taking over title to the federal lands. And that was certainly always the plan – last year was to be fact-finding, this year was more public hearing.”
Winder, Denney’s co-chairman, said, “We have to report back to the 2015 session. So in trying to coordinate schedules, it was very difficult to get anybody to where we could get like two days together, actually going back to July or August.” Denney said the pre-election timing “wasn’t my choice,” saying, “I would like to have started way earlier, because it’s going to take time away from me right when I think I need it most in the campaign. … I think it was just logistics.”
Asked why the panel is heading to small towns like Soda Springs, Kamiah and St. Maries, Denney said, “A lot of the people who want to come and testify are from these more rural areas, and why make them travel? … They always have to travel.”
Winder said the Sandpoint session was added at the request of Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, who said her constituents “felt like it was too far to go to St. Maries to testify.”
The panel is charged, during its two years, to “undertake and complete a study of the process for the state of Idaho to acquire title to and control of public lands controlled by the federal government.” It’s already spent more than $41,000 on legal fees to Bill Myers, a Boise attorney and former solicitor general for the Department of the Interior, whom it hired to advise it.
Winder said, “We’re already pretty confident that from a legal perspective, we don’t stand on very firm ground if it were a matter of litigating. But we do think there are alternatives available to us in existing laws and potential for congressional changes in how the states interact with the federal agencies that manage public lands. … We think it’s worth the effort.”
Rep. Lawerence Denney, the Republican candidate for Idaho Secretary of State, sent out a guest opinion today responding to last week’s article from Democratic opponent Holli Woodings ripping Denney for hiring a private attorney with public funds to represent the Legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee. Denney calls Wooding’s piece “an insult to the people of Idaho,” and charges that she had her facts wrong.
“My opponent’s statement makes several false claims,” Denney writes. “Chief among them is the charge that I bypassed committee members by hiring private counsel to determine how Idaho could best seek to recover its public lands from the Federal Government. That assertion is patently false and my opponent knows it.” Denney said the decision was made by himself and his co-chairman, Sen. Chuck Winder, along with the speaker of the House and the president pro-tem of the Senate, and that’s what legislative rules required.
He also notes that he wasn’t a party to the lawsuit to close Idaho’s GOP primary; defends his unsuccessful lawsuit to jettison his chosen member on Idaho’s citizen redistricting committee; says “many legal scholars” support pursuing transfer of federal public lands to states; and defends taxpayers’ payment of $100,000 for legal fees to attorney Christ Troupis for the closed-primary lawsuit. “This Democrat does not denigrate the fee claims of the attorneys for the gay marriage proponents against the State, even though the case never even went to trial and their fees are almost $500,000,” Denney writes. “It seems that this Democrat is only critical of Republicans defending their Constitutional rights. Unlike my opponent, I believe that everyone’s constitutional rights are entitled to a proper defense.” Click below for Denney’s full statement.
Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, is ripping her GOP opponent in the Secretary of State's race, Lawerence Denney, for hiring a private attorney with public funds to represent the Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee, after he and co-chair Sen. Chuck Winder didn't like the legal advice they got from the Idaho Attorney General's office on the chances for getting federal public lands transferred to the state. “Without consulting other committee members, Winder and Denney hired a private attorney who will be paid $41,000 in taxpayer dollars,” Woodings writes. “The other committee members learned of this decision only after Sen. Winder disclosed the hiring to Montana legislators.” That disclosure is detailed in an AP story here.
“Lawerence Denney has a history of spending public dollars on private lawyers when he’s looking for a specific outcome,” Woodings writes. “Now, with the federal lands committee, we again have Denney using taxpayer dollars to shop around for an attorney who will give him the opinion he wants.” Denney, R-Midvale, is the former speaker of the House; he was deposed as speaker in 2012, and became chairman of the House Resources Committee and co-chair of the land transfer panel. Click below for Woodings' full statement, sent to Idaho news media today; Denney hasn't yet responded to calls seeking his response.
Among the four GOP candidates facing off for the chance to become Idaho’s next Secretary of State, the three with experience in elective office made it clear in a televised debate last night that they see the one who lacks that as the front-runner.
Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney and former state Sens. Evan Frasure and Mitch Toryanski heaped criticisms on chief deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, the youngest candidate in the race and the one who’s been endorsed by retiring Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and many of Idaho’s 44 county clerks. “I didn’t accept any endorsements from (county) clerks,” Frasure said. “I think it’s inappropriate. … They are the referees. They need to stay out of partisan elections, clerks do.” County clerks, who oversee elections in their counties, are partisan elected officials in Idaho.
Toryanski said, “Unfortunately, Mr. McGrane put them in a very bad position. He persuaded them to use their position and their title to support his campaign,” while also advocating that the Secretary of State be fair and non-partisan in handling elections. “Phil says one thing but when it benefits him, he does another, and that bothers me,” Toryanski said.
McGrane responded, “I’m honored to have the support of Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and the majority of the clerks throughout the state.” He said, “It’s because of the great people who oversee this system that we put so much faith in it.”
The debate, sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho and broadcast statwide on Idaho Public Television, was part of the “Idaho Debates” leading up to Tuesday’s primary election. During the hour-long debate, McGrane took heat from his rivals for everything from his concerns about the closed primary to whether it’s better to making voting easier. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and see the full debate here at idahoptv.org.
Tonight is the final installment of the Idaho Debates: The sole debate in the GOP primary race for governor, with Gov. Butch Otter, Sen. Russ Fulcher, Harley Brown and Walt Bayes all scheduled to appear.
After a Statehouse press conference yesterday in which 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador and state Treasurer Ron Crane formally endorsed Lawerence Denney in the four-way GOP contest for Idaho Secretary of State, Denney sent out a news release questioning the ethics of current Secretary of State Ben Ysursa for endorsing one of his rivals, Phil McGrane. “I was surprised to see our current Secretary of State endorse somebody in this race,” Denney said. “Because of the appearance of conflict of interest, as Secretary of State, I will not serve as anyone’s campaign chairman for any campaign over which I serve as the chief election judge. Doing otherwise sends the wrong message for the chief elections officer.”
Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reports today that Ysursa said he doesn’t count ballots and isn’t playing favorites. “Within these walls, it’s all by the books,” he said. “I think I’ve proven that over 40 years. People who know me know that the fact that I think Mr. McGrane is the best candidate and should be nominated will have nothing to do with the duties of my office.”
Popkey also reported that when Ysursa ran for the post in 2002 after years as chief deputy to then-Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa, Cenarrusa endorsed Ysursa in the primary, in which he defeated GOP rival Evan Frasure. Frasure is running again this year, as is former Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise; the winner of the four-way GOP primary will face Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, in November.
Lawerence Denney, candidate for Idaho Secretary of State, has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday to announce endorsements from 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador and state Treasurer Ron Crane. Labrador is one of Denney’s three campaign co-chairs, he announced when he filed to run for the office on March 12. Denney also has posted endorsements on his website from 11 other state lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star.
Denney is one of four candidates vying for the GOP nomination for Secretary of State; the others are chief deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, former Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise, and former Sen. Evan Frasure, R-Pocatello.
Several stars from the A&E program “Duck Dynasty” appeared at a fundraiser for Idaho GOP secretary of state candidate Lawerence Denney on Saturday night, and Idaho Statesman reporter John Sowell reports that “several thousand” people attended the event at the Idaho Center, which seats 12,279. You can read Sowell’s full report here; he reports that Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, 67, clutching a Bible, told the crowd, “When this goes, your freedom goes with it.”
Close to two dozen “Add the Words” protesters protested outside; one counter-protester held a small sign saying, “Phil for President.” Sowell reports that Denney appeared briefly onstage to introduce several Robertson family members, and said he’d known the family for many years; his daughter Stephanie works for their family business, Duck Commander, and Alan Roberts, a minister, married Stephanie and her husband Jason. Last year, Phil Robertson was temporarily suspended from the show after making anti-gay comments in an interview with GQ magazine.
Meanwhile, Holli Woodings, a Democrat who also is running for Idaho secretary of state, sent out an email noting that Denney sold tickets for the campaign event for $47. “Why is that important? Because Idaho’s sunshine law requires candidates to report every contribution over $50,” she wrote. “Contributions under $50 don’t have to be disclosed. That means no one who attends this event will appear on Denney’s sunshine report. So why would someone who wants to be secretary of state – the very person in charge of upholding our sunshine laws – try to skirt the system?” Woodings said, “Denney isn’t technically breaking the law, but let’s face it – he’s definitely violating the spirit of the law.” She invited her supporters to send her $51 contributions – exceeding the reporting limit and requiring that the donations be disclosed.
Denney is in a four-way GOP race for secretary of state, an open post since longtime GOP Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is retiring; the other Republicans running are former state Sen. Evan Frasure, chief deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, and former Sen. Mitch Toryanski. Woodings is unopposed on the Democratic ticket; the primary is May 20.
Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, who is running for Secretary of State, was involved in a conflict that sparked accusations of theft, private work done on state time, political retribution, state contracts that benefited his family, undeclared conflict of interest and more – all involving the former employment of his wife, Donna, by a state agency, Idaho Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell reported in a Sunday story. To make the tale even more interesting, Donna Denney’s former boss was Kim Toryanski, wife of Denney’s GOP Secretary of State rival Mitch Toryanski, and former head of the Idaho Commission on Aging.
Sewell reports that Kim Toryanski told an Idaho State Police detective investigating the case that she resigned her position and went to work for another state agency due to “political pressures, particularly from Speaker Denney and his political allies.” The Denneys referred Sewell’s questions to their attorney, David Leroy.
There’s not usually a lot of news over the holidays, but there was some last week while I was gone. Here’s a quick roundup:
Wolf derby: A federal judge on Friday declined to block a “Predator Derby” scheduled over the weekend in Salmon targeting wolves and coyotes, ruling organizers weren’t required to get a special permit from the U.S. Forest Service. Idaho For Wildlife, the sponsoring group, reported that by the end of the derby yesterday, no wolves had been shot but 21 coyotes were.
Idaho airman killed: Sandpoint Air Force Capt. David Lyon died Friday in Kabul, Afghanistan, after his vehicle was hit by an explosion. Lyon, 28, was about a month away from completing his year-long deployment to Afghanistan; he was an Air Force Academy graduate, a five-year Air Force veteran, and a renowned track star at Sandpoint High School. There’s a full report here at spokesman.com.
Gay marriage: Four couples challenging Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban asked a federal judge on Thursday to block the state from intervening in their lawsuit, which was filed against Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Ada County Clerk Chris Rich. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden responded, “I have an obligation to defend the Constitution and the statutes of Idaho, and that's what we intend to do.” The Idaho case is developing as judges in New Mexico, Ohio and Utah have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.
Megaload rolls: A giant shipment of oil field equipment bound for the Canadian oil sands drew spectators and a handful of protesters as it moved into Idaho, spending a week in the Marsing area due to weather delays. It traveled nearly 100 miles over the weekend, moving only at night, but will take a break over the New Year’s holiday.
Bowl loss: Oregon State beat Boise State 38-23 in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, snapping a five-game losing streak for OSU. BSU played without starting quarterback Joe Southwick, who was sent home for a team rules violation, but then went public, saying he was wrongly accused of urinating off a hotel balcony and had taken a lie detector test to prove his innocence. It was an odd end to a tumultuous season for the Broncos, who just lost prized coach Chris Petersen to the University of Washington; new coach Bryan Harsin takes over after the bowl loss.
Duck politics: The A&E Network ended its suspension of Duck Dynasty reality show star Phil Robertson for his controversial remarks about homosexuality and race in a magazine interview, after the rest of the cast refused to go forward without him. Former Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney, who is running for Idaho Secretary of State, announced that his March fundraiser with Robertson will proceed as planned, saying, “Our family proudly stands in support of the Robertson family in its modeling and expression of our Christian family values and heritage.”
It’s become something of an endorsement war this week among the GOP candidates for Idaho Secretary of State, with Mitch Toryanski introducing Freda Cenarrusa, widow of longtime Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa, as his campaign chair; Evan Frasure touting endorsements from an array of lawmakers topped by Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis; and Lawerence Denney naming three honorary campaign chairmen: 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador for the Treasure Valley; former Sen. Don Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, for eastern Idaho; and GOP icon Ruthie Johnson for North Idaho.
Freda Cenarrusa joined Toryanski for his formal campaign kickoff in the state Capitol on Thursday. “Pete liked and trusted Mitch. And I like and trust Mitch Toryanski,” she said. “Mitch is what Pete and I like in a leader.” Mrs. Cenarrusa cited Toryanski’s commitment to family, his distinguished military career, and his government and business experience. “I respect Mitch Toryanski’s stellar record as a leader, a commander of troops, a father and a husband,” she said.
Frasure, who held his formal campaign kickoff the same day in Pocatello, named backers including Sens. Fred Martin, R-Boise; John Tippets, R-Montpelier; McCammon Republicans Sen. Jim Guthrie and Rep. Kelly Packer; and three Bannock County commissioners, and the mayors of Pocatello and Chubbuck. He’s a former longtime state senator who is making his second run for Secretary of State after losing to Ben Ysursa in 2002; he also served on the Idaho Citizens Redistricting Commission. Now a high school government teacher, Frasure was a real estate broker for 30 years.
Denney, launched his campaign Oct. 24 – well before current Secretary of State Ben Ysursa announced he wouldn’t seek another term – said of his new honorary campaign chairs, “These close friends are well-respected politically, have great connections and are tremendous, hard-working people that anyone would be proud to have on their campaigns.”
Chief Deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, who launched his campaign Dec. 10 with the backing of an array of county clerks from across the state, also is in the race. Still considering it are Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Rep. Holli High Woodings, D-Boise.
Sure, Butch Otter is bringing in big GOP political star Chris Christie for a fundraiser tonight at the Coeur d'Alene Resort, but former House Speaker Lawerence Denney has stars of his own headed to Idaho for a fundraiser for his campaign for Secretary of State: The main characters from the popular “Duck Dynasty” reality show on A&E, who'll talk family values in a stadium show in March and visit with Denney supporters at a VIP reception. “They’re good family-values people and we’re happy to have ‘em coming,” Denney said.
Pulling in out-of-state star power to boost a campaign isn’t uncommon, notes Boise State University emeritus professor Jim Weatherby, especially for a top office like governor. He pointed to presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s campaigning with movie star Chuck Norris, and declaring that he was “Chuck Norris approved.” Christie “certainly has star power,” Weatherby said. “He’s an excellent speaker and I suspect will draw a big crowd.”
As for Denney’s race, Weatherby said, “It’s a little hard sometimes to get a lot of excitement for some of the elected positions like Secretary of State.”
Denney said he put in an offer to get the famously bearded TV stars to come out, and was surprised when they accepted. He’ll pay them a flat fee, and they’ll present “Happy, Happy, Happy: An Evening with A&E’s Duck Dynasty” at the Idaho Center in Nampa on March 29, 2014. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Former Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney, whose pension benefits would soar by more than seven times if he wins his bid for Secretary of State, personally killed legislation last year designed to end the costly special treatment for longtime legislators who land high-paying government posts at the end of their careers. “He’s the one that made sure the bill died,” said former state Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, the bill’s sponsor.
Idaho legislators, who are currently paid $16,438 a year, qualify for only modest pension benefits under the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho, or PERSI, because of their low salaries; based on his nine terms in the House, Denney, 65, would get about $500 a month per life. But a quirk in the law means that if Denney were to serve one four-year term as Secretary of State after his years of legislative service, his benefit would rise to more than $3,600 per month. That’s because PERSI sets retirement pensions based on the highest-paid 42 months of state employment. The current salary for the Idaho Secretary of State, by law, is $99,450 a year.
Denney acknowledged that he directed a committee chairman to scuttle Lake’s bill in 2012. “We have a citizens commission that sets legislative compensation,” he said. “And they are the ones that should be dealing with all of that, in my opinion. … That was passed to take the politics out of it, and if we get involved, we’re putting the politics back into it.” However, the chair of that citizens commission, Boise attorney Debora Kristensen, said the commission never was asked to look at the issue – and she doesn’t think it’s within their purview.
Lake, who retired from the Legislature after the 2012 session, said he still thinks Idaho should eliminate the pension perk for former lawmakers. “It’s absolutely wrong for a legislator to be able to accumulate time as a legislator, and then collect their pension as a high-paid executive,” he said. “That’s wrong.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
If former House Speaker Lawerence Denney were to serve one four-year term as Secretary of State after his many years of legislative service, his state retirement pension, for life, would rise from roughly $500 a month to more than $3,600 a month. That’s because the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho sets retirement pensions based on the highest-paid 42 months of state employment – and state legislators, who now make a little over $16,000 a year, who move up to higher-paid, year-round jobs at the end of their careers can count all those lower-paid years of legislative service for retirement. The current salary for the Idaho Secretary of State, by law, is $99,450 a year.
Then-Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, proposed legislation in 2012 to end that pension-boosting perk for state legislators, saying legislative service should be counted only as part-time employment in retirement calculations, but it was blocked by then-Speaker Denney. Lake retired from the Legislature after that year’s session.
Denney, 65, wouldn’t be the first to take advantage of the perk, which has boosted the retirement of every longtime state lawmaker who ended his or her career in a higher-paid, full-time state job. Denney’s announcement today, however, brings new attention to the perk; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, now a GOP state representative from Midvale, is flying around the state today in a neighbor’s Cessna 182, making stops to announce his run for Idaho Secretary of State in Idaho Falls, Boise and Coeur d’Alene. But he sent no advance notice to the press of the announcement tour, nor did he post notice of it on his campaign website or the Idaho Republican Party’s online events calendar. In fact, Denney’s campaign website still says he’s Speaker of the House, a position from which he was ousted by his own caucus in 2012, and the most recent news item posted on the site as of this afternoon, from October of 2012, urges a yes vote on Propositions 1, 2 and 3 in the November 2012 election – the election in which voters overwhelmingly rejected all three propositions, repealing state schools Superintendent Tom Luna’s “Students Come First” reform laws.
The Secretary of State is responsible for some of the most closely watched websites in Idaho – the sites on which candidacies and election results are announced, campaign finance reports are posted amid firm deadlines, and more. Asked about his qualifications for that aspect of the job, Denney said, “I can tell you that I don’t think the current secretary of state does that either. I think he has a staff that does, and certainly I’m not going to make wholesale changes in the staff.” He said the staff does a good job.
Denney said updates to his campaign website will be up “shortly.” He said he planned today’s announcement tour now because of the good weather. “We picked this day 10 days out, and we are very, very fortunate,” he said. “It’s a beautiful day.”
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, who was among those attending former House Speaker Lawerence Denney’s statehouse campaign kickoff today for his bid for Idaho secretary of state, said he’s backing Denney in his run. “It’s my understanding that (current GOP Secretary of State Ben) Ysursa wasn’t going to run before we started,” Moyle said. “I’m with Denney.”
“I think that Ben got sideways with the party on some issues,” he said, but added, “I like the fact that Ben speaks his mind and he does what’s right.”
Asked about another recently announced statewide candidate – Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who’s exploring a primary challenge to Gov. Butch Otter – Moyle said he’s not on board with that one. “I wouldn’t support Fulcher, no,” he said. “Gov. Otter has said he’s running again. Gov. Otter has done a good job. Ben has said he’s not running again, or implied that. I’m with Butch.”
About 25 backers, including a half-dozen GOP state lawmakers, joined former House Speaker Lawerence Denney in the Statehouse rotunda today to launch his campaign for Idaho Secretary of State. Flanked by family members including wife Donna, Denney said, “Donna and I have been prayerfully considering this move for quite some time … and we have decided that now is the time.” Denney said if elected, he’d work to stop the state Land Board from acquiring commercial property as part of the state endowment; address unspecified problems in Idaho elections that he said he’s heard about from people around the state; and oppose any move to a vote-by-mail system in Idaho. “Sure vote by mail is easier and it’s cheaper, but we cannot protect the integrity of the ballot,” he said.
Backers muttered “that’s right” and “Amen” as Denney spoke; they included a black-clad Tony Snesko of Idaho Open Carry, who wore a gun on his hip in a tooled leather holster; former state Rep. Bob Forrey; and current state lawmakers Judy Boyle, Russ Fulcher, Mike Moyle, Joe Palmer, Jason Monks, Mark Patterson and Paul Shepherd.
Fulcher said, “Lawerence is a personal friend. We always served together pretty close when he was speaker; I just think the world of him.” Fulcher is currently exploring a primary challenge to GOP Gov. Butch Otter.
Denney said before he began exploring a run, he met with current GOP Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and asked him “whether or not he was running, because I had heard that he was not, and his answer was that he was undecided, and I think he’s still undecided.”
Asked why he picked this position to run for, Denney, a farmer and ninth-term state lawmaker, said, “I think Secretary of State is a fit for me, and certainly, the rumor that was out there that the current secretary was not running weighed in our decision, so we started traveling and checking out the possibilities there, and that’s why we decided to do it.” Denney said for now, Boyle is the head of his campaign.
In one of the weirdest launches of a statewide political campaign recently, former Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney apparently is going around the state announcing his candidacy for Secretary of State today - but he hasn't announced his appearances, informed the press or even posted anything on his campaign website, on which the info as of last night was so out of date it still said he's speaker of the House, a post he lost a year ago when he was ousted by current Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. Former state Rep. Janice McGeachin posted on her Facebook page yesterday that Denney would be announcing in Idaho Falls this morning, and now there are photos floating around on Twitter showing that he did so. Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, called the AP yesterday and said Denney would announce at the Capitol today at 12:30. He didn't return calls from Eye on Boise yesterday inquiring about the announcement schedule.
Denney has been mulling a challenge of GOP Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who hasn't yet decided if he'll seek another term; the AP reports that several other GOP candidates also are considering the race. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Here's a news item from the AP and Idaho Statesman: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Three federal agencies spent $392 million in 2012 to manage 32 million acres of Idaho public land, according to a report illustrating costs Idaho would face by assuming oversight of a substantial swath of the territory. The Idaho Statesman (http://tinyurl.com/qjv3zvo ) reports the report was requested by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson from the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. State lawmakers are discussing a proposal to take over 16.4 million acres of federal land. Among them, Rep. Lawerence Denney says Idaho can manage it better than the federal government. After seeing Simpson's report, Denney concedes such a move could initially be difficult, but contends Idaho would eventually profit from increased logging and grazing. Environmental groups say Denney's revenue-boosting expectations are wildly exaggerated.
Catching up on some of the news from while I was gone over the past week:
DENNEY EYES HIGHER OFFICE: Former Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, filed initial paperwork to run for Idaho Secretary of State, an office long held by incumbent Ben Ysursa, a Republican; you can read an AP report here on Denney’s move. Ysursa hasn’t said yet whether he’ll be seeking re-election; in an email to Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey, he said, “I intend to make my future plans known within the next few weeks. Until then I really have no comment.”
STATE SURPLUS BIGGER THAN REPORTED? Former state chief economist Mike Ferguson has analyzed state revenues and concluded that in an apples-to-apples comparison, Idaho’s surplus is actually bigger than has been reported. At the close of fiscal year 2013 on June 30, the state’s general fund had an ending balance of $165.3 million, $105.3 million higher than expected at the end of the 2013 legislative session. After transfers to reserve accounts and taking into account law changes, Ferguson concludes, “The current DFM General Fund revenue forecast for FY 2014, at 2.1% growth over FY 2013 revenue, appears to be unduly pessimistic. At 3.1% revenue growth the ongoing General Fund surplus estimate would be $74.1 million, and at 4.1% revenue growth the ongoing surplus estimate would be $111.6 million.” You can read his full analysis here.
ONE INSURER WITHDRAWS: The only for-profit insurer scheduled to offer plans on Idaho’s exchange withdrew on Sept. 26; with Altius' exit, Idaho's remaining insurers will offer 61 plans for individuals, 55 small group health plans for small business, 13 individual dental plans and 17 small group dental plans. You can read about that move here.
COUNTY PAYMENTS EXTENDED: A one-year extension of the county payments under the Secure Rural Schools Act, the remainder of the Craig-Wyden law that has been offsetting millions lost to rural counties and school districts since federal timber harvests fell, cleared Congress and headed to the president’s desk – tucked into a bill about helium. “Passage of the Helium Stewardship Act is a victory for the entire state of Idaho,” said Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo; rural schools and counties would get $270 million under the bill. “This fix does not change the need for a long-term solution that provides a consistent mechanism for the federal government to meet its obligation to rural communities accommodating federal lands, and I will continue to work with Senator Risch and all my colleagues to achieve this objective,” Crapo said; you can read his full statement here.
Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney is the new chairman of the House Resources Committee. “I told Scott that I want to do anything that I can to help him be successful, and if a chairmanship was what he wanted, I'd do that,” Denney said. New Speaker Scott Bedke, who ousted Denney as speaker on Wednesday night, said yesterday that he wanted a “substantive” role for Denney, saying with the high number of freshman lawmakers in the House this year, “I feel very strongly that we don't have the luxury to not use our experienced legislators, including Rep. Denney.”
Denney, shown here talking with new House GOP Caucus Chair John Vander Woude, R-Meridian, said he considers the Resources Committee among the most important in a state like Idaho, but doesn't yet have specific issues he wants to address there. “It's still pretty new for me,” he said.
Denney said, “I think the founding fathers made this process a great process by having this organizational session a month before we started the regular session, to give us all a month to acclimate ourselves.” This year's session will include “some very substantive issues that we need to deal with, and with all the new people, I think it's going to start very slowly … while they're all learning the ropes,” he said.
For now, he said, leaving the House floor to head downstairs, “I've got to get down there and get trained to be a chairman.”
The Idaho House is back in session this morning to continue its organizational session; it just briefly convened before recessing. “We're almost done, trust us - we're almost there,” Majority Leader Mike Moyle told the House. “Stay close,” he said. “We'll recess for a few minutes.”
House GOP leaders are hoping to finalize committee assignments by 11 a.m. or so.