Lights are on at the state Capitol this morning, though it's an official state holiday, Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day. The Legislature, which doesn't take holidays, is in session.
Legislative Services Director Jeff Youtz makes his budget presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, the first of an array of hearings on state agency budgets that are showing the results of recent budget cuts. Under Gov. Butch Otter's budget proposal, more cuts lie ahead both this year and next.
Larry Johnson, manager of investments for the state's Endowment Fund Investment Board, pitches a rule change to lawmakers to charge school districts for the guarantees the board issues for school bonds. Lawmakers rejected the controversial proposal.
An array of social justice groups sponsored a rally on the east steps of the Capitol on Monday morning to release a report on racial equity in Idaho.
Onlookers fill the state Capitol rotunda for Idaho's official Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day ceremony on Monday.
State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna addresses a charter school rally on the Capitol steps on Monday afternoon.
Idaho Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong tells the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Tuesday morning that budget cuts are having such severe impacts on his department, at a time of soaring caseloads, that he can no longer accomplish "good public policy" in implementing the cuts.
Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, proposes the "Idaho Health Freedom Act" to a House committee. The bill would ban the state from enforcing requirements to purchase health insurance, and require the state Attorney General to go to court to fight such requirements.
First Lady Lori Otter announces the launch of new ads for the Idaho Meth Project. The drug-prevention project is claiming some success based on recent poll results; while privately funded, it's received $1.5 million from the state in the past two years and Gov. Butch Otter is proposing another half-million next year.
Idaho Health & Welfare division administrator Kathleen Allyn describes the impact of budget cuts on various Health & Welfare programs.
Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, proposes legislation to permit sampling of hard liquor, along the lines of a wine-tasting law that passed five years ago. The samplings could occur only at a distillery or a licensed bar.
Members of the Legislature's Joint Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee hear from the governor's chief economist, Mike Ferguson, on Wednesday and prepare to choose a revenue estimate on which to base the state budget for next year. Lawmakers are more pessimistic than Otter about future state tax revenues.
Mike Ferguson, chief economist for Gov. Butch Otter, answers questions from lawmakers about the state's revenue outlook on Wednesday.
Members of the Joint Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee mix and discuss during a 10-minute break before a key vote Wednesday.
Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, D-Prichard, spoke out in the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday morning in favor of legislation to do away with a tax return checkoff that allows taxpayers to direct $1 of their taxes to the political party of their choice. Shepherd said the state needs all the money in its general fund it can get; the bill passed the committee 16-1 and headed to the full House.
Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Daniel Eismann presents his "State of the Judiciary" address to the Idaho House. He also spoke to the Idaho Senate on Thursday.
Roger Christensen, chairman of the state's Catastrophic Health Care Fund board, tells the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee about the fund's soaring bills to cover health crises for Idahoans who have nowhere else to turn, and aren't eligible for Medicaid or other assistance programs.
Wayne Hammon, Gov. Butch Otter's budget director, talks about the governor's plans to phase out state funding over the next four years for a half-dozen state agencies, including the Idaho Human Rights Commission.
Pam Parks, director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission, addresses legislative budget writers as the commission faces a proposal to phase out its state funding. Parks said the commission is looking for ways to reorganize and possibly move under the state Department of Labor.
Former state Sen. Robbie Barrutia, interim director of the State Independent Living Council, talks about the council's accomplishments in a budget hearing Friday morning. The council is among several agencies Gov. Butch Otter has proposed for a four-year phaseout of state funding; the council also receives federal funds.
Margie Gonzales, executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, presents her budget to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Friday. Gov. Butch Otter is proposing phasing out state funding for the commission over the next four years.
Veterans fill much of the JFAC hearing room on Friday for the budget hearing for the state Division of Veterans Services.
Gov. Butch Otter and state Parks Director Nancy Merrill announce a plan to trim costs at the state parks department, but not eliminate it.
Gov. Butch Otter, left, and Parks Director Nancy Merrill, right, discuss the proposed new "business model" for Idaho's state parks on Friday.
Don Weilmunster, president of the Idaho Parks Foundation, said he was relieved when Gov. Butch Otter decided not to eliminate the state parks department. The foundation helped coordinate the gift of Harriman State Park to the state in the 1960s; one of the gift's conditions was formation of a professional state parks department.
Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said she thinks lawmakers should consider cutting their own health benefits just as the state has cut health benefits for other part-time state employees; lawmakers get full-time benefits, but are considered part-time.
Human rights marchers flow into the state Capitol after rallying on the Boise City Hall steps on Monday, while a Tea Party rally took place on the Capitol steps, the usual site of the Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day rally.