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Idaho Politics

Political and legislative news out of Idaho.

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Dems propose splitting Ada from Canyon in congressional district plan

Democratic redistricting Commissioner Julie Kane has proposed another new congressional district plan, C-37. This plan, like C-36, has a population deviation of just one person. "This plan keeps the counties whole except for a little jog there that pulls over precincts … to try to get to the one-person deviation," Kane said, in the Meridian area. It moves all of Canyon and Owyhee counties into the 1st District, along with Custer and Lemhi counties. Said Commissioner George Moses, "The only problem I see is if someone would rather divide Ada County even more than this plan does."

Commission Co-Chairman Evan Frasure said, "You're disturbing well over 300,000 people and moving counties around. … It certainly completely changes the character of both districts." He said, "You're moving a third of the state around. … I'm not so sure this is a solid plan."

"Everybody in the state still is going to have the same right to vote," Moses responded. "To suggest that any proposal deprives anybody of their right to representation is simply wrong." Said Frasure, "The point is that you're moving hundreds of thousands of people from one district to another. … This is a major departure from what we currently have. … Politically it accomplishes the goal of separating Canyon County from Ada." He said, "The fact is you're just moving hundreds of thousands of people to a new congressman." Said Kane, "All we're doing is getting it out there for discussion."

Finman proposes ‘Boise County North’ congressional district plan

GOP redistricting Commissioner Lorna Finman has proposed a new congressional redistricting plan, plan C-36. It's similar to the earlier GOP plan, but makes some shifts in the line; she called it the "Boise County North" plan. "It moves precincts out of the south and kind of moves things north," she explained. This plan has a population difference between the two districts of just one person. All of Boise County and all of Garden City would move to District 2. The dividing line between the two districts in Ada County, which would be the only county split, would follow Five Mile Road, Amity Road, Gowen Road and Pleasant Valley Road. Finman said it's a proposal that could perhaps, with a little more "tweaking," be brought to a zero population deviation between the two districts.

Of ‘bright lines’ and politics…

GOP redistricting Commissioner Lou Esposito said, "I do want to bring us back to what our original goals are. … I'm all in favor of finding the common ground." He said he's working on a plan that has more of a "bright line" between the 1st and 2nd congressional districts, as advocated by Democratic Commissioner George Moses, but it's not quite done yet. "I'm hoping today that we can have a 6-0 vote for congressional district lines," Esposito said. "I don't want to see this discussion evolve into a political debate."

Democratic Commissioner Julie Kane noted that C-34, the Democratic plan, would have 14.5 percent of the Hispanic vote in one district and 7.9 percent in the other; while C-33 would have the Hispanic vote more evenly split, 9.97 percent in District 1 and 12.47 percent in District 2. She said commissioners should consider that as a factor in their district plans, to make sure the Hispanic vote isn't being diminished by the way the lines are drawn. Commissioner Evan Frasure said, "Duly noted." The commission then broke for lunch and further work on plans; it'll reconvene at 2 p.m. Boise time.

‘Political consequences’ of congressional district plans…

Redistricting Commissioner George Moses said plan C-33, the GOP Five Mile Plan for congressional districts,  "does zig and zag around, and if you were to tell somebody how to figure out which districts they're in … you'd have to be very knowledgable." He said, "When people get confused, it tends to diminish their participation." Moses said the Democratic I-84 plan, C-34, creates a "bright and vivid line that everybody can recognize."

Commission Co-Chairman Evan Frasure said he thought C-34 was "inviting a lawsuit," because it unnecessarily splits two counties, Ada and Canyon. Plus, Frasure said, "It does have tremendous political implications." He said, "It's a brilliant political move … This clearly carves a nice district for a member of the minority party here in Idaho to run for Congress in the 1st District. If you haven't done that analysis, perhaps I can share it with you."

Moses responded, "There's no hidden agenda here that we're aware of." He said. "This one is all about a bright line." Frasure noted that C-33 has a zero population deviation, while C-34 has two districts that vary by 53 people, plus or minus. "The reality is anything over zero is going to have a problem, especially if it has political consequences," Frasure said.

Redistricters look at more plans…

Redistricting commissioners are back at work, and say they have at least three new plans to introduce before their lunch break, as far as where to draw the line between Idaho's two congressional districts. They're also reviewing existing plans C-33, C-34 and C-35.

Redistricting commission back at work…

Idaho's citizen redistricting commission has convened this morning, and briefly discussed comments received over the weekend on the four proposed congressional district plans it's currently considering. "It's clear to me that our partisans have spoken," said Commissioner George Moses, as the other commissioners chuckled. Said Commission Co-Chairman Evan Frasure, "I think that would be a fair analysis - I didn't see a whole lot of neutral testimony in there." The Republicans have proposed a "5 Mile" plan, C-33, moving the dividing line between districts 1 and 2 in Ada County two miles to the west, from Cole Road to Five Mile Road. The Democrats have proposed an I-84 plan, C-34, dividing both Ada and Canyon counties and using I-84 as the dividing line; in both those, North Idaho would remain in District 1, and eastern Idaho in District 2.

They were also considering C-22, a citizen-submitted plan that wouldn't divide any counties, and instead would divide the state vertically, making a new District 1 out of Canyon and Ada counties, and pairing North Idaho and eastern Idaho in a new District 2. Commissioner Julie Kane, who dubbed that plan the "Just Sayin'" plan, said, "There were a couple of people that liked that one, but I think that we're safe to throw that one out and narrow it down to three." Frasure responded, "Fair enough." The other plan, C-35, is a version of C-33, the GOP plan, that doesn't split any precincts.

Commissioner Lou Esposito said he's working on a revision of the 5 Mile plan and asked for a 45-minute recess to put the finishing touches on it; Frasure, who said he and Commissioner Lorna Finman also are working on plans, agreed; the commission will reconvene at 11 a.m. Boise time.

Idaho GOP central committee votes ‘no confidence’ in McGee after DUI

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Republicans have approved a motion giving Sen. John McGee a vote of no confidence following a drunken driving incident but postponed indefinitely a resolution calling for the Senate majority caucus chairman to resign his leadership position. The no-confidence motion approved by the Idaho GOP's state central committee on Saturday at its meeting in Moscow has no legal effect, but some members say it sends a message that they don't approve of what McGee did. McGee, of Caldwell, on July 1 pleaded guilty to drunken driving on June 19, and in exchange prosecutors agreed to drop a felony stemming from him taking a SUV that didn't belong to him. The Lewiston Tribune reports that committee members spent more time talking about McGee than any other single issue.

Here's the opening of the Lewiston Trib story, by reporters Bill Spence and Cody Bloomsburg: "MOSCOW — A resolution calling for Senate Majority Caucus Chairman John McGee to resign his leadership position was defeated at a state party meeting in Moscow on Saturday, but the group did give the Caldwell lawmaker a vote of no confidence. The Idaho Republican Party state central committee spent more time talking about the McGee resolution than any other single issue. It said the party “agrees with the will of the voters, who disapprove of and seek the resignation of any politician who drinks, steals and drives.” Initially it called for McGee to be censured and expelled from the central committee, but it was later amended to remove the expulsion clause." Click below for a full report.

Idaho GOP votes for caucus instead of presidential primary, approves controversial resolutions

Idaho's GOP Central Committee, at its meeting in Moscow today, approved moving to a caucus system – like the Idaho Democrats' – for its presidential delegate selection in 2012, making the state's presidential primary election meaningless for both parties. “It would just make it irrelevant,” said Jonathan Parker, Idaho GOP executive director. “So (Idaho Secretary of State) Ben (Ysursa) and I have talked about reaching out to the Democrats … (about) getting a bill through that would just eliminate it altogether.”

Today's GOP central committee meeting also saw 9 of 11 proposed resolutions approved, including a “China-Beachhead” resolution declaring that GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s “Project 60” trade-building initiative is a bid by the Chinese to take over Idaho’s sovereignty, and calling on the Legislature to look into it; a resolution to kick the EPA out of the Silver Valley and instead put the Idaho DEQ in charge of mining contamination cleanup there; and a resolution to study a gold currency to replace the “failing” U.S. dollar. Also approved by the Idaho Republican Party's central governing body:  A resolution from the Boundary County GOP to prevent school districts from running tax levy votes for a year after one fails; one from GOP Vice Chair Todd Hatfield to forbid the state Land Board from “investing in or owning any business that competes in the private sector;” and one from William Roberts of Boise County to push Otter to back gun rights including allowing firearms on state college campuses.

A resolution from John Blattler, Boise County GOP chairman, to back a since-abandoned proposed rule change to have county party committees screen primary election candidates, was pulled “because obviously it was irrelevant,” Parker said. And a measure backing more high-tech efforts by county parties passed with amendments, while one backing Idaho Fish & Game rules for ATV use by hunters cleared the resolutions committee, but was pulled before it went to the full central committee. “A lot of people thought it needed more debate,” Parker said. “It will probably be brought up again.”

The GOP meeting saw lots of debate – the resolutions committee debated for two and a half hours, and the full meeting ran 'til 5:30 p.m., when it was supposed to be over by 3:30. “I thought it was great - it was a very energetic crowd, lively debate,” Parker said. The meeting, he said, reinforced to him that the Idaho GOP is a “party of ideas,” because “ideas were discussed and debated.”

Redistricters want public comment, will take up again Monday morning

Idaho's bipartisan citizen redistricting commission has decided to adjourn until Monday morning at 10, "in light of all the good material we've got to digest," in the words of Co-Chairman Evan Frasure. Said Commissioner George Moses, "We would invite public comments on all that has gone on today, including the four (proposed congressional district plans) that we have under active discussion or any other submissions. That would be very welcome."

Full breakdown on impact of Keough-Broadsword legislative district plan…

A detailed analysis of proposed legislative redistricting plan L-16, which was submitted this week by North Idaho Sens. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, shows a slightly different impact on incumbents than originally estimated. Here's the breakdown: Under that proposed new legislative district plan for the Panhandle, the new District 1 would contain the same incumbent lawmakers it has now. The new District 2 would have Broadsword along with both current District 3 representatives, Reps. Phil Hart, R-Athol, and Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens.

The new District 3 would have only one incumbent, Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls. The new District 4 would have two incumbent senators - Sens. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, and Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens - and one incumbent representative, Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d'Alene. And the new District 5 would be something of a battleground, with just one incumbent senator, Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene; but four incumbent representatives: Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene; Marge Chadderdon, R-Coeur d'Alene; Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries; and Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton.

Fourth redistricting plan submitted

Redistricting Commissioner Evan Frasure has submitted congressional district plan C-35, which is identical to the GOP's earlier plan but doesn't split precincts. There are now four plans on the table for the commission. Commissioner George Moses raised the possibility of leaving all four out for public comment over the weekend, rather than picking one and voting on it now. GOP commissioners then asked for a five-minute recess.

Dems point to citizen plan that creates Ada-Canyon district

Democratic redistricting commissioners have also pointed to one of the plans submitted from the public, C-22. "We selected this from among the public plans - it divides no counties, divides no precincts, and it is contiguous and compact," said Commissioner George Moses. Commissioner Julie Kane said she's calling it the "I'm just sayin'" plan.

Said Moses, "This is the only one that combines the Treasure Valley into a single district, the largest community of interest in this state." Plan C-22 puts Ada and Canyon counties in District 1, then combines a vertical swath of the state to make a District 2 that stretches from southeastern Idaho up north, and includes all of North Idaho from Riggins north.

That plan has a population deviation of plus or minus 278 people. GOP Commissioner Lou Esposito said, "We looked very closely at this plan. Unfortunately when you really look at the logistics of how this is drawn, there's really no way to get there from here, if you're in Pocatello and you want to get to Coeur d'Alene without going through the 1st CD." Kane noted that the state law requiring roads to connect districts applies to legislative districts, not congressional districts.

Gilmore: ‘Either plan would be defensible’

Redistricting Commission Co-Chairman Evan Frasure asked Deputy Attorney General Mike Gilmore which of the two proposed Idaho congressional district plans - the Republican plan, C-33, with zero population deviation and one county split, or the Democratic plan, C-34, with a population deviation of 53 people and two county splits - would stand up better to a legal challenge. "Zero is more defensible than 53, and one county split is more defensible than two county splits," Gilmore responded. "But … it is a decision for this body, not for your legal counsel, because I think either plan would be defensible."

Dems’ plan splits both Canyon and Ada, uses I-84 as dividing line

Democratic Redistricting Commissioner Julie Kane said, "For discussion purposes, I would like to submit a plan as well. … I would call it the I-84 plan." The Democratic plan has a deviation between the two congressional districts of plus or minus 53 people, .01 percent. "This plan divides two counties, Canyon and Ada," Kane said. "We tried to follow the highway, which we felt was the biggest geographical marker in that area." Kane, an attorney, noted that the Idaho constitutional provision against dividing counties applies to legislative districts - not to congressional districts. The Dems' plan pulls Owyhee County into District 2.

GOP submits ‘5 Mile Plan’ for dead-even Idaho congressional districts

Commissioner Lorna Finman has submitted a GOP congressional district plan, which keeps the 1st and 2nd congressional districts essentially as they are now, just moving the line in Ada County west two miles from Cole Road to Five Mile Road. "We call it the Five Mile Plan," Finman said. Commisioner Evan Frasure said, "That is zero deviation, and that is the cleanest one I could come up with." The line was shifted at its south end in a sparsely populated area near Blacks Creek Reservoir and I-84, to shift the final 56 people to reach zero deviation. "The nice thing is it shouldn't be too confusing because nobody lives out there," Frasure said. The northern line between the two districts would stay where it's been for the past 40 years, he said.

"It does divide the one county," Ada County, Frasure said. But Idaho has divided Ada between its two congressional districts for the past 40 years.

Commission wrestles with one big question in drawing congressional districts: Split Ada or no?

Idaho's citizen redistricting commission is hearing from the state attorney general's office this morning about legal precedents on population variance between congressional districts, and on splitting counties between congressional districts. "The zero deviation does seem to be preferred by the court," Deputy Attorney General Megan Mooney told the commission, and Deputy Attorney General Mike Gilmore concurred. "So the bottom line is the more equal you can get 'em, the better for the voter," said Commissioner Julie Kane.

It matters because the big question in dividing Idaho into two congressional districts is whether to continue to divide Ada County between the two districts, as it has been since 1971, or whether to move it fully into one district or the other, which would dictate a much different division of the state. Here's the issue: Idaho can be divided into two districts without splitting any counties, with a difference of plus or minus 278 people between the two districts - a very low deviation. But with a split of Ada County, it can be divided into two exactly equal districts, which identical numbers of people in each.

Commissioner George Moses said, "I'm very concerned that we're going to get stampeded into zero or nothing. This is a political process, and we should not be afraid to make political decisions. … I'm wondering if we're not raising the specter of a lawsuit far higher than it ought to be realistically." Commissioner Lou Esposito asked Gilmore, "Are we better off to go to the zero deviation, with dividing a county, because that's our best position?" Gilmore responded, "That I believe is an essentially political decision and not a legal decision. And the reason I say that is, it is clear that you can go to zero to meet equal protection challenges. But it is also clear that U.S. Supreme Court case law has affirmed deviations as high as the 270s, if it's done to meet an articulable state standard."

Redistricting commission wraps up for today; take up again in morning

The redistricting commission will convene again in the morning; after reviewing all the public plans submitted today, commissioners had questions, including: If the public can come up with plans that divide Idaho into two congressional districts with exactly even numbers of people, to avoid legal challenge, must the commission meet that same standard? And if the public can come up with plans that don't divide counties and still vary only by 556 people between the two districts, must the commission meet that standard, too? Deputy Attorney General Mike Gilmore will report back to the commission in the morning on legal precedents, and the commission's staffers will report on how other states have approached that issue this year.

29 Idahoans have submitted proposed congressional district plans

Among the 29 proposed congressional district maps submitted to the citizens redistricting commission by members of the public are some that split Ada County, as do the current districts; some that put all of Ada County in District 1 while moving all of Canyon and Owyhee counties into District 2; some that try to avoid all county splits; and some that try to make the two districts very closely matched in population - one, C15 from Alex de la Torre, had them dead-even. "This plan essentially keeps the status quo as much as possible," de la Torre wrote about his district plan. "Overall it is an incumbent protection plan." Another plan, C13 from Larry Cravens, would avoid county splits, while coupling eastern and northern Idaho together in District 1, with Ada, Canyon, Elmore, Twin Falls and Owyhee counties in District 2; that would put current 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador in District 2, and current 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson in District 1. You can see all the plans here.

Commission Co-Chairman Evan Frasure said, "I want to compliment the public - they're following our requests. I hope they're this detailed when it comes to the legislative ones."

Idaho GOP backs off plan to screen primary candidates

Idaho Republicans have dropped a proposed rule change to let party committees screen candidates for primary elections and select just two for each office, but they'll consider plenty of other big changes when they gather Friday in Moscow for their annual state central committee meeting, including doing away with their May presidential primary entirely.

Also on tap: An array of resolutions on everything from kicking the EPA out of the Silver Valley, to studying a gold currency to replace the "failing" dollar, and to an "Idaho as China-Beachhead Withdrawal Resolution," declaring that GOP Gov. Butch Otter's "Project 60" trade-building initiative is a bid by the Chinese to take over Idaho's sovereignty, and calling on the Legislature to look into it. Not on the agenda for the two-day meeting: Letting independents vote in the GOP primary for state offices next May. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Redistricting commission back at work

Idaho's citizen redistricting commission has started its work this afternoon, with review of congressional plans submitted by the public up first for consideration. The commission is scheduled to meet until 4:30 today; you can listen live here.