How To Tie Up Session Without Getting Snippy

Apparently it wasn’t enough that House Speaker Mike Simpson snipped off Bob Fick’s gosh-awful tie on the last day of this year’s legislative session.

Fick, the Boise bureau chief for the Associated Press, has donned the ugly tie for years to signal when a legislative session has gone on too long.

Last week, Simpson unveiled a new decoration for his office. In a classy gilt-edged frame, with subdued dark-blue matting, the tie was mounted like a precious historical document. A brass plaque below read, “The tie that binds. Sine die, March 18, 1997.”

The tie still looks garish with its red and blue design. The jagged cut at the top of the tie suggests something of a struggle when the speaker wielded his scissors.

Amid the laughter when the unusual display was unveiled, longtime Boise newsman Rod Gramer suggested that perhaps a new tradition is in order to mark the close of the legislative session: Instead of banging down a large gavel, the House speaker each year instead could cut off Fick’s tie.

Talk about excessive luxury

When Jim Warren, Washington, D.C., bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune, came out to Sun Valley last weekend to speak to the Idaho Press Club, he got an earful on the golf course.

A couple of locals regaled him with stories about the rich and famous who frequent the resort town. One of the jet-setting corporate millionaires, they claimed, has a system in his private jet that allows him to activate his vacation home’s hot tub as he’s flying in.

A pop and a whoosh

Dick Woodworth still remembers the day more than 12 years ago that his float tube blew up on him while he was fishing.

It started him thinking that there should be a way to comfortably wear a life jacket while out fishing, without something big and bulky getting in the way.

The former Idaho Fish and Game director ended up helping form a company that bought the invention of a Meridian high school teacher: inflatable suspenders.

Today, Sporting Lives Inc. is one of five companies across the country manufacturing inflatable life preservers. But until this year, they were marketed mainly overseas.

That’s because the U.S. Coast Guard hadn’t approved them. But last fall, the inflatable devices won Coast Guard approval. And when Coast Guard, state parks and law enforcement officials joined others in the governor’s office this week to kick off a safe boating campaign, the instant inflatables were the featured attraction.

Gov. Phil Batt pulled the cord on the first one, and dark blue strips the volunteer wore like suspenders suddenly puffed up into a big, yellow life preserver. Around the room, the bright yellow things bloomed like giant flowers around the necks, shoulders and chests of a half-dozen volunteers.

“It’s convenient, it’s comfortable, it’s a good sports model,” said Ann Van Buren, boating safety education coordinator for state parks and rec. “Boaters have a new alternative, fishermen have a new alternative, duck hunters have a new alternative.”

Scott Swanby, president of the manufacturing company, said a new factory in Fruitland, Idaho, is gearing up to handle the anticipated demand from U.S. customers. In foreign markets, the inflatables have been popular with hunters, fishermen and those who work outdoors where they need the protection of a life vest but can’t have the bulk while they’re working.

Woodworth said of the slim, suspenderlike inflatables, “They don’t even know they have ‘em on.”

Inflatables are available at sporting goods stores, and are suitable only for folks who weigh more than 80 pounds.

Idaho’s Safe Boating Week is next week, with safety programs planned throughout the state. This year’s theme is “Life jackets - they float, you don’t.” Boaters are required to have life preservers for all those on board.

, DataTimes MEMO: North-South Notes runs every other week. To reach Betsy Z. Russell, call 336-2854, send a fax to 336-0021 or e-mail to

North-South Notes runs every other week. To reach Betsy Z. Russell, call 336-2854, send a fax to 336-0021 or e-mail to

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