February 7, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Otter back right on schedule

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Lt. Gov. Brad Little, at the close of his budget hearing before state lawmakers this week, was asked by Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, “Do you and Gov. (Butch) Otter plan on rodeoing at the same time?”

Little responded with a chuckle, “He keeps telling me it was the bit on the horse, so I might have to get him a new bridle. … It was pretty good surgery, but he’s back in business. I don’t know how much he trusts me to be governor.”

Little was acting governor from 2 to 8 p.m. on Monday, while Otter underwent shoulder surgery, which took longer than expected. Still, he got a call, right on schedule at 8, telling him that Otter was back in charge. “Everything’s fine, and he’s all scheduled for rehab,” Little said. “The surgery was a success. He’s going to be winged-up for a while … He’s a pretty tough guy, and I think he’ll rehab well.”

The governor hurt his shoulder in a team-roping accident three weeks earlier; the surgery prompted him to clear his schedule this week, but he’s expected to return to work part time next week. It was the second straight year that Otter has been sidelined by surgery in the middle of the legislative session.

‘Panic-Stricken Brainy Chickens’

Eight fifth-graders from Post Falls took the state Legislature by storm recently, making presentations to the education committees in both houses, greeting state Superintendent Tom Luna after his budget pitch, and generally livening up the Capitol Annex in their white lab coats and laboratory goggles decorated with colorful pipe-cleaner swirls.

The kids are a robotics team that started as an after-school club at Ponderosa Elementary School, under the sponsorship of the North Idaho Discovery Association. A Post Falls engineering firm, LCF Enterprises, sponsors the association and the teams in an effort to enhance math and science education in North Idaho schools.

Karlicia Berry, coach for the self-named Panic-Stricken Brainy Chickens team, said, “It’s really growing. We grew from eight students two years ago to 500, and from one team to 53 in the last 18 months.” The robotics teams, which run from elementary to high school ages, compete in regional tournaments in events such as robot design and team problem-solving.

Last year, the Chickens won top honor for their research project on how much energy was being eaten up by school computers that were left on 24/7. Their findings: The school district could save $120,000 a year by turning off its 1,600 computers on nights and weekends. The students shared their findings through a skit and a DVD.

When violations are pretty obvious

Sen. Lee Heinrich, R-Cascade, said at one time he drove a groomer on snowmobile trails, and “I encountered motor vehicles trying to drive up groomed snowmobile trails.” That’s not a violation of the law now, he said, and counties can’t cite folks for doing it. So he proposed legislation this week to make it an infraction for cars and trucks to drive onto those groomed trails.

When Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, asked him how he’d enforce it, Heinrich said, “Generally, people that do violate this end up having to be towed out.” Amid laughter, he added, “It’s pretty easy to have a sheriff’s deputy there when a perpetrator is found.” The bill is now pending in the Senate.

One inmate slept through prison riot

Lawmakers learned new details this week about the prison riot on Jan. 2 in which inmates wrecked a new temporary housing unit that had been set up to allow out-of-state inmates to be brought back to Idaho. There were 199 inmates in the unit at the time. Four were injured. The officer who was in the control room at the time used a shovel to break a window and get away from the rioting prisoners, prison officials told lawmakers. Once the inmates entered the control room, they burned the videotape of the disturbance.

“At the end of the event, we had one inmate missing,” state Corrections Director Brent Reinke told the Legislature’s joint budget committee. After a search of the unit, he was found: “He was sound asleep on his bunk.” The inmate had put a pillow and blanket over his head and ignored the fuss.

The temporary unit will reopen in March, Reinke said, with “a different type of inmate.”

Naturopath licensing headed toward repeal

The Senate has voted 27-6 in favor of SB 1014, to repeal the 2005 law that set up a state licensing system for naturopaths. It’s never gone into effect, because warring groups of naturopaths have disagreed on the necessary qualifications, meaning rules to implement the law never have passed.

Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, said, “This, in my opinion, is the way to allow them a fresh start.” Broadsword said the groups are talking now, and she’s hopeful they can work together over the summer and propose new licensing legislation next year. The bill now moves to the House.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or bzrussell@gmail.com. For more news from Boise, go to www.spokesman.com/boise.

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