Voices


Lowest number of bills introduced; 359 passed

SUNDAY, APRIL 25, 2010

BOISE – Now that it’s all said and done, here are the numbers on this year’s Idaho legislative session: In 78 days, there were 816 pieces of legislation drafted, 620 of which were introduced, and 359 passed. Every one of those became law; there were no vetoes, though Gov. Butch Otter withheld his signature from five of them, he still allowed them to become law.

Compared to past sessions, this year set records for the lowest number of bills drafted and introduced in the past decade – perhaps in part because legislative leaders warned in advance that anything that cost money likely wouldn’t be considered – but, oddly, the number that became law is actually higher than last year’s figure of 344.

Last year, lawmakers were in session for 117 days, the second-longest session in Idaho history. This year’s 78-day session was the third-shortest in the past decade, eclipsed only by the 69-day session in 2004 and a 68-day session in 2002. Both those years yielded more new laws: 389 in ’04, and 370 in ’02.

Too late now…

GOP congressional candidate Allan Salzburg announced last week that he was withdrawing from the 1st Congressional District primary contest, but it turns out it’s too late to take his name off the ballot. Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state, says the deadline for removal from the ballot is 45 days before the election – and that passed on April 10th. The reason: Absentee ballots for military members serving overseas have to go out 45 days before the election.

Salzburg, one of the five Republicans on the ballot, said he’s throwing his support to both Raul Labrador and Vaughn Ward, the two leading candidates in the primary contest. Salzburg, 70, a retired physician and rocket scientist, said he decided to end his campaign because “it was physically terribly demanding.”

Salzburg said he traveled to at least 10 GOP Lincoln Day events around the district in his campaign. “It was one of the most interesting things I have done in my life, and in many respects productive, I feel, even though I’m pulling out,” he said. “I am concentrating now on promotion of nuclear energy, which was one of my key points.” Others on the ballot in the GOP race are Harley Brown of Idaho City and Michael Chadwick of Post Falls; Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick is unopposed in the primary.

Latest campaign finances

Quarterly campaign finance reports are in at the Federal Election Commission, and the figures for the 1st Congressional District show this: Incumbent Congressman Walt Minnick has raised $1.5 million to date for his re-election bid, including $231,917 this quarter. He’s spent $641,879, including $159,504 this quarter, and has $889,082 cash on hand.

On the GOP side, Vaughn Ward has raised $504,258, including $167,611 this quarter. He’s spent $213,761, including $81,699 this quarter, and has $289,844 cash on hand. He also loaned his campaign $14,199, but made no loans this quarter. Raul Labrador has raised $158,903, including $90,000 in loans from the candidate to his campaign ($40,000 of that in the most recent quarter – however, that’s somewhat of a wash since he also repaid $40,000 in loans to himself during the same quarter, leaving an outstanding loan balance of $50,000); his fundraising drew $35,763 in contributions this quarter; and he has $83,527 cash on hand. There were no reports from the other GOP candidates on the ballot.

A ‘tea party hero’

Appearing on CNN, Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick was asked about being the only Democrat endorsed by the national Tea Party Express group. “They’re just ordinary folks who think the government ought to balance this budget. There’s nothing very radical about that so I’m pleased to have their endorsement,” Minnick told CNN.

The network reported that the group, which just wrapped up its three-week, 47-city “Just Vote Them Out!” bus tour, listed 13 Democrats on its “Tea Party Targets” list and 13 Republicans plus Minnick on its “Tea Party Heroes” list. Among Republicans named with Minnick on the “Heroes” list were Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rep. Joe Wilson.

Said Minnick, “My state supports independent people who do what’s best for our constituents, and good ideas come from both parties.”

State cabin-site values

Idaho’s state Land Board has adopted a new valuation policy for state-owned cabin sites on Priest Lake, in a rare moment of agreement from all sides on this issue. The state uses Valley County assessments to value cabin sites on Payette Lake, but has been using a five-year rolling appraisal process, plus an indexing process for nonappraisal years, for the 354 cabin sites at Priest Lake. Now, it’s switching there to a process more like what the U.S. Forest Service uses for its federally owned cabin sites on Priest Lake: The cabin sites will be divided into 25 groups that are similar in land value, and just one site from each group will be appraised each year, with a different site chosen the next year, to come up with a percentage change for the group.

As a result, only 25 appraisals will need to be conducted each year, at a total cost to the state of $20,000 and a substantial savings over trying to reappraise all the sites every five years.

That doesn’t do anything to settle the larger dispute: How much to charge the cabin owners in rent for the state-owned ground underneath their cabins, which is calculated as a percentage of value.



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