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Idaho Voices

Minnick first Democrat as tax ‘hero’ since 2006

BOISE – Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick is the first Democrat since 2006 to be named a “Taxpayer Hero” by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, a group that decries “pork-barrel spending” and tracks congressional votes on “wasteful programs.”

The group’s president, Tom Schatz, said, “Rep. Minnick is the first Democratic Taxpayer Hero since 2006 and deserves special recognition for this achievement. His vote rating shows that it is not impossible for Democrats to vote to cut wasteful spending, reduce the tax burden, and make government more accountable to taxpayers, and it stands in stark contrast to the average of 4 percent for his House (Democratic) colleagues.”

Minnick’s voting record garnered him an 83 percent rating from the group; anyone over 80 percent is deemed a “Taxpayer Hero,” which, for 2009, included 89 of the 435 House members, and 29 of 100 senators. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch also made the list, with ratings of 91 and 92 percent respectively; Rep. Mike Simpson got a 34 percent rating from the group.

Minnick, a conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat in his first term, has introduced legislation to ban earmarks, to impose a version of a line-item veto, and is an original co-sponsor of a measure calling for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. “Unlike members of Congress who talk about voting to cut waste back home but then vote to raise taxes and spending in Washington, Rep. Minnick has been consistent in both his rhetoric and his actions,” Schatz said. “If more of his Democratic colleagues voted as he did last year, the budget deficit and national debt would both be lower.”

Raul Labrador, the Republican who’s challenging Minnick’s re-election bid, said he’s confident. “It’s a 65 percent Republican district, and it doesn’t matter what people think of him, most people think he’s a nice guy – they don’t want him in Congress because it’s going to be the same agenda of Nancy Pelosi, Obama and Harry Reid,” Labrador said. “He’s done absolutely nothing to stop that agenda.”

Also on the ballot in the November election for the 1st Congressional District seat are independent Dave Olson of St. Maries and Libertarian Mike Washburn of Boise.

BP lawsuits headed to New Orleans

A federal judge in New Orleans will handle more than 300 lawsuits filed over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a federal court panel ruled - a move sought by many of those suing, but opposed by BP, which favored hearing the cases in Houston, where its U.S. operations are based.

The arguments about where the suits should go were aired in Boise, of all places, when the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation met here in late July. The panel moves around, and that meeting just happened to be in Idaho, bringing dozens of lawyers involved in the spill cases to the Gem state, about as far as possible from the site of the spill.

Former ISU professor Adler takes UI post

Former Idaho State University political scientist David Adler has been named director of the University of Idaho’s James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research, where the UI says he will “take the University of Idaho to center stage” on public policy issues and civic education.

“He brings a blend of scholarship, national prominence and dynamism to the role,” said Katherine Aiken, dean of College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. “We are confident of the deep engagement the center will enjoy promoting civic education and public dialogue on critical issues that face Idaho, the region and the nation.”

Adler has been an ISU political science professor since 1985, and is the author of more than 100 scholarly articles that have appeared in political science journals, law reviews, books and encyclopedias. The McClure Center provides nonpartisan public policy research for Idaho and the region, along with work to improve civic education, increase public dialogue, promote collaborations and more. Adler’s work at the center will include sponsorship of research, publications, conferences, forums and lectures; he’ll also seek external funding for the center’s activities. Adler said the McClure Center will generate research to “tackle the great public policy challenges of our time.”

Drug makers to pay Idaho $1.9 million

Idaho will get $1.9 million in a legal settlement with four prescription drug manufacturers, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced, to settle claims over improper pricing for Medicaid. “This settlement reimburses unfair costs to Idaho taxpayers,” Wasden said.

The four firms, which admitted no wrongdoing, are Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Barr Laboratories, Inc., Ivax Corporation, and Ivax Pharmaceuticals, Inc. It’s the sixth such case Wasden has resolved since 2005, with a total of $7 million recovered for Idaho taxpayers. Three more cases, involving two dozen other drug manufacturers, still are pending.

Rescuers sued in skier’s death

The heirs of a skier from New York who became lost outside the boundaries of Grand Targhee ski area in January and died of hypothermia are suing the Teton County Sheriff’s Department, Teton County, Idaho Search and Rescue, and others for $5 million in a wrongful death claim. The 46-year-old man called 911 on a dying cell phone and spoke with dispatchers twice that evening, prompting a search, but he wasn’t found until morning, when he was unconscious and later died.

UI starts law classes in Boise this fall

The University of Idaho will start third-year law classes in Boise this fall, after the American Bar Association signed off on the school’s program. It’s a scaled-down version of the UI’s long-term plan to offer full legal education in the state’s capital city.

Sequence doesn’t matter for DUIs

Idaho’s Court of Appeals has rejected an appeal from an Ada County man, William Howard Locke, who challenged his felony prosecution for a third DUI because his third offense actually occurred after the one for which he was hit with the enhanced penalty. But it was his third conviction – he was first convicted of his first DUI, then convicted of the third offense, then convicted of the second.

“Idaho Code … makes a third DUI conviction within 10 years a felony, regardless of the sequence of arrests,” Judge David Gratton wrote for a unanimous court.