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Idaho Voices

Minnick praise from IACI rare for Idaho Democrat

Sun., June 20, 2010

BOISE – The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, an influential lobby group for big Idaho businesses, held its annual conference last week in McCall, and it was kicked off by Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick.

“We sincerely appreciate Rep. Minnick’s willingness to be part of our annual meeting with the membership,” said IACI President Alex LaBeau. “His office has been very responsive to employers and employees throughout the state. Idaho is well represented.”

What’s interesting about the group’s kind words for Minnick, a Democrat: IACI has been spending big bucks to boost the campaigns of incumbent Republicans, especially Gov. Butch Otter, who also spoke at the meeting, as did Lt. Gov. Brad Little.

Through its “Idaho Prosperity Fund,” formerly the Idaho Business PAC, IACI had collected $118,526 in contributions as of a week before the primary election, and spent a chunk of that on an attack website targeting Otter’s Democratic challenger, Keith Allred. The group also reported spending $6,000 shortly before the primary to promote the re-election of Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick, and $8,000 on independent campaign expenditures for Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, the Senate GOP caucus chairman.

Among those donating to the fund: Micron Technology gave $23,500; Melaleuca Inc. gave $13,500; J.R. Simplot Co. gave $23,500; Idaho Association of Realtors gave $23,500; and Idaho Power Co. gave $23,500. IACI spent most of that money to hire a Florida firm, Orra SGS, which it also hired for both the Burdick and Fulcher pushes.

IACI endorsed 27 state and legislative candidates in the primary; just one of the 27, Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, was a Democrat.

Strong words

from senators

Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo issued a strongly worded statement expressing disappointment at the failure of a resolution they backed aimed at stopping the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases; the resolution failed in the Senate on a 47-53 vote.

Risch said, “The EPA rule is nothing more than another power grab by a federal agency and an erosion of the Constitution of this great country. It would lead to a massive tax on every aspect of American life from the ringing alarm clock in the morning to the last light switch turned off at night and it would be levied by bureaucrats who are not held accountable to the voice of the people.”

Crapo said, “Allowing any federal agency to unilaterally move forward on issues of this magnitude not only allows politics to drive policy decisions; it locks out the voices of Idahoans, Americans and their elected representatives in Congress. Such an important debate as climate change, and the potential to drive up costs on consumers and small businesses, should not be left in the hands of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats.”

The two pledged to continue fighting the move.

Quick OK

for Idaho nominee

When the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee took up the confirmation of Wendy Olson to be Idaho’s next U.S. Attorney, approval came quickly on a voice vote. “There had been lengthy debate about a judicial nomination earlier in the meeting, but there was no debate on Ms. Olson’s nomination,” said Erica Chabot, press secretary for committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. Added Chabot, “We hope the Senate will move quickly to confirm the nomination, but do not know yet when that will occur.”

President Obama nominated Olson for the post on March 10; Idaho’s entire congressional delegation enthusiastically backed the nomination and pledged to shepherd it to confirmation. Minnick called Olson “an excellent lawyer with a distinguished record of service and legal experience.” Said Crapo, “She knows Idaho and the law.” Risch called her “an excellent choice.”

Olson has worked for Idaho’s U.S. Attorney’s office since 1997 and played a key role in the successful death penalty prosecution of North Idaho multiple murderer Joseph Duncan, among many other cases.

She’s a Pocatello native, a graduate of Drake University with a law degree from Stanford, and a board member of Idaho Women Lawyers. If confirmed by the full Senate, she succeeds current U.S. Attorney Tom Moss, who has served since 2001.

Ysursa a ‘demented genius’?

One light moment in a recent Idaho Supreme Court hearing came when Justice Roger Burdick asked Deputy Attorney General Melissa Moody for an explanation of the new “premium rent” proposal for state-owned cabin sites, in which, on the sale of a cabin lease, the state would get either 10 percent of the amount the seller got for the value of the lease (sale price less value of seller’s improvements, including buildings), or 50 percent of the seller’s profit on the lease value compared to the price for which it was purchased.

Moody explained that if someone bought a lease for $500,000 in 2006 and sold it for $700,000 in 2010, they’d pay $100,000 in premium rent, under the plan, because 50 percent of the gain is greater than 10 percent of $700,000.

Burdick responded, “What demented genius came up with this?” Amid laughter, some in the full courtroom turned to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who sat watching from the second row of the audience. Ysursa chaired the Land Board’s cottage site subcommittee that proposed the plan.

Invasive mussels

spotted on boat

The first invasive mussels of the season have been found on a boat entering Idaho at a checkpoint on U.S. Highway 93 in Twin Falls County near the Nevada state line. According to the Twin Falls Times-News, the 20-foot pontoon boat, which was headed to Cascade from Lake Havasu, Nev., was impounded by authorities and decontaminated, a process that took an hour and a half and incurred no cost to the boat owner, a Donnelly resident. Last year, Idaho checkpoints conducted 18,450 boat inspections and found two confirmed cases of invasive quagga or zebra mussels, plus an additional unconfirmed report; last year’s mussels were found at North Idaho checkpoints.

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