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Eye on Boise: Constitutional amendment would allow tuition at UI

BOISE – A little-noticed item on this year’s general election ballot, SJR 101, would amend the Idaho Constitution to permit tuition to be charged at the University of Idaho.

The Idaho Constitution now forbids that, so students there are charged “fees” rather than tuition. The difference? “Tuition” is what pays for classroom instruction; “fees” pay for everything else.

All other Idaho state colleges and universities charge both tuition and fees; that’s left the UI crimped in its flexibility as it copes with state budget cuts, patching together the funding for its various programs.

SJR 101 actually passed the Idaho Legislature in 2009, but this is the first general election after that for voters to weigh in. It passed the House 32-2 and the Senate 64-3. Opponents noted that the constitution envisioned free education for students at the UI, though that’s not quite how it works today.

Constitutional amendments require two-thirds approval from each house of the Legislature plus a majority vote of the people at the next general election to pass.

State backs Arizona immigration law

Idaho has joined Michigan in a “friend of the court” brief siding with Arizona in its appeal from a federal judge’s initial ruling invalidating portions of the state’s far-reaching immigration law; 11 states and one territory have now joined in the appeal.

Gov. Butch Otter said, “It’s our affirmative duty to protect states’ rights, and that’s particularly important when a lawsuit seeks to punish a state for doing what the federal government has failed to do – protect our borders and American citizens.”

The brief argues that states have the authority to concurrently enforce federal immigration law. The other states joining in are Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, plus the Northern Mariana Islands.

Aggressive bats strike again

It’s happened again: Aggressive bats have attacked people in the Wood River Valley, and three people are undergoing painful rabies vaccines.

The Idaho Mountain Express reported that one person was bitten and two more may have been bitten; the encounters were in Bellevue, Hailey and Ketchum. This comes after a fisherman on the Wood River west of Hailey was pestered by an aggressive bat in July, and the bat, which he captured after finding it attached to his life vest, tested positive for rabies.

In early August, a child who was swimming in a pond in Crouch was exposed to a rabid bat that swooped down and scratched him; the boy’s father captured the bat, and it, too, tested positive for rabies. No bats were captured in the three Wood River Valley incidents in the past week. The first rabid bat found in Idaho this year was in Shoshone County in North Idaho in March; last year, eight were found.

Idaho Health and Welfare officials say it’s unusual for a bat to be active during the daytime, let alone to attack humans; the odd behavior can be a sign of rabies, a fatal viral illness.

“Bats and other mammals can carry rabies, making it extremely important for people to avoid bats or other animals, wild or domestic, that may appear sick or are acting aggressive or in an abnormal manner,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. “People should not pick up or touch any bat. People should call their health care provider immediately if they have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Medical therapy administered to people soon after a possible rabies exposure is extremely effective in preventing rabies.”

Mayors tout ballot measure

There are three constitutional amendments regarding long-term municipal debt on the November ballot, all approved overwhelmingly by the state Legislature in the wake of the Frazier decision, in which the Idaho Supreme Court in 2006 crimped such borrowing without a two-thirds vote of the people. The three measures specifically permit long-term borrowing without a vote in certain circumstances for public hospitals, airports, and city-owned electric systems, and specify that none of the debt could be against tax dollars.

Now, mayors from Idaho Falls to Nampa to Coeur d’Alene have joined with the Association of Idaho Cities in announcing an informational website about the measure,, and speaking out about the needs of their local airports.

Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem said, “Pappy Boyington Field provides key benefits to Coeur d’Alene residents and those in the surrounding communities.” She urged Idahoans to check out the website, calling it a “needed, welcome resource for our voters.”

The three amendments regarding debt are HJR 4, HJR 5 and HJR 7. Why the gap in numbers? HJR 6 was an unsuccessful measure this year from Rep. Richard Jarvis, R-Meridian, to remove supervision of public schools from the state Board of Education; it was never voted on, and Jarvis was defeated in the GOP primary in May.

Doing ‘what’s right’

When a 22-year-old woman who was working as a housekeeper at a Rexburg hotel – to save money for college – found $5,000 cash in a bank envelope while cleaning a hotel room, she turned it in. The hotel, the Springhill Suites Marriott, returned the money to the businessman who had earlier stayed in the room.

He offered neither tip nor reward. The Associated Press reports that Kelsey Ricks, who plans to attend BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, could have covered nearly two semesters of tuition with the money, but that she said turning it in was a matter of doing “what’s right.”