What’s news in the Northwest today:
MISSOULA, Mont. — A 27-year-old Missoula woman is charged with paying her babysitter with prescription antianxiety and sleeping pills. The Missoulian reports Michayla Dione Brilz was charged Friday with criminal distribution of dangerous drugs. Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech set bail at $10,000. Prosecutors say Brilz told her probation officer on Thursday that she gave the prescription medication to her neighbor, “in exchange for babysitting services on several occasions.” Brilz told the probation officer she’d most recently given the neighbor 20 to 30 generic Xanax pills and about 20 Zolpidem, a sleep medication. Brilz was on supervision for misdemeanor driving under the influence.
Idaho Senate votes to relax elk disease test rule
BOISE — The Idaho Senate has passed legislation to relax domestic elk testing requirements for a deadly brain disease that has plagued herds in other states. All domestic elk in Idaho now must be tested annually for chronic wasting disease. But elk ranchers who sell meat and charge hunters to shoot trophy bulls have convinced lawmakers to ease the requirements. The Senate passed legislation today to allow virtually all Idaho elk ranchers to test just 20 percent of their animals once every three years. The bill now goes to the House. Some sportsmen are against the measure, raising longstanding fears of disease spreading from domestic elk to Idaho’s prized wild elk herds. But supporters contend testing has never detected disease in Idaho’s domestic herds and the standards can be safely relaxed.
House votes to keep dairy waste records secret
BOISE — The House voted 61-7 to allow dairies to keep secret the details of how they manage their cows’ waste. Today’s vote to make Idaho dairies’ nutrient management plans exempt from disclosure under the state Public Records Act sends the measure to the Senate. The Idaho Dairymen’s Association has raised concern about an activist group, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment, obtaining those plans to harass dairies. Bob Naerebout, the Dairymen’s Association’s director, says any violations found during dairy inspections would remain public. Rep. Wendy Jaquet, a central Idaho Democrat, voted against the measure, saying counties like Gooding that have seen an influx of large dairies over the last two decades fear the changes could make it more difficult to keep tabs on large agricultural operations that impact water quality.
Depot to honor today 6 workers killed in 1944 explosion
HERMISTON, Ore. – The Umatilla Chemical Depot today honored six workers who died in a 1944 storage igloo explosion. It’s the 67th anniversary of the event. The 1944 accident was the only fatal munitions-handling accident in the depot’s 70-year history. The depot received its first conventional munitions in October 1941, on the eve of World War II, and stored conventional ammunition throughout World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Gulf War. The depot was used for chemical weapons storage starting in the early 1960s. In the 1944 accident, a depot storage igloo containing 264 500-pound conventional bombs was destroyed.
Charges dropped for 3 men charged in poker game
SANDPOINT — Three North Idaho businessmen accused of taking part in an illegal poker game are no longer facing criminal charges. The Sandpoint prosecutor’s office dismissed charges against all three last week in exchange for each defendant agreeing to forfeit $200 cash bonds posted in their cases. In December 2009, police arrested 30-year-old Dustin Jacob Koril, of Sagle, 29-year-old Gary Lee Solis, Jr., of Oldtown and 37-year-old Lex Andrew Sparks of Wrenco. They were each charged with violating state law prohibiting gambling in an establishment where liquor is served, a misdemeanor. The arrests came after police officers discovered a poker tournament at the Spar Bar during routine checks. Defense attorney Doug Phelps told the Bonner County Daily Bee said the dismissal shows prosecutors were having trouble making their case against the three men.
House transportation budget cuts less to ferries
OLYMPIA — House lawmakers have released their proposed 2011-2013 transportation budget, and it includes less service cuts and a smaller rate hike to Washington’s ferry system than Gov. Chris Gregoire’s earlier bid. The House’s proposal cuts ferry services by $3.1 million, compared to Gregoire’s $20 million reduction in her December budget. Gregoire also had proposed a rate hike of 10 percent. The House proposal puts it at 7.5 percent in 2011 and 2.5 percent in 2012. State officials say the ferry system has a $180 million shortfall in its operating budget due to falling tax revenue. Totaling $8.9 billion, the House budget consists of $1.1 billion for highway maintenance, $402 million for passenger rail and $237 million for ferry terminal and vessel projects. Transportation revenue for the next two years is also worse than expected, down $100 million from earlier projections. The Senate will release their proposal this week as well. Lawmakers will then negotiate all proposals.
Medical marijuana overhaul bill begins taking form
HELENA, Mont. — A new plan to overhaul Montana’s medical marijuana law is beginning to take shape in the Legislature. Republican Sen. Jeff Essmann says the plan is being designed as a replacement law that would allow the Legislature to repeal the voter-approved 2004 medical marijuana initiative. Other proposals to strengthen the medical marijuana law are before lawmakers. But leaders of the GOP-controlled Senate say no single overhaul measure adequately does the job and a blend of all the measures is needed. A Senate subcommittee led by Essmann is trying to quickly put together a proposal before the legislative session ends. Regulations being discussed would do away with medical marijuana businesses, reduce the number of users and make it easier to police the industry.
Oregon senators to consider strip clubs regulations
SALEM, Ore. — An Oregon Senate committee will hear from the public about amending the state constitution to allow cities to regulate strip clubs. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a public hearing about the topic today. The resolution is a response to the strong protections for free expression in the state constitution, which have been interpreted to protect obscenity. The measure would ask voters to amend the constitution to allow government agencies to use zoning laws to control locations where strip clubs can operate. Supporters of the resolution say residents should have some control over whether a strip club can open in their neighborhood. But opponents say government should not be able to regulate free expression like nudity just because it doesn’t like it.