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Eye on Boise: E-cigarette bill opponent saw smoke, mirrors

BOISE – A St. Maries legislator raised fears about a “nanny state” when the Idaho House considered legislation this week to ban the sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes to children, but the measure ended up passing unanimously.

State Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, cast the only “no” vote on HB 405, but then, at the last minute, changed his vote to “yes.”

Harwood told the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, that he suspected the statistics Nonini cited in his opening debate for the bill were slanted and came from groups that really don’t want anyone to smoke. “I can’t speak for the New England Journal of Medicine,” Nonini responded, “but yes, they would encourage nobody to smoke cigarettes. … Panhandle Health, yes, I think they would support no smoking at all.” Nonini himself is a smoker.

Harwood said, “It seems like we’re headed down a path where we’re going to be the nanny state for everybody, we’re going to make … a total mark on everything we can think of.” He added, “A lot of time we get these statistics saying that this is what’s happening, it’s really not actual, and it’s sometimes not true. … You have to question the people that put these statistics out.”

State Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, told the House, “Most of you know in this body that I am a statistic. … I had the opportunity to quit smoking this last year, and I started smoking in my mid-20s. It’s not the kind of thing I like to stand up and announce to the whole world, but that’s what I did. … The statistics are, and it has been proven … that minors that start smoking, they have a lot more difficult time quitting than I did. And trust me, it’s not an easy addiction to overcome, and I probably will struggle with it for a long, long time.”

Labrador, Holder clash

Idaho U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador made a big splash last week when he was questioning U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking investigation during a Washington, D.C., hearing. Labrador, a Republican, told Holder he thought he was incompetent and should resign, and Holder scolded Labrador for being disrespectful and out of line.

“Maybe this is the way you do things in Idaho or wherever you’re from,” Holder told him.

Vick wants two-thirds rule

North Idaho state Sen. Steve Vick wants Idaho to enact a constitutional amendment to require two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate to pass any tax or fee increase. “I think that any time you raise taxes you take a little bit of people’s freedom,” Vick said. “I just think it should be a little harder to do.”

Members of the House State Affairs Committee had some misgivings about the measure but agreed to introduce it. Vick wants this sentence added to the Idaho Constitution: “No bill that provides for a net increase in revenue, whether through fees or taxes, shall become law without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members of each house.”

Otter’s fundraising

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter raised $124,941 for his re-election campaign from July to December, according to the latest campaign finance reports, and used $50,000 of it to pay himself back for loans he made to his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. An analysis by an Idaho Statesman columnist showed that most of Otter’s fundraising came from corporate contributors who do business with the state or lobby state officials.

Denney apologizes

A subdued state House Speaker Lawerence Denney said after a 45-minute closed GOP caucus last week that he apologized to the caucus for his handling of the attempted ouster of GOP redistricting Commissioner Dolores Crow, and that he plans no further challenges to Idaho’s new legislative redistricting plan. “I think the redistricting is over,” he said. “I’ve got the final plan on my desk and I don’t think it’s going to be challenged, so I think the issue is done.”

Lawmakers shuffle

State Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, says he’s decided to run for the Senate next year because redistricting left his new district with three House incumbents and an open Senate seat.

“There’s three of us in the same district now, and we all three talked about it and who would be best to do what and what everybody’s desires were,” Hagedorn said.

The other two lawmakers in his new district are House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, who’s in his seventh term, and first-term state Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle.

Hagedorn, a third-term lawmaker and retired naval officer, said, “This just appeared to be where we could all contribute the most.”

State Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, has made a similar decision; rather than seeking re-election in a House district with three incumbents, he will challenge state Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home.