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In brief: Bill would lift limits on charter schools

BOISE – Idaho would lift all caps on creation of new charter schools in the state under legislation pushed by Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, that cleared a House committee Wednesday.

The House Education Committee voted 12-5 in favor of HB 481, which would eliminate both the six-per-year limit on creation of new charter schools statewide and the limit of one a year per school district. The Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators and Idaho Education Association all testified against the bill, saying it would hurt school districts’ funding at a time when they’re already hurting. Charter school backers and the state Department of Education supported it, saying the current cap is keeping Idaho from winning federal and private foundation grants for charter schools.

The bill now moves to the full House.

Murder-suicide suspected in deaths

PINEHURST, Idaho – Idaho State Police are investigating an apparent murder-suicide in North Idaho that left a man and his son dead.

The Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a possible shooting in Pinehurst at 2:44 a.m. Sunday and arrived to find the bodies of 61-year-old Steven Gravelle and 19-year-old Gabe Gravelle.

Authorities are still investigating the shooting. They have not determined a motive or identified the shooter.

Snowmobiler killed in avalanche

COOKE CITY, Mont. – Sheriff’s officials say an avalanche in southern Montana has killed a snowmobiler on Daisy Pass, north of Cooke City.

Park County sheriff’s officials say several snowmobilers were riding a trail Wednesday afternoon when the avalanche hit, partially burying at least two people.

The victim’s name wasn’t immediately released.

Avalanche danger has been high across much of the West. In Montana, officials had warned that recent heavy, wet snow falling on a weaker layer of colder, lighter snow would raise the avalanche potential in the backcountry.

Facebook comments spur arrests of 2 teens

LIVINGSTON, Mont. – Two high school students in Montana have been arrested over comments on Facebook.

The Livingston Enterprise reports 18-year-old Samuel Winston Galer and a 17-year-old fellow student at Park High School face charges of felony criminal incitement based on allegations that their Facebook pages included violent threats against the school vice principal. Prosecutors say some postings made references to putting poison or drugs in the vice principal’s coffee.

An attorney for one teen says his client only spurred a discussion and couldn’t control what others wrote in responses on his Facebook page. The mother of the other teen said her child’s comments were “stupid, machismo comments.”

8-year-old critically hurt in accidental shooting

SEATTLE – Police say an 8-year-old girl critically wounded by a gunshot at her elementary school near Seattle apparently was shot accidentally.

Bremerton, Wash., police Lt. Peter Fisher says a gun brought to the school Wednesday discharged while still in a third-grade boy’s backpack. Fisher says the bullet hit the nearby girl.

Fisher says the student who brought the gun to Armin Jahr Elementary has been booked into juvenile detention for investigation of unlawful possession of a gun, bringing a dangerous weapon to school and third-degree assault.

Police are trying to determine how the child got the gun.

Dealer: Refinery outage drives up fuel prices

SEATTLE – The longer the BP Cherry Point refinery at Blaine is out of service because of fire damage, the higher gasoline prices will go for drivers in Washington, said Tim Hamilton, executive director of the Automotive United Trades Organization, an association of independent dealers.

Wholesale prices to dealers went up about 20 cents a gallon Tuesday, Hamilton said. That will push prices in Washington close to $4 a gallon, Hamilton said Wednesday.

The average price for a gallon of gas Wednesday in the state was $3.68 a gallon, according to the AAA auto club. That’s already up 14 cents in a week and 21 cents in a month.

There’s no estimate when operations will resume at Cherry Point and the investigation into the cause of Friday’s fire continues, said BP spokesman Scott Dean in Chicago.

He cautions against directly relating gas prices to the operations of a single refinery.

“You really can’t pin a gas price on any single factor,” he said Wednesday. “You have to look at all the factors in totality. There are a lot of things going on globally affecting crude oil prices and that translates into prices at the pump.”

Dad ordered to pay $90,000 child support

BOISE – A federal judge in Boise has ordered the father of four children who live in Kuna to pay nearly $90,000 in back child support.

KTVB-TV reports 48-year-old Rusty Haile pleaded guilty in November to willful failure to pay nearly $120,000 in child support.

As part of the plea agreement, he paid $30,000 before his sentencing date.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill sentenced Haile to five years on probation and ordered him to pay the remaining $90,000.

Court records say Haile moved all over the country and lived in Bermuda for a time to avoid paying child support. At least once, he quit a job to avoid having his wages garnisheed.

He was indicted in 2006 and arrested in March 2011.

Bill to limit asbestos claims against firm OK’d

BOISE – A bill that would limit a national bottle-top maker’s liability for asbestos-related health claims in Idaho has won support in the Idaho House.

For years, Pennsylvania- based Crown Holdings has sought protection at the state level from claims filed by lung disease patients.

Crown’s ill-fated purchase of an asbestos-tainted company in 1963 has resulted in about $700 million in payouts, with 50,000 claims still pending.

The House approved the bill Wednesday 47-22.

The legislation would limit the liability of companies that acquire other companies with assets tainted by asbestos.

Crown has won similar protections in 14 other states.

Teen arrested on flight off meds, cousin says

PORTLAND – The cousin of a Saudi Arabian teenager indicted on charges of interfering with a flight crew says his relative suffers from schizophrenia, was flying home to see his sick mother and hasn’t taken his medication for three weeks.

Authorities allege 19-year-old Yazeed Mohammed A. Abunayyan swung his fist at a flight attendant, tried to hit passengers and mentioned Osama bin Laden during a flight from Portland to Houston. Police arrested him Tuesday night at Portland International Airport after his Continental flight turned around following the incident.

Fahad Alsubaie told the Medford Mail Tribune he was the person escorted off the plane with Abunayyan. The 21-year-old cousin said the disruption began when a flight attendant confronted the two for sitting together, because Alsubaie was in the wrong seat. The cousin said he was trying to sit with Abunayyan “just to make sure he was safe.”

Alsubaie is a Saudi Arabian exchange student studying English at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.

Killer hopeful he will be spared from execution

DEER LODGE, Mont. – A Canadian awaiting execution in Montana for killing two men in 1982 says he thinks there is a good chance the governor will spare his life.

Ronald A. Smith, of Red Deer, Alberta, is asking for life in prison instead of the death penalty.

Smith has exhausted his legal appeals. He says leniency from Gov. Brian Schweitzer is his only remaining option to avoid the death penalty, and he believes the governor will recognize that he is a changed man.

The Canadian government also now formally supports clemency for Smith.

Smith was 24 when he robbed and shot two men who offered him a ride. He says he looks back on the killings with deep regret.