August 18, 2013 in Idaho

Eye on Boise: Incumbency not an election guarantee

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Political scientist Eric Ostermeier of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs has dug up some interesting numbers in light of 1st District U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador’s announcement last week that he won’t challenge Gov. Butch Otter in the GOP primary next spring.

Among them: Only two Idaho governors seeking re-election since 1904 have failed to win their party’s nomination, Democrat Barzilla Clark in 1938 and Republican Robert Smylie in 1966.

However, once they get to the general election, incumbent Idaho governors historically haven’t done as well. Only 19 of 30 incumbent governors – 63 percent – who sought re-election won. The record’s even worse for GOP governors: 10 victories and seven defeats since statehood, with eight not seeking re-election. That’s a 58.8 percent success rate. Democratic governors have won nine of 13 re-election bids, or 69 percent, with five not choosing to run for re-election.

Another tidbit: Since 1954, only three GOP candidates for governor were unopposed in the primary: Robert Smylie in 1958, Jack Murphy in 1974 and David Leroy in 1986.

Ostermeier also notes that only three Idaho governors were ever elected at least three times to the post, as Otter will attempt in his bid for a third term: Ben Ross, Robert Smylie and Cecil Andrus.

Revenue outlook

Idaho’s July state tax revenues are in for the first month of the fiscal year, and they’re 1.8 percent below the revised forecast for the month – but 4.2 percent above last year at this time.

The new forecast for fiscal year 2014 general fund revenues is for $2.81 billion, a 2.1 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. It’s for a higher amount than the January forecast, but a smaller percentage increase – mainly because fiscal year 2013 revenues came in much stronger than forecast. The new forecast also reflects the impact of a $20 million state expense in fiscal year 2014 to reimburse local governments for a business property tax cut.

Otter issued a statement on the revised forecast, reiterating that he doesn’t want Idaho’s state government to grow as fast as its economy.

About that new law

States including Idaho were jostling for attention at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, convention in Washington, D.C., last week, looking for a piece of the drone business as the unmanned aircraft market grows and states compete to become federal test sites. The group’s website calls it “ The global market place for all things unmanned” and said 8,000 people from more than 40 countries attended.

But Idaho’s delegation had to explain a graphic in the AUVSI magazine distributed at the conference showing Idaho as bright-red on a map, one of seven states that’s passed “anti-UAS bills.” Idaho’s delegation told the website Politico that that was misinformation, and Idaho’s new legislation just “ensures the taxpayers that the technology won’t be abused.”

The twice-amended bill, SB 1134, passed after much debate in this year’s legislative session. Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, it bans the use of unmanned drones to conduct surveillance or record or photograph “specifically targeted” persons or private property without their written consent, including for the purposes of publishing. The bill exempts drones used in mapping or resource management, law enforcement activity with a warrant, and emergency response for safety, search and rescue or controlled substance investigations. The governor signed it into law April 11, and it took effect July 1.

Brain chip?

Boise State University researchers are working on developing a computer chip based on the human brain, funded by a three-year National Science Foundation grant.

“By mimicking the brain’s billions of interconnections and pattern recognition capabilities, we may ultimately introduce a new paradigm in speed and power, and potentially enable systems that include the ability to learn, adapt and respond to their environment,” said BSU professor Elisa Barney Smith, who is the principal investigator on the grant. She’s working with fellow electrical and computer engineering faculty members Kris Campbell and Vishal Saxena. Campbell’s BSU lab is one of only half a dozen in the world capable of the project, according to the university. 

BSU said the team’s research builds on recent work from scientists who have derived mathematical algorithms to explain the electrical interaction between brain synapses and neurons.

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