September 15, 2013 in Idaho

Eye on Boise: Sens. Crapo, Risch to host online town halls

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Both of Idaho’s U.S. senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, have scheduled “tele-town hall” meetings in the coming week.

Risch’s will be on Monday, and Crapo’s on Wednesday, both starting at 6 p.m. Pacific time. Any Idahoan can participate but needs to sign up online in advance.

Crapo says he’ll take questions and offer insights on issues Congress must deal with this fall, including potential military intervention in Syria. Risch says he’ll give a brief update on issues being discussed in Congress and take questions for the bulk of the hourlong session. Risch also will ask participants to respond to poll questions on various issues.

To sign up for Crapo’s tele-town hall, go to his website at www.crapo.senate.gov. For Risch’s, visit his website at www.risch.senate.gov.

Nondiscrimination vote

Idaho Falls has become the seventh city in Idaho to enact a local ordinance banning discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The eastern Idaho city’s council approved the new ordinance Thursday around midnight, the Post Register reported, after a meeting in which more than 45 people testified and more than 100 attended.

Idaho’s Human Rights Act now bans discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of race, religion and disability. But state lawmakers have resisted years of efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity to that law.

Unlike ordinances passed earlier in six other Idaho cities, Idaho Falls’ new provision doesn’t cover discrimination in public accommodations, though it does bar job and housing discrimination.

Sandpoint was the first Idaho city to enact a local anti-discrimination ordinance covering sexual orientation and gender identity, in December 2011; it was followed by Boise, Ketchum, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene and Pocatello.

Comment on school plan

Public comments are being accepted through Sept. 27 on the 20-point education reform plan put forth by a 31-member education task force appointed by Gov. Butch Otter.

The panel, which sent its final report to Otter last week, made far-reaching recommendations, which range from literacy to advanced learning, from restoring $82.5 million a year in school operations funding to substantially boosting Idaho teacher pay, and from statewide electronic collaboration to more training for teachers and administrators.

The task force worked on its recommendations for eight months, including seven hearings across the state and extensive work in subcommittees.

Comments may be emailed to taskforce@osbe.idaho.gov. The recommendations and more information are online at the state Board of Education’s website, www.boardofed.idaho.gov; click on “Task Force for Improving Education.”

State revenues on track

Idaho state tax revenues came close to forecast levels in August, falling just one-tenth of a percent below, a difference the governor’s Division of Financial Management dubbed “negligible.”

Tax revenues for the month were 3.5 percent above the previous August; for the fiscal year to date, which began July 1, revenues are running 3.8 percent above last year but 1 percent behind forecasts. Individual income tax collected was $4.2 million below the forecast for the month, but corporate income tax was $3.6 million ahead. Sales taxes slightly exceeded expectations.

The state’s general fund tax revenues for August totaled $204.5 million, just below the forecast of $204.8 million.

Both here and there …

A Democratic state senator from Boise is under fire after a local TV station revealed that he’s now splitting his time between Idaho and Washington state, where his wife is employed as a teacher near Seattle, and his home in his Boise district is nearly empty. KTVB-TV reported that the Idaho Legislature has no residency rules once a senator has been elected, though candidates are required to live in their district to run.

Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, told the station that while there’s little left at his Boise home besides his bed and clothing and his family is gone, he’s still living there at least 50 percent of the time.

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