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Eye on Boise: Records request made for Otter’s public records order

BOISE – Gov. Butch Otter seemed a bit surprised that he’d already received a public records request for documents related to his move to create a public records ombudsman position in his office, before he’d even formally announced the move.

“Did you hear about that?” he asked reporters before his press conference in the governor’s office, referring to the request from AP reporter Rebecca Boone. “She asked for public records on the executive order I’m signing about public records today!” When a reporter – OK, it was me – responded, “What a great idea!” a laughing Otter said, “You guys – get outta here.”

Boone’s request seeks “all documents, correspondence, notes, phone messages, emails, text messages and other records regarding the creation of a public records ombudsman position by the governor’s office,” along with policy or procedure documents on how to respond to public records requests both before and after the creation of the office, and all drafts and previous versions of the executive order creating the ombudsman position.

That final item may be of special note, considering that Otter spokesman Jon Hanian told the Idaho Statesman newspaper, in an article printed on the same day as Otter’s announcement, that the new ombudsman would take requests from those who’ve had a public records request denied, in whole or in part, within 90 days of the denial, and issue an opinion within 10 business days. “We think it will add another check and balance in the process of transparency,” Hanian told Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell. But the order Otter signed doesn’t include that process.

The governor said that’s his vision for what his new ombudsman, attorney Cally Younger, would do, but first she will gather information about how agencies handle requests now and help formulate proposals for improvements, some of which might require legislation.

Asked about the discrepancy, Hanian said the 90-day time frame “was in the earlier working draft; it was not in the executive order he signed.” He said Otter left that out of the order because “he wants all of the particulars that deal with the process … as well as the time frame … to be part of the dialogue that he spoke about. … So it may end up being 90 days, it may be shorter than that or longer than that. … This will get the ball rolling on it and we can start fine-tuning it.”

Sen. Hill touts insurance exchange

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, has published a guest opinion in the Idaho Falls Post Register lauding Idaho’s decision to establish a state health insurance exchange.

Under the headline “Going our own way,” Hill writes, “The choice last year was never between a state-run exchange and no exchange at all. That option had been denied by the courts. It was a choice between state involvement and total federal control. Those states that ignored the law relinquished control to the federal government. Idaho refused to surrender its decision-making authority over health care issues.”

The state exchange, proposed by GOP Gov. Otter, was highly controversial; the state Republican Party Central Committee opposed it. Opposition to the exchange is the top issue being cited by Otter’s leading GOP primary challenger, Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian.

Hill wrote, “While the residents of other states have been strapped by a 3.5 percent premium tax to fund the federal exchange, Idaho has kept fees at only 1.5 percent. Idaho’s health insurance rates continue to be among the lowest in the country. While the federal exchange requires detailed personal information in order to access its exchange, Idaho allows persons to browse plans and check rates anonymously.” 

Candidate drops out after news of his past

Canyon County GOP legislative candidate Greg Chaney announced last week that he’ll suspend his campaign, after news surfaced that the candidate, unopposed in the primary, hadn’t revealed his past domestic violence and multiple-bankruptcy record.

An initially defensive Chaney said he’d reformed, found God, and he and his third wife now live frugally. But now, Chaney has withdrawn from the race, saying he’ll neither seek nor accept the GOP nomination for the House seat now held by retiring longtime Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell.

However, it’s already too late to remove Chaney’s name from the ballot; that deadline was 45 days before the election, and Chaney’s announcement came just 27 days before Idaho’s May 20 primary.

Chaney was unopposed on the primary ballot. Brian Bishop, a Harvard-educated Caldwell attorney, is running as a write-in in the Republican primary and says he plans to actively campaign; Kent Marmon has also filed as a write-in in the race. The victor will face Democrat Leif Skyving, independent Gordon Counsil and Libertarian Eugene Spencer Smith in November.

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