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Eye on Boise: Idaho delegation splits on hurricane relief, government funding bill

Sun., Sept. 10, 2017

When Congress quickly and overwhelmingly passed a Hurricane Harvey relief and government funding bill late last week, it did so with the backing of only half of Idaho’s congressional delegation.

Sen. Mike Crapo voted in favor of the measure, part of a deal struck by President Trump and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, which avoids a government shutdown and raises the debt ceiling until December. It also approves more than $15 billion in disaster relief funding largely related to Hurricane Harvey.

“Today’s bill provides a short-term response to the immediate recovery needs in Texas and Louisiana,” Crapo said in a statement. “The longer term disaster response costs caused by Hurricane Harvey must necessarily be addressed as we develop our fiscal year 2018 budget. I remain committed to developing a budget that is fiscally sound and puts us on a path to balance.”

Sen. Jim Risch was one of 17 senators, all Republicans, voting no.

Rep. Mike Simpson, of Idaho’s 2nd District, voted for the bill, while 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador missed the vote. But Labrador’s communications director, Todd Winer, said Friday, that Labrador “would have voted against it.” Labrador has long been an opponent of measures to raise the debt ceiling that aren’t tied to spending cuts.

Risch had similar concerns. “They could get his vote if they have reasonable reforms going forward that will get us off the fiscal path that we are on,” said his press secretary, Kaylin Minton. “His vote today is fully consistent with every vote he has made on debt ceilings and large spending packages in the past.”

The bill also includes a short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which was set to expire at the end of September.

Counties group taps Grigg

Seth Grigg, currently executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities, has been named as the next executive director of the Idaho Association of Counties, to succeed longtime IAC chief Dan Chadwick, who is retiring after 27 years in the post.

“We are very pleased to announce this appointment,” said Bill Thompson, president of the counties association and the Latah County prosecuting attorney. “Seth will bring new leadership and ideas to carry us into IAC’s next era. He has a deep understanding of county government and will continue to carry out IAC’s mission of promoting county interests, advocating good public policy, and providing education and training to our members.”

Chadwick called Grigg “a wonderful choice.”

Little gets IACI nod

The Idaho Prosperity Fund, the political action committee of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, has announced its endorsement of Brad Little for governor in 2018. Alex LaBeau, president of the prominent business lobbying group, said, “Education, workforce development, and the ability of our businesses to develop and compete are issues our organization strives to improve, and Brad Little has the best record and knowledge to make a difference in those areas.”

Little faces 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador and Boise physician and developer Tommy Ahlquist in the 2018 GOP primary.

Ahlquist names co-chairs

Ahlquist has named five statewide co-chairs for his campaign, in addition to campaign Chairman Damond Watkins. They are three-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong; Larry Williams, founder of Idaho Timber Corp. and Tree Top Ranches; Lorna Finman, head of LCF Enterprises and STEM Revolution in North Idaho; Meridian Mayor Tammy DeWeerd; and Doug Pickett, owner of Pickett Ranch.

Phillips joins Labrador camp

Labrador announced that longtime GOP campaign strategist and former Idaho Republican Party Executive Director Scott Phillips has joined his campaign team. “He brings a level of expertise and a drive to win that enhances our campaign’s ability to execute our statewide plan,” Labrador said in a statement. “We are so excited to have Scott on our team.”

Labrador said Phillips will be his campaign’s senior strategist and spokesman. He joins campaign manager China Gum.

Phillips served as a deputy controller for State Controllers Brandon Woolf and Donna Jones, and as a deputy chief of staff under Gov. Jim Risch; he left the state controller’s office in mid-August.

Otter appoints Rusche

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has appointed John Rusche, former House minority leader and a retired pediatrician from Lewiston, to the Idaho Water Resources Board. “John Rusche has been a reasonable and constructive partner in developing public policies that work for the people of Idaho,” Otter said in a statement. “I know he will continue to burnish that enviable record in this new assignment. I admire and appreciate his willingness to serve by bringing his expertise and civic virtue to bear on some of our most significant resource issues.”

Rusche will fill a vacancy created when current member Chuck Cuddy announced he was stepping down; his unexpired term runs through January of 2019. Cuddy also served in the Idaho House as a Democrat; the board is required by law to be split between members of different parties.