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Former Govs. Batt, Andrus take sharp issue with Otter, Wasden over nuke waste

Two former Idaho governors – Republican Phil Batt and Democrat Cecil Andrus – called a press conference today to object sitting Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s agreement to accept more nuclear waste at the Idaho National Laboratory, saying it violates Batt’s 1995 agreement with the feds.

“Attorney General Wasden tells me that the reason for this offer of accepting waste for research contingent on compliance is to give them more incentive to comply with the high-level abatement plan,” Batt said. “I think they’ve got plenty of incentive already, and I think it’s a mistake, because the main part of the agreement is violated. You take an ounce of the waste from the federal government, they want to give you 10,000 pounds. And they always say they’ll move it out, but they won’t.”

Andrus called the move a “travesty,” and said, “It’s pretty obvious that they were putting this together for many weeks,” but held off until after the election, announcing the move only on the busy weekend of the inauguration. “There was really not any opportunity in their mind for Gov. Batt and myself to take issue with them. … Neither one of us have any intention of letting this decision by two of the elected officials of the state of Idaho come to pass.” Andrus added, “I can tell him what his legacy is going to be … it’s going to be that they have created a Yucca Mountain in Idaho.”

Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker has a full report here, including video from the press conference. AP reporter Keith Ridler has a report here. Gov. Otter will speak to reporters about it shortly.

Otter names Debbie Field as new Corrections board chair

Gov. Butch Otter has named Debbie Field, former chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, former state drug czar, and former chairman of Otter’s re-election campaign, as the new chair of the state Board of Correction. That’s the board that oversees Idaho’s prison system; former chair Robin Sandy retired from the post last week.

“Debbie has had a distinguished career as a first-rate lawmaker and member of my cabinet. I am pleased she is joining the board and I have no doubt she will make a meaningful contribution in her new role,” Otter said in a statement.

Field served in the Idaho House for 18 years. She also served 10 years on the state board of juvenile corrections, and chaired the state’s Interagency Committee on Substance Abuse, Prevention and Treatment.

Wasden: ‘My office is equipped to handle these cases’

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has issued this statement on his vote against paying $55,000 of Gov. Butch Otter's legal fees for private attorneys he brought in to help with same-sex marriage appeals:

"My view on the use of outside counsel is no secret. I've maintained a long, consistent and principled position that hiring outside attorneys and paying the high price for that work is unnecessary. I took an oath to defend the Idaho Constitution. That's my job and exactly what I've been doing on this case from the beginning. My office is equipped to handle these cases, and even now I have two staff attorneys in Washington, D.C., preparing to argue an important Department of Health and Welfare case before the U.S. Supreme Court next week."

Council approves $457K in taxpayer funds for gay marriage case legal fees, costs

The Constitutional Defense Council has voted unanimously to pay the court-ordered $401,663 in attorney fees and costs to the winning side in Idaho’s same-sex marriage case, and 3-1 to pay $55,000 for costs for outside counsel hired by Gov. Butch Otter in his appeals of that case to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who joined in the appeals, voted no, but hired no outside counsel, using state attorneys. Asked why he voted against paying the governor’s outside legal bills, Wasden said, “I didn’t think it was appropriate.”

Otter had said earlier that those costs were being covered from within his office; today’s vote means $55,000 of those costs, for fees to outside attorneys and for court-required printing fees, will come from the state’s Constitutional Defense Fund instead. Otter’s in-office counsel, Tom Perry, said total costs for the governor’s office are now up to around $150,000.

After the meeting, Otter said, “My understanding is the attorney general didn’t think we needed outside counsel, but we need outside counsel all the time. If it’s needed, it’s needed.”

House Speaker Scott Bedke, who voted in favor of both motions, said, “I think it’s appropriate at times.”

Perry said more costs are anticipated as the case continues; Otter is pressing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and also has filed an “amicus” or friend-of-the-court brief, in the 6th Circuit’s U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage appeal.

Otter names Grangeville attorney as 2nd District judge

Gov. Butch Otter has named Grangeville attorney Gregory FitzMaurice a 2nd District judge, to succeed, Judge Michael Griffin, who retired at the beginning of this year. The new district judge will take office immediately. FitzMaurice has practiced law at his own firm in Grangeville since 1980; he’s a University of Idaho law school graduate and former clerk for Idaho Supreme Court Justice Charles Donaldson.

Constitutional Defense Council special meeting set for Thursday morning

Idaho’s Constitutional Defense Council, which consists of the governor, the attorney general, the speaker of the House and the president pro-tem of the Senate, will hold a special meeting Thursday at 8:30 a.m. in the Borah Post Office building’s 2nd floor courtroom, to consider payment of a $401,663 court order to cover attorney fees and costs for the winning side in Idaho’s same-sex marriage case, which the state lost in U.S. District Court last May. Idaho has since appealed unsuccessfully to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and is currently pressing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho on Oct. 15.

The council oversees the Constitutional Defense Fund, which currently has a balance of nearly $1.7 million after lawmakers agreed to transfer another $1 million into it last year from the state’s general fund. The defense fund, by law, can be spent  “to examine and challenge, by legal action or legislation, federal mandates, court rulings, and authority of the federal government, or any activity that threatens the sovereignty and authority of the state and the well-being of its citizens.” The fund has “historically been used to pay legal settlements, primarily attorney fees, that have been awarded through the courts,” according to state budget documents. 

According to state law, any one of the four members of the council can call a meeting, and its decisions are by majority vote. Interest on the $401,663 judgment started accruing on Dec. 19, so the longer the state waits, the more it’ll cost. Yesterday, the state Board of Examiners approved the claim and referred it to the council for consideration of payment.

Governor calls for moment of silence tomorrow to remember Moscow shooting victims

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has called for a statewide moment of silence tomorrow at 1 p.m. Mountain time, noon Pacific, to remember the victims of this week's shooting in Moscow, in which three people died. Here is Otter's statement:

“It is important that everyone in Idaho take time in the wake of this horrendous act to remember those who have lost their lives and offer our support to the families, friends, and Moscow community as they mourn this tragedy. I ask that all Idahoans observe a moment of silence on Wednesday, January 14, at 1 p.m. Mountain Time (noon Pacific) to let our friends and families in Moscow know they are in our thoughts and prayers, and that they are not alone in their grief.”

Board of Examiners approves claim for marriage-case attorney fees

Idaho’s state Board of Examiners, which consists of the governor, the secretary of state, the attorney general and the state controller, has voted unanimously to approve the claim for $401,663 in attorney fees and costs in the state’s same-sex marriage litigation that a federal judge has order the state to pay the winning side in the case. Four Idaho couples sued, challenging Idaho’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional; they won their case in federal court last May. The state appealed unsuccessfully to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and is now pressing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court; same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho on Oct. 15.

The order for attorney fees and costs is just for the portion of the case in U.S. District Court in Idaho, not for the appeals. Board of Examiners members asked no questions about the matter at their meeting this morning, and approved the payment without comment. A memo from the state Division of Financial Management asked the board to approve the claim and refer it to the Constitutional Defense Council for consideration of payment. That council consists of the governor, the attorney general, the speaker of the House and the president pro-tem of the Senate.

The council can convene on the call of any member and can make payments from the state’s Constitutional Defense Fund by majority vote. That fund currently has a balance of nearly $1.7 million, after lawmakers agreed to transfer another $1 million into it last year from the state’s general fund. Gov. Butch Otter, asked by reporters yesterday whether he thought more money needed to be deposited into the fund as he continues his court fight against same-sex marriage, said no. “I believe … that there is plenty of money in the constitutional defense fund,” Otter said.

Otter’s agenda for Idaho: School funding boosts, tax cuts

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter called for boosts to school funding and tax cuts for businesses and top earners in his State of the State message to a joint session of the Legislature on Monday, drawing enthusiastic applause from lawmakers. But the chairman of the Senate tax committee, Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, wasn’t convinced. “Quite frankly, we saw those same proposals last year as far as tax cuts,” Siddoway said after Otter’s talk. “But I’m dead serious about fixing education. … Then we’ll be able to see if there’s going to be enough revenue left over to do any tax reductions. I’m pretty skeptical.”

Siddoway said if the House passes Otter’s proposed cuts in the top personal and corporate income tax rates, “It would probably end up the same place the last one did.” That’s in Siddoway’s desk drawer, where it died without ever being scheduled for a Senate hearing. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Otter calls on lawmakers to back streamlined sales tax legislation

Speaking with reporters at a news conference after his State of the State address today, Gov. Butch Otter said he wants Idaho lawmakers to agree to join the streamlined sales tax project – something lawmakers have been debating but have resisted in recent years – to clear the way for sales taxes to be charged on online sales once Congress authorizes that. “It comes down to fairness,” Otter declared, for the “local business here on Main Street” that pays its taxes. “It’s simply fair,” he said.

Otter said Idaho’s already supposed to be collecting tax on Idahoans’ online purchases, under current law. “That’s’ about $82 million bucks,” he said. People are supposed to be reporting and paying it on their income tax returns as use tax, but many don’t. Otter mused, “I don’t know that I’ve ever ordered anything online,” except perhaps “one of those squirt cans that can fix your rain gutters.” But he said each year at tax time, “I always say to Lori, ‘How much have you bought online?’ I usually add a little buffer. This year I paid $600.”

Asked if he thinks lawmakers will support the move when they’ve resisted it in past years, Otter said, “It didn’t do us any good” earlier, because Congress wasn’t ready to act. “I’ve been told by a couple of folks in the Idaho delegation that there’s a real opportunity for it,” Otter said.

9th Circuit rejects Otter’s request to revisit gay marriage decision

In a somewhat anticlimactic ruling, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday rejected motions for an en banc review – a reconsideration by a larger, 11-judge panel – of the October ruling overturning bans on same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada. Idaho already had appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the motion for reconsideration apparently wasn’t going to be granted; Idaho Gov. Butch Otter had requested it Oct. 21, but more than two months went by without any action.

Friday’s order said only, “The panel has voted to deny the petitions for rehearing en banc. The full court was advised of the petitions for rehearing en banc. A judge requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc. The matter failed to receive a majority of the votes of the non-recused active judges in favor of en banc reconsideration. The petitions for rehearing en banc are denied.”

9th Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of Portland, joined by Judges Johnnie B. Rawlinson of Las Vegas and Carlos Bea of San Francisco, penned a dissent, saying the en banc review should have been granted, noting that the 6th Circuit recently ruled against same-sex marriage.

“Thoughtful, dedicated jurists who strive to reach the correct outcome—including my colleagues on the panel here—have considered this issue and arrived at contrary results,” O’Scannlain wrote. “This makes clear that—regardless of one’s opinion on the merits of the politically charged and controversial issues raised by these cases—we are presented with a ‘question of exceptional importance’ that should have been reviewed by an en banc panel.” He further argued that a 1972 one-sentence ruling in a Minnesota case, Baker v. Nelson, still should be considered precedent on the marriage question; it found no federal question to be decided in a case where two men sued for the right to marry.

You can read the order and dissent here; the dissent also argued that states should be able to decide the marriage issue for themselves. The 9th Circuit has 29 judgeships; it’s so large that in the 9th Circuit, an en banc review involves an 11-judge panel, rather than convening the entire court, as in other circuits.

Of Bibles, politics and family heritage…

Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence turned up this interesting anecdote in his feature story today on the Bibles that Idaho’s top state elected officials use to take their oaths of office, including cherished family heirlooms: Gov. Butch Otter used his late father’s Bible, which he also used to take his first oath as lieutenant governor in 1987. “I got it when he died,” Otter told Spence, who also reported that the father and son didn’t particularly agree when it came to politics. “His dad actually ran for the Legislature as a Democrat from Washington County in 1974, at the same time Otter was running as a Republican from Canyon County,” Spence reported.

“We separated on what government should and shouldn’t be,” Otter told Spence. “When I ran against Marjorie Ruth Moon for lieutenant governor in 1986, she'd stay with my folks when she was in Weiser. Frank Church, Cecil Andrus, they stayed with them as well. Of course, I was welcomed there, too." Otter described his father as "a sincere, Roosevelt Democrat."

The note cards his father used to introduce him at his 1987 oath are still tucked into the Bible, Spence reports. The book has also been signed by the various judges who administered the oath. Spence’s report is online here, though a subscription is needed to access the full article.

Otter strikes defiant tone in third inaugural address

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter struck a defiant tone in his third inaugural address today, declaring, “We stand for what’s right, here in Idaho.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

“Where we draw the line is having others’ views imposed on us as mandates out of misguided political correctness or a lack of respect for our history, traditions and values,” the governor said in one of several apparent references to his ongoing fight against same-sex marriage, which became legal in Idaho on Oct. 15. Otter is currently pressing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Asked by reporters a day earlier if he wasn’t wasting taxpayers’ money to continue the court fight, Otter said he was committed to protecting the Idaho Constitution, which was amended by voters in 2006 to ban gay marriage. He compared it to press freedoms under the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment, saying he wouldn’t give those up without a fight either.

When Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Burdick administered the oath of office to Otter on the chilly state Capitol steps today, the governor added an extra two words, with emphasis, when asked if he’d support the Constitution of the state of Idaho: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the state of Idaho,” he declared.

A crowd of more than 200 gathered for the state’s official inaugural ceremony, at which Otter and the other six statewide elected officials were sworn in; the applause was muted from the gloved and bundled-up crowd. A lone, bearded protester at the back of the crowd held up a sign saying, “SAVE A WOLF, EDUCATE AN OTTER.” The crowd included Harley Brown, the fringe candidate who ran against Otter in the primary and who dresses in leather biker gear; Otter shook his hand after the ceremony.

 

Stage is set for inaugural festivities

The 25th Army Band is playing, the seats are set up and the stage is set for Idaho's official inaugural ceremony, which kicks off at noon today on the steps of the state Capitol. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter will be giving his third inaugural address as governor. Also being inaugurated today are new state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra; Attorney General Lawrence Wasden; Treasurer Ron Crane; Controller Brandon Woolf; and Lieutenant Governor Brad Little.

Today's ceremony will include the Cecil D. Andrus Elementary Ambassadors Honor Choir singing the state song, "Here We Have Idaho;" the national anthem sung by Ashlyn Allen, Miss Pre-Teen Idaho; a cannon salute; and an invocation and benediction from the Rev. Len MacMillan. Otter's speech will kick off a rare consecutive third term in office as Idaho governor; he previously served six years in Congress and 14 years as lieutenant governor. I'll have a full report here later.

Otter on IEN, prison takeover, Medicaid…

Other comments from Gov. Butch Otter at this morning’s AP Legislative Preview:

  • On the Idaho Education Network: “The only problem that we’ve had with the IEN was the contracting process.” He said a recent survey of school districts gave the broadband network high marks; however, a court has ruled the state issued the $60 million contract for the service illegally. Otter said he wants better oversight of big state contracts. He said he’s tried to follow former Gov. Cecil Andrus’ “no surprises” rule, but when it comes to problems with contracts, “Admittedly, I’ve been surprised.”
  • On the state takeover of management of its largest prison from Corrections Corp. of America: Otter said the transition has gone well. “I probably should caution myself from saying this, because I don’t want to give anybody any ideas out there if they read your news, but a lot of the gang activity that we had been experiencing has been reduced. … There are still fistfights, but the 3-on-1 or 4-on-1 gang activity that we had been seeing has been reduced, and … we hope to keep that going.” He added, “You’ve got 2,000 people out there that are there for a reason, because they’re violent, because they can’t get along within the law.”
  • Several times, Otter declined to answer questions from reporters because said he’ll be addressing those questions in his State of the State address to lawmakers on Monday. Among them: What he thinks of ideas like shifting sales tax proceeds from tires and auto parts to transportation funding; and Medicaid expansion. Otter noted that his Medicaid task force has a report pending, and he’s looking at its recommendations. “In total maybe not, but there are some actionable items in that task force report,” he said, “and I’m going to continue keeping my promise of 2011 to the Legislature that I would not make a unilateral decision on either the insurance exchange or Medicaid expansion. So that report’s got a lot of stuff in it, good stuff, and I say again, actionable items, good ideas.”
  • Asked if repealing the sales tax on groceries is a 2015 priority of the Otter Administration, the governor said, "No, no on the grocery tax."

Wasden also files gay-marriage appeal to Supreme Court

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has now also filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in Idaho’s same-sex marriage case, along with Gov. Butch Otter. “This case presents the Court with the opportunity to resolve a divisive split on a question of nationwide importance: Whether the United States Constitution now prohibits states from maintaining the traditional definition of civil marriage, i.e., between one man and one woman,” Wasden’s petition says.

Wasden’s petition, prepared by Deputy Attorney General Clay Smith and filed today, focuses on a states’ rights argument, saying, “The lower federal courts have rendered conflicting decisions whether the Constitution requires states to sanction same-sex marriage. This conflict has resulted in a Constitution that treats states unequally: It permits some to exercise the power they have always had to define civil marriage, but denies other states that same right.”

Like Otter’s petition, Wasden’s argues that the 9th Circuit ruling should have been governed by a one-line decision in a 1971 case from Minnesota, Baker vs. Nelson, which found no federal question to review in a lawsuit from that state in which two men sued because they weren’t allowed the marry. The 9th Circuit, and other appeals courts around the country, have held that last year’s Windsor decision changed that precedent; Wasden disagrees.

“The Ninth Circuit panel opinion wrongly concluded that this Court’s cases had rendered Baker obsolete,” Wasden’s petition says. The Windsor case, it says, “did not mention Baker. It instead affirmed Baker’s point that states have the authority to define marriage.” The Windsor case was the one that overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA; it involved a New York woman who was ordered by the IRS to pay hundreds of thousands in estate taxes upon the death of her wife, because DOMA ordered the federal government only to recognize marriages among opposite-sex partners. Under New York law, the inheritance from a spouse was exempt from estate tax.

Wasden’s petition also echoes some of the arguments in Otter’s, saying, “The state has defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman not based on a false stereotype or discriminatory assumption, but on irrefutable biological facts. It confers the benefits of civil marriage on opposite-sex couples because they are biologically able to procreate and responsible for virtually all children being raised in Idaho households, not because of their sexual orientation.” You can read it here.  The petition runs 31 pages; with the attached appendices, including the previous rulings in the case, the document runs a total of 193 pages.

Otter files appeal to U.S. Supreme Court in gay marriage case

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has filed a petition appealing the legalization of same-sex marriage in Idaho to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the state’s case is the “ideal vehicle” to resolve the issue for the nation; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. “The time has come for this court to resolve a question of critical importance to the states, their citizens and especially their children: Whether the federal Constitution prohibits a state from maintaining the traditional understanding and definition of marriage as between a man and a woman,” Otter’s Washington, D.C. attorney, Gene Schaerr, wrote in the 41-page petition.

Otter argues that the high court should take up Idaho’s appeal either in addition to or instead of a 6th Circuit case already pending before the court with a similar petition. “It is important that at least one of the cases this court considers on the merits be a case in which the traditional definition of marriage has been defended with the most robust defense available,” Schaerr wrote. “This is that case.”

Same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho on Oct. 15, after the state lost its appeal in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Four lesbian couples – two who wanted to marry, and two who wanted their home state to recognize their legal out-of-state marriages – sued in federal court, and won their case last May. Their attorney, Deborah Ferguson, already has pledged to defend the decision. “The 9th Circuit decided it correctly, and we will vigorously defend the decision,” she said today.

Fund has more than enough to cover court-ordered legal fees in marriage case

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said today that he’ll confer with the other members of the state’s Constitutional Defense Council – the speaker of the House, president pro-tem of the Senate, and Attorney General – before calling a meeting of the council to pay a new $401,663 judgment for attorney fees in Idaho’s thus-far unsuccessful bid to defend its ban on same-sex marriage. But Otter said he’s glad the Legislature last year, at his urging, deposited another $1 million in the fund, giving it a balance that can easily cover the payment with plenty left over.

“I always anticipated that we would try to keep a million dollars in that fund, so it would suggest to those who want to bring a constitutional question to us that we’d be prepared at a moment’s notice to take it on,” Otter said today. In 2012, the balance in the fund was down to just a bit over $300,000; lawmakers that year put in another half-million. This year’s million-dollar addition brought the fund up to nearly $1.7 million, well in excess of the current bill, which started accruing interest on Friday.

Here are the past expenditures Idaho’s Constitutional Defense Council has made from the state’s Constitutional Defense Fund – all for attorney fees:

  • $190,547 to Elam & Burke in 1995-96 for attorney fees in case involving nuclear waste shipments to Idaho National Laboratory
  • $47,606 for attorney fees awarded in the Idaho Coalition United for Bears v. Cenarrussa case, regarding ballot initiatives, in 2004
  • $380,526 for attorney fees awarded to Planned Parenthood in 2006 for case involving anti-abortion legislation that was found unconstitutional
  • $66,000 for attorney fees awarded to Planned Parenthood in 2008 for another case involving anti-abortion legislation that was found unconstitutional
  • $75,000 for attorney fees awarded to the Pocatello Education Association in 2009 for a case involving unconstitutional legislation related to donations to unions
  • $54,350 for attorney fees awarded in Daien v. Ysursa in 2011, a case involving ballot access for independent presidential candidates

Lawmakers have deposited $2.5 million in the fund since its inception in 1995.

Idaho joins 17-state legal challenge against Obama immigration executive action

Idaho has joined a 17-state legal challenge to President Obama's executive action on immigration, led by Texas Gov.-elect and current Attorney General Greg Abbott. “I joined this suit to strongly express my objections to this unconstitutional and misguided policy and its unilateral implementation,” Gov. Butch Otter said in a statement. “There is no question that the nation’s immigration system is broken and badly needs an overhaul. But the solution should honor the constitutional separation of powers, which dictates a broad-based collaborative process that includes Congress. It should not be implemented by executive fiat.”

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden issued this statement:

“Quite simply the lawsuit Idaho joined today is about the rule of law and respecting the separation of powers spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. The President’s action overrides our system of checks and balances. A president just can’t on his own authorize that a federal law be ignored and replace it with an Executive Order. The approach being taken today by my office is two pronged. I have also signed a letter being circulated among my fellow Attorneys General demanding that Congress step up now, do its job and fix the immigration problems vexing Idaho and the rest of the nation.”

Click below for a full report on the legal challenge from the Associated Press in Austin, Texas.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Idaho’s governor in waiting

If newly re-elected 72-year-old Idaho Gov. Butch Otter didn't complete his full third term, Idaho's new governor would be Brad Little, the second-term lieutenant governor, rancher and former state senator who's been toiling full-time in the part-time, low-paid post since Otter appointed him to it in 2009.

Little's record seems decidedly more moderate than Otter's - he blocked Idaho's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage for two years before reluctantly supporting the final version in 2006. But Little, 60, is an Otter fan who says his differences with the governor are more style than substance. He also says he fully expects Otter to serve out his term, but is ready should he be asked to step up.

That call already has come on a short-term basis: Little has served as acting governor on 247 days since he took office on Jan. 6, 2009. You can read my full story here from today’s Spokesman-Review.

Otter on Reinke resignation: ‘It’s a tough job; Brent has my thanks’

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has issued this statement on the resignation of state Corrections Director Brent Reinke:

“I have appreciated Director Reinke’s effort, enthusiasm and empathy throughout my tenure as Governor. It’s a tough job, and nobody in Idaho history has done it longer. Brent has my thanks for his hard work and commitment. I wish him the best in all his future endeavors.”

Reinke took over the Department of Correction in January of 2007, after serving 10 years as the state's director of juvenile corrections; prior to that, he was a Twin Falls County commissioner and business owner.

9th Circuit lets Otter file reply, but not 57-page amicus brief

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today granted Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s motion to submit additional arguments in the state’s same-sex marriage case, but rejected without comment his bid to submit a copy of a 57-page amicus brief from a Louisiana case that Otter argued presents “a gold mine of scholarship regarding the practical, real-world impact of redefining marriage.” Otter wants an en banc review, by an 11-judge panel, of the earlier 9th Circuit decision overturning Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, which was made by a three-judge panel. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Idaho since Oct. 15; you can read the court's latest order here.

Otter files additional arguments to 9th Circuit in marriage case

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has filed a motion with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals asking that the state be allowed to file additional arguments in its motion for an en banc review, a reconsideration by an 11-judge panel of the earlier three-judge panel’s rejection of Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. “Since the Governor submitted his petition, the Sixth Circuit has issued an opinion counter to this Court’s ruling in the case, requiring a reply by the Governor regarding this new circuit split,” Otter’s attorneys wrote. They also cited an amicus brief filed in the Fifth Circuit same-sex marriage case in Louisiana, and submitted a copy, saying it has presented “a gold mine of scholarship regarding the practical, real-world impact of redefining marriage.”

“Plaintiffs … have no answer to Gov. Otter’s showing that by its ‘explicit terms’ Idaho’s marriage laws discriminate facially, not on the basis of sexual orientation, but on the basis of biological complementarity,” the lawyers wrote. “Removing the man-woman definition threatens serious harm to the institution of marriage, and, thus, to the children of heterosexual couples.” You can read Otter's brief here.

Change coming to committee chairmanships, some leadership posts in Legislature

When the Idaho Legislature convenes it organizational session on Dec. 4, six committee chairmanships and two leadership posts will be up for grabs, due to election outcomes, retirements and other moves. The chairmanships: Senate Education, Senate Resources, House Business, House Local Government, House Resources, and House Ways & Means. The leadership posts are Senate majority caucus chair and House assistant minority leader. You can read my full Sunday column here; it also includes a report on the recently filed arguments in Idaho’s same-sex marriage case, in which Gov. Butch Otter is seeking an en banc re-hearing from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; and a state budget update.

Gov. Otter taking applications for new state insurance chief

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is accepting applications through Dec. 5 for the state's next director of the Idaho Department of Insurance. Current insurance chief Bill Deal is retiring Dec. 31. “The successful applicant for this position will have big shoes to fill," Otter said. "Bill Deal has been an exemplary director at the Department of Insurance and an exceptional public servant throughout his career. I’m looking for someone with unquestioned integrity, a high level of professionalism, and a commitment to responsive administration of the agency and to meeting the needs of Idaho citizens and businesses.”

The position is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate; it's a full-time position that currently pays $102,000 a year. Click below for Otter's full announcement.

Qwest gave $35,000 to Otter campaigns since ‘06, Syringa donated to 2 of his rivals

Yesterday, I noted that Education Networks of America, the company that got the now-voided Idaho Education Network contract along with Qwest, has donated $18,250 to Gov. Butch Otter’s campaign, including $5,000 in September; and also has given $6,000 to state schools Superintendent Tom Luna’s campaign since 2009.

But it’s not the only player in the IEN deal that is a big campaign contributor. Qwest, now known as CenturyLink, is a prodigious contributor to Idaho political campaigns that has given even more to Otter. Since 2006, through its political action committee, formerly Qwest Idaho PAC and now CenturyLink Idaho PAC, it gave Otter’s campaigns a whopping $35,000.

Qwest also has given $3,500 to Luna’s campaign since 2011. And it’s donated to an array of other candidates from both parties, according to state campaign finance records.

Syringa Networks, the company that won the lawsuit over the contract, has, like Qwest/CenturyLink, donated to an array of candidates from both parties, though not near as many. Syringa gave $2,000 to Otter’s campaign in 2008. But in 2010, it donated $5,000 to the campaign of Keith Allred, Otter’s Democratic opponent that year. And in April of this year, it donated $5,000 to the campaign of Sen. Russ Fulcher, who ran against Otter in the GOP primary.

Idaho officials heartened by 6th Circuit ruling against gay marriage, say they’ll press appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

Idaho officials say they have new hope that their state’s same-sex marriage case could be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, after Thursday’s 6th District ruling upholding bans on gay marriage in four states – the first federal appeals court to rule that way, after a string of rulings unanimously going the opposite direction. Those have included Idaho’s case; the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected Idaho’s appeal and overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage last month. Gay couples have been legally able to marry in the state since Oct. 15, and the state now recognizes marriages of same-sex couples that took place legally in other states.

Thursday’s ruling, which upheld same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, is “significant because it establishes a conflict among the circuits, and creates a situation in which the Supreme Court is likely going to have to resolve the issue,” said Todd Dvorak, spokesman for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “Because of that, we are moving forward with our plans to file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.” That’s the process for asking the high court to take up an appeal. Dvorak said the state has until Jan. 5 to file that petition.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who already has a petition pending with the 9th Circuit asking that court to reconsider its ruling, welcomed the 6th District ruling. “This decision reinforces many of the same points I have made in federal court here and in the 9th Circuit – that defining marriage is a states’ rights issue under the Tenth Amendment,” Otter said in a statement. Otter has continued to press the case, even forcefully speaking out against same-sex marriage in his election-night victory speech to GOP supporters late on Tuesday night. “I’m going to continue that fight as long as I possibly can,” he declared to cheers and applause.  You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and watch video of the governor’s election-night comments here.

Otter thanks supporters, says Balukoff ran a ‘solid race’ that brought up important issues

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has issued a statement thanking his supporters for his re-election to a third term, and saying he's "thrilled" with the outcome of the election, both in Idaho and across the nation. "I firmly believe that Idahoans have elected the entire slate of Republican officials here in Idaho because our message of limited government, personal responsibility and conservative values resonates with the majority of the electorate," he said. "I'd like to send my regards to my opponent, A.J. Balukoff, for running a solid race that allowed us to discuss a variety of issues that are important to all Idahoans in a public forum.” Click below for Otter's full statement.

Republicans roll in Idaho - again

Here’s a link to my full day-after story at spokesman.com on Idaho’s election results. It took until this morning at 7, but GOP newcomer Sherri Ybarra eked out a slim win in the race for Idaho state schools chief, completing a Republican sweep of all statewide offices that echoed results in Idaho elections since 2006. Democrats picked up one seat in the state Legislature thanks to upsets in Moscow and Lewiston, but GOP dominance of the Idaho Statehouse remained otherwise unchanged – 80 percent of seats went to Republicans, down from 81 percent. “It was a good election for Republicans, and they got their voters out,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and longtime observer of Idaho politics.

Otter: ‘It says something great about Republican principles’

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, in brief comments late last night to KTVB-TV, pondered his re-election to a rare consecutive third four-year term. “This is the first one in the 21st century,” he said. “What I believe it says, it says something great about Republican principles, and how enduring, how survivable they are, even when we have major differences in the party. It’s still those principles that people of Idaho want to be governed by.”

Otter faced a divisive primary challenge in May, when he defeated state Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, by just 51.4 percent to 43.6 percent, with barely a majority of his own party backing his bid for a third term. Last night, Otter got 53.5 percent of the statewide vote to win a third term.