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Edit: NRA Has GOP Solons Shaking

“… (T)he right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” So says the Second Amendment. It doesn't say, except at Brigham Young University-Idaho at Rexburg. ” … The people shall have the right to keep and bear arms, which right shall not be abridged. …” So says the Idaho Constitution. It doesn't say, except at Northwest Nazarene University at Nampa. Yet Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, and the National Rifle Association have self-limited their ambitions. They would allow students to carry a concealed weapon on campus — if that campus is owned by the state of Idaho. University of Idaho? Boise State University? Lewis-Clark State College? Yes. College of Idaho at Caldwell? No. Their bill would apply to students 21 years and older who have undergone a minimal amount of training to qualify for an enhanced concealed weapons permit. Its path to passage is greased by politicians scared witless of the gun lobby/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: The NRA is wrong re: guns on campus. Period. Any questions?

Committee OKs Guns On Campus 7-2

The Senate State Affairs Committee has voted 7-2 along party lines, with only the panel’s two Democrats objecting, to approve SB 1254, the guns-on-campus bill, and recommend to the full Senate that it pass. Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, said only about a third of those who signed up to testify on the guns on campus bill got to do so. “We’re pushing up against a hard deadline because we have the Lincoln Day presentation,” he said. Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, asked that the vote be held off to allow more of those who wanted to testify to do so, including students, law enforcement officials and university officials, but was voted down/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.

  • Factoid: Guv wannabe Russ Fulcher was one of the seven Republicans who voted in favor of this bill.

Question: Are you surprised that legislative Republicans support a bill that is opposed by every college in the state?

Judge: State senator’s wife overstepped role as legal assistant in murderer’s lawsuit against state

A federal judge has ruled that a state senator's wife overstepped her role as a legal assistant and had an “inappropriate” relationship with a convicted murderer who is suing the Idaho Department of Correction for sexual harassment. In November, Renee McKenzie, wife of Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie of Nampa, was appointed by a federal court to help Lance Wood, who was imprisoned for life for his role in the 1988 kidnapping and torture slaying of a gay man in Utah. She was an adviser, not an attorney, and prison officials decided in February she was overstepping the bounds of that relationship. They had intercepted a letter the inmate wrote to McKenzie, which they determined was “clearly of a personal nature.” Investigators then discovered the two had unmonitored phone conversations lasting 91 hours between December and February. On Feb. 7, they barred McKenzie from visiting Wood; click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Per-diem dustup could prompt legislation

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho legislator says he'll introduce a measure in 2012 to prevent Boise-area lawmakers from boosting their state retirements with per diem payments. Rep. Dennis Lake of Blackfoot says it's unfair that local lawmakers can get more-generous pensions compared to out-of-town legislators for identical work. Three weeks ago, The Associated Press reported Canyon County Sens. John McGee and Curt McKenzie banked daily $122 payments for a second residence — even though McGee lived with his parents and McKenzie slept on an office couch. The AP also reported these payments count toward McGee's and McKenzie's pensions because their primary residences are within 50 miles of the Capitol. Meanwhile, Idaho's government payroll system doesn't count per diem toward retirement for lawmakers like Lake whose primary residences are more than 50 miles away.

Rusche: Per Diem Issue Clear As Mud

The 2012 Legislature will likely address lawmakers' per diem expenses, to determine who should receive a $49 payment, or a larger $122 payment, House Minority Leader John Rusche said today. In a blog posted at the Idaho Democratic Party website, the Lewiston lawmaker said, “To be clear up front, I do get a per diem payment of $122 per day during the legislative session to offset the cost of maintaining a second residence. … “I think that the rules are fairy clear — those from over 50 miles away get a higher per diem but it is not income or added into pension amounts. Those from inside 50 miles get the lower ($49) amount, but it is treated, by IRS rules, as income and is taxed. I think commuting costs should be considered covered by the per diem. “What I thought was clear obviously is not. We will be addressing this during the session I am sure”/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: What should the Idaho Legislature do to fix per diem expenses?

Richert: End Per Diem Payments

On his Idaho Statesman blog this afternoon, opinionator Kevin Richert proposes that the Idaho Legislature shut down per diem payments. Quoth: “The solution, as I now see it, also seems clear. Drop the per diem system. Make lawmakers file expense reports — and reimburse them for legitimate, work-related costs.” Then, Kevin adds: “I can also hear lawmakers — so fiscally conservative when it suits their purpose — arguing that a reimbursement system would simply create a costly bureaucracy. Again, too bad. Yes, the state might have to hire staff to review and approve expenses. But taxpayers are forking over nearly $1 million a year, ostensibly for expenses, but with no oversight. Given that, I’ll bet the bean counters would earn their keep.” More here.

Question: Do you agree with Kevin Richert that Idaho legislators should be forced to submit receipts for actual expenses rather than receive per diem payments?

Trib: Thrifty Days & Spendthrift Nites

When you're paying attention, Idaho state Sens. John McGee, R-Caldwell, and Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, are the souls of thrift. If conservative government demands slashing the meager Medicaid benefits Idaho allocates to its most vulnerable citizens, McGee and McKenzie are there. f the state simply can't avoid another round of cuts at Idaho's institutions of higher learning, McGee and McKenzie are dependable votes for economizing. And if there is no other way to balance the budget than to chop away at public school budgets, you can count on McGee and McKenzie to go along. … When your backs are turned, it's a different story. Then, McGee and McKenzie have no such scruples about lavishing limited state resources - on themselves/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: What will it take for GOP legislative leaders to clean up their houses?

Per-diem dustup could prompt reforms…

The dustup over legislators' per diem - after the Associated Press reported that two Canyon County senators billed taxpayers $6,400 apiece for a second Boise residence during the session while one slept on his law office couch and the other stayed with his parents - could prompt reforms of the per diem system, AP reporter John Miller reports today. Click below for his full article.

Nampa senator must repay Nampa-Boise mileage, also was paid for spending night in Boise, not driving

AP reporter John Miller reports that state Sen. Curt McKenzie of Nampa must return more than $2,400 in inappropriate mileage reimbursements for travel from his Nampa home to the state Capitol during the legislative session, when he also was getting reimbursed for maintaining a second residence in Boise during the session, while actually sleeping on the couch at his Boise law office. McKenzie said he was unaware he was also getting the mileage reimbursement, and didn't ask for it; click below for Miller's full report. Before that news came out, McKenzie sent a guest opinion to the Idaho Statesman defending his per diem use; you can read it here at Kevin Richert's blog. It says, in part, “The suggestion that any of us serve in order to get a little extra per diem just doesn’t hold water.”

AP: Senator Must Return Mileage $$$

A Republican senator must return at least $2,402 to Idaho after he was inappropriately reimbursed for daily mileage between the Capitol and his Nampa home because he said he was spending nights during the legislative session sleeping on a couch in his Boise office. Sen. Curt McKenzie must repay the money for 2010 and 2011 sessions, though state officials are trying to determine if McKenzie must repay mileage reimbursements for previous years. The Associated Press discovered the errors while reporting on a story about how McKenzie and Republican Sen. John McGee of Caldwell billed taxpayers $122 per day for a second residence during the Legislature. McKenzie told The AP he was sleeping on his law office couch, while McGee acknowledged he was staying at his parents' home in Boise. That amounted to more than $6,400 in extra pay apiece during the 2011 session/Associated Press (tweeted by Ben Botkin, TFTN). More here.

Question: Betcha thought we were discussing McGee here, hunh?