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Avista Targets Keough, Eskridge

Avista Corp. is spending thousands of dollars trying to unseat two longtime North Idaho legislators, throwing its support behind tea party-backed challengers in next week’s Republican primary. Being targeted is state Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, who supported unsuccessful efforts to establish a consumer advocate to review utility rate requests, and state Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, who advocates greater diversity in Idaho’s energy supply. Avista opposed both proposals. Campaign finance reports filed with the Idaho Secretary of State show Avista has given each incumbent’s challenger $1,000 and has given $15,000 to three political action committees that are funneling money back to the challengers, Danielle Ahrens and Pam Stout. The PACS are also sponsoring independent mailers and advertisements critical of Keough and Eskridge/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Do you think Avista should be in the business of trying to defeat state Sen. Shawn Keough and state Rep. George Eskridge in favor of Tea Party candidates?

Hart, Vito Oppose Canada Trade Idea

Ten House Republicans have voted against a non-binding memorial backing improved cooperation with Canada on trade and security, but HJM 13 passed the House, 56-10, and now moves to the Senate.  The memorial, co-sponsored by Reps. George Eskridge, R-Dover, and Max Black, R-Boise, and Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, recognizes that the U.S. and Canada are each other's largest single export market, and calls for Congress and the federal administration to work together to carry out the “Beyond the Border Action Plan” released in December 2011, pursuant to an initiative announced a year earlier by the president of the United States and the prime minister of Canada/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Hart & Barbieri can waste the Legislature's time with "sound money" and nullification bills; yet, they oppose a memorial supporting trade with Canada? Seriously?

Tea Party Queen Seeks Bonner Seat

The Republican nomination for the regional legislative seats will be hard-won this year. Conservative activists Pam Stout and Danielle Ahrens have announced their intention to pursue the GOP nomination for seats currently held by Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, and Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint. “Neither one of us is a slick Boise politician,” Ahrens said. “We know what it’s like to balance a checkbook.” After her inclusion in a New York Times feature story and an appearance on “Late Night With David Letterman” in 2010,  Pam Stout became something of a national Tea Party icon. Her county job heading the Bonner County Property Rights Council further bolstered her conservative credentials. Now Stout aims to take her views to Boise as a District 1 representative/Cameron Rasmussen, Bonner County Bee. More here. (SR file photo: Pam Stout, shown during a tea party rally in 2009, now heads the Bonner County Property Rights Council)

Question: Do you think either Shawn Keough or George Eskridge are a "slick Boise politician"?

Huckleberries Hears …

… That all three incumbents of the Legislative District 1 will face challengers in the state GOP primaries this spring. Dr. Lorna Finman is sponsoring a reception for two of them from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the Grove Hotel Hospitality Room in Boise. The two are Pam Stout, leader of the North Idaho Tea Party movement and the Bonner County Property Rights Council, who will be running against state Rep. George Eskridge, and Danielle Ahrens, who will challenge long-time state Sen. Shawn Keough. Also, Donna Capruso already has circulated an email announcing her intention to run against state Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest River. You can see Finman's flyer for Saturday's event here. (SR file photo: Pam Stout is shown during a tea party rally in 2009)

Question: Are Keough, Eskridge, and Anderson vulnerable from a challenge from the Far Right?

Energy plan revisions came on close votes…

A panel of Idaho lawmakers approved big changes to the state's 2007 Idaho Energy Plan in a series of close votes last week, but critics say nearly all of them will weaken the plan by loosening its requirements. Gone from the plan: Support for local-option taxes for transit; encouraging regional land-use planning designed to reduce trips; support for higher fuel efficiency in vehicles; and support for tax incentives for energy efficient technologies. Rejected: Calls to establish a consumer utility advocate's office in Idaho and to offer new help to low-income ratepayers.

"It seemed like the utilities were definitely writing the agenda," said Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, who serves on the joint legislative panel. Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, the panel's co-chairman, said, "It was a pretty intense exercise, but I think it was worthwhile, it was beneficial." You can read my full story here at spokesman.com; the plan revisions, once finalized, go to the full Legislature for approval in January.

Shaping a new Idaho Energy Plan…

As Idaho lawmakers work on the first major update to their groundbreaking 2007 state energy plan, draft recommendations would have them back off from pushing incentives for renewable energy development and drop energy efficiency and conservation from the “highest priority” to just a priority. Others are pushing lawmakers to increase the push for solar energy development and power from woody biomass in Idaho, to find new ways to help low-income people afford power, and to end Idaho's distinction as the only western state without a consumer advocate in its utility rate-setting process at the state Public Utilities Commission. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com; a joint legislative committee will hold public hearings this Wednesday and Thursday and is accepting public comments on the plan revisions through Friday.

State wants public input on revisions to Idaho Energy Plan

Idaho lawmakers are inviting public comments on proposed updates to the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan, which is undergoing a five-year review; a public hearing will be held at 10 a.m. on Nov. 2 in the Capitol Auditorium. In addition, the co-chairs of the Energy, Environment and Technology Interim Committee, Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, and Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, are accepting public comments through 5 p.m. on Friday Nov. 4. The Strategic Energy Alliance has submitted recommended updates to the energy plan; its recommendations, plus various comments on them, can be viewed on the committee's website here (scroll down to the bottom of the page). To submit comments by email, send them to Mike Nugent at mnugent@lso.idaho.gov.