Latest from The Spokesman-Review
The House has voted 49-18 in favor of SB 1117, the statewide extra-heavy trucks bill. “This is about local control, and we’ve pointed out that the state highway (department) does have jurisdiction on the state highway going through your community,” Rep. Marc Gibbs, the bill’s sponsor, told the House. “But we also have spoken many times about the fact that local communities have the ability to set speed limits … I don’t think that there’s any way if the local community is dead-set against it, that the highway department's going to come in here and create this route for you. But there are places where … I think 129,000 pounds is going to make more sense. … It can be done, it can be done safely”/Betsy Russell, SR. More here.
When you see extra-heavy trucks going through your North Idaho communities, you can thank the following representatives (particulary from North Idaho) who voted yes:
Voting yes: Reps. Anderst, Andrus, Barbieri, Barrett, Bateman, Batt, Bedke, Bell, Bolz, Clow, Collins, Crane, Dayley, DeMordaunt, Denney, Erpelding, Gibbs, Hancey, Harris, Hartgen, Hixon, Holtzclaw, Horman, Kauffman, Loertscher, Malek, McMillan, Meline, Mendive, Miller, Monks, Moyle, Nielsen, Packer, Palmer, Patterson, Perry, Raybould, Romrell, Shepherd, Sims, Stevenson, Thompson, Trujillo, VanOrden, Vander Woude, Wood(27), Wood(35), and Youngblood.
Voting no: Reps. Agidius, Anderson(01), Anderson(31), Boyle, Burgoyne, Chew, Eskridge, Gannon, Gestrin, King, Kloc, Luker, Pence, Ringo, Rusche, Smith, Ward-Engelking, and Woodings.
Absent: Reps. Henderson, Morse and Wills.
House Health & Welfare Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley, is opening the debate in the House on HB 248, the governor’s state health insurance exchange bill. “Prior to going through the House bill, I’d like to take a moment to put this bill into perspective and why we’re here today,” Wood told the House. “With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Idaho has a simple choice to make, and that choice is what kind of a state insurance exchange do we want in terms of health insurance. We have to have an exchange, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. We don’t have a choice not to have an exchange. … And there’s only two types, there’s a state exchange, or there’s two versions of a federally facilitated exchange”/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.
Question: Go ahead and predict how the legislators in your district will vote on the exchange — state run or no?
Graham Paterson is no political newbie, having done campaign work for Dirk Kempthorne, Steve Symms, Helen Chenoweth-Hage and Brent Coles. But asked in an editorial board meeting to offer his take on House Republican leadership, the normally glib Paterson slowed down to pick his way through the field of rhetorical cowpies. The silence was awkward, and Paterson tried to break the tension. “I can hear the clock ticking.” Ultimately, the best Paterson could offer was a general statement that leadership — executive and legislative, in both parties — has done a good job navigating an “extremely stressful” economic environment. As an outsider, running for an open seat, he said he considered it hard to judge leadership further. And that’s how it went generally, when we asked House Republican candidates about the race they don’t want to discuss/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here. (Idaho Legislature photo of House Speaker Lawerence Denney)
Question: Is it time for House Speaker Lawerence Denney to go?
Idaho is discovering that it's easier to take a mansion than it is to give it back, reports AP reporter John Miller: The heirs to J.R. Simplot, the self-made billionaire who died in 2008 at age 99 and who donated his hilltop home to the state for a governor's mansion, don't want it. “The family's position hasn't changed,” said David Cuoio, a Simplot spokesman, on Wednesday, referring to an earlier statement. “J.R.'s home was given to the state with the understanding that it would be used as the governor's house.” Click below for Miller's full report.
“I appreciate everyone that came and testified,” Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, said after a half-dozen people spoke. He suggested the Governor's Housing Committee schedule a meeting in the next 30 days or so and “absorb what we heard today and wee where we go.” Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, told the audience, “I'm glad you came and gave us a lot of good information to think about.” She added, “You can still comment on the website.” The state will continue to take comments on the fate of its governor's mansion at firstname.lastname@example.org. NOTE: If clicking on that link doesn't work with your email program, you can still email in your comments by copying and pasting the address into your email program, or typing it in; the address is good (I checked). Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Today is the day that Idahoans will get to weigh in on what to do with Idaho's official governor's mansion, the former J.R. Simplot home on a grassy hilltop in north Boise, topped by a giant American flag. The Governor's Housing Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, will meet in room WW55 of the state Capitol from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.; you can see the agenda here. There'll be a presentation about the history and operation of a governor's residence in Idaho, followed by public testimony. There's more info here.
No Idaho governor has ever lived in the Simplot home, which the billionaire donated to the state for an official governor's residence because Idaho had none. Current Gov. Butch Otter is Simplot's ex-son-in-law, and lives at his own ranch in Star. Upkeep costs for the mansion are running more than $177,000 a year, including maintaining the giant lawn that covers the grassy hilltop.
For more than three decades, Idaho has struggled with the issue of a governor's mansion, ever since then-Gov. Cecil Andrus refused to live in the deteriorating Boise home the state had provided since 1947. Billionaire J.R. Simplot's donation to the state of his hilltop mansion in 2004 seemed to end the dilemma, as it was donated specifically to be Idaho's official residence for future governors. But no Idaho governor has ever lived there, and lawmakers' patience is wearing thin over the maintenance costs for the 36-acre grassy hilltop spread - an estimated $177,400 for the next year, including $80,000 in grounds maintenance and $40,000 for electricity.
“I just think that the idea of a governor's mansion in general is wrong,” said Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, who's pushing to sell off the property. “We have a different perception of these kind of perks than we used to.” Bock said his constituents have been clear: “It's just the sort of thing that … just drives them absolutely nuts.”
All but five states provide official residences for their governors, and most, like Washington's, are historic properties laden with tradition and close or adjacent to the state Capitol. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Rep. Max Black, R-Boise, moved to approve the budget for the state's official governor's residence - the former Simplot mansion - for next year of $177,400 as proposed. “I don't think there's any question in anybody's mind that this isn't something we can just let go on and on and on,” Black said. “This was a very generous gift from the Simplot family. … But we do need to move forward on it, and I think what we've talked about today is rational and is a good start.” That includes scheduling a public meeting in September on the overall issue of the future of the home, to present all the related information and take public input. State Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna seconded the motion.
Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, offered a substitute motion - to approve the budget, but only on the condition that the home be put on the market immediately. “I haven't found anybody, not one single person, who supports a governor's mansion,” Bock said. Rep. Phyllis King, D-Boise, seconded Bock's motion. “To pay $177,000 just to maintain a house I think is outrageous,” King said. “It's just way too much money.”
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, said there's money in the state's fund to maintain the house for now, “But it's something we need to deal with and need to air.” He noted that the deed requires the Simplot family to be given first right of refusal before the home is sold. “Let's give the public a chance to have their input,” Winder said. Bock then withdrew his substitute motion, and Black's motion passed on a 3-2 vote, with Bock and King dissenting.
The Governor's Housing Committee meeting today has drawn a number of members of the public who are objecting to Idaho continuing to maintain the former Simplot home as a governor's residence and state event facility, though no Idaho governor has lived there. One even suggested that on an interim basis, the mansion could be used to house the homeless. “We can't resolve the long-term issues here today,” said the panel's chairman, Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian. But he said he's “willing to have a process” to take public input on the issue. Today's meeting is to vote on the budget for the upcoming year, which is set at $177,400, with $80,000 of that to go for grounds maintenance.
Said Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, “We have not really tried to find out what the people want.” State Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna agreed to post information about the issue, including its history, on the Internet; and Winder said he'll set a public meeting for September.
The Governor's Housing Committee has set a public meeting for this afternoon, after a senator on the panel objected that an earlier vote by email on the committee's budget for the upcoming year for upkeep of the hilltop former Simplot mansion violated the Idaho Open Meeting Law. After Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, objected, the panel's chairman, Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, scheduled today's meeting. “It is a good learning experience for all of us, including myself,” Winder wrote in an email to the committee members.
Winder sought advice from Deputy Idaho Attorney General Brian Kane, who responded, “It appears that the committee will need to take corrective action in order to comply with the Open Meeting Law.” That, he wrote, means acknowledging the violation, convening in a properly noticed and open meeting, voiding any previous action, and taking the business up again. In addition, Kane said all email traffic should be incorporated into the committee's record.
The public meeting is now set for 3 p.m. in the Len B. Jordan state office building, Room 155. The agenda includes the panel's $177,400 budget for the coming year, much of which would go to grounds maintenance. The Simplot family donated the hilltop home to the state as a governor's mansion, but no Idaho governor has yet lived there.
A Democratic senator contends Idaho officials violated public meetings laws with a hasty email vote this week on the $177,400 budget to cover landscaping, mowing and watering the expansive lawn below the vacant Idaho governor's mansion, the AP reports. Sen. Les Bock of Garden City sits on the Governor's Housing Committee, which oversees the hilltop mansion in Boise. He said Thursday the committee's budget vote didn't give the public adequate notice to consider whether the spending plan was appropriate.
The five-member panel voted 3-2 via email on Tuesday to spend the money for fiscal year 2013, with Bock and Democratic Rep. Phylis King of Boise opposing it. Voting in favor were Teresa Luna, director of the Department of Administration, and Boise Republicans Sen. Chuck Winder and Rep. Max Black. Now, an in-person meeting of the panel is being planned, after Bock, an attorney, wrote to the committee saying, “I have concluded that the recent vote on the Governor's Housing Committee's FY2013 budget was conducted in violation of Idaho's open meeting law. The vote on the budget is, therefore, null and void.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
What is the battle between Idaho’s House GOP leaders all about? Let me answer that by telling you what it is not at all about. Policy. There isn’t much of a discernible difference on policy between current House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and the man who appears best poised to challenge him, Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke. Bedke, R-Oakley, may be a touch less conservative than Denney — Bedke served on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee in the mid-2000s, an experience that tends to temper lawmakers’ views of the budget. But I can’t see the philosophy of the House shifting very much if Bedke unseats Denney/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Given that any challenger will share his political views, does it really matter if Rep. Lawerence Denney continues as House Speaker?
An important sideshow to the race for House speaker is the contest for the No. 2 post, held by Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, who may have a challenge from the No. 4 House GOP leader, Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts of Donnelly. I was in Sun Valley Monday for the annual meeting of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. A morning session with the IACI board featured all eight GOP leaders from House and Senate, along with House Minority Leader John Rusche of Lewiston and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Stennett of Ketchum. The seating arrangement was telling. Three-term Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, sat with Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, six seats away from his challenger, House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Do you care you leads the House and the Senate in the 2013 Idaho Legislature?
Nobody in the Idaho Legislature says Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is giving them bad advice. They just don't agree with the good advice Wasden's giving them. So rather than heed what Wasden is telling them, these lawmakers want to squander your money buying bad advice. Then they intend to waste more of your money following this bad advice. Finally, they lose even more of your money when the bad lawyering backfires on them. That's right. The same lawmakers who slashed spending on schools, higher education and health care during the Great Recession and have yet to restore those cuts now have $200,000 to hire their own lawyers. In the House, their plan passed on a party-line vote/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Are you satisfied with the job Lawrence Wasden has done as attorney general?
Non-returning Representatives gathered in the front of the Idaho House for photos. Erik Simpson (R-Idaho Falls), arms raised, has served two terms. The House finished up business and adjourned on Thursday in Boise. (AP Photo/Katherine Jones, Idaho Statesman)
Question: Which of the many retiring legislators are you glad to see go?
The House has voted 53-16 in favor of setting up a $200,000 legal defense fund for the Legislature, funded from the state's general tax funds and controlled by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro-Tem of the Senate. “It is for any time that they should happen to need outside legal counsel,” House Appropriations Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, told the House. Minority Democrats spoke out against the bill. “This is a really interesting and I think wrong-headed precedent that we're setting here … and appropriating what's really a significant amount of money,” said Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise. “We already have a constitutionally elected officer in an office that handles these matters, and so we pay for that. So to have duplicative efforts like this definitely represents a growth of government, and I don't think it's prudent”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
- Both houses recess, ag panels to gather on animal cruelty
- Energy efficiency bill goes to governor
- Public school budget passes Senate, 31-4
- Death bill clears House State Affairs panel
- Do away with daylight savings?
Question: Doesn't this legislation show a lack of confidence in the voter-approved attorney general?
The House has voted 37-33 in favor of HJR 1, the proposed constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote of each house for any tax or fee increase, increase in any existing tax or fee, or removal or reduction in any existing tax break - which is not enough. The proposed constitutional amendment required a two-thirds vote in each house to go before voters at the next general election. In the House, that means it needed 47 votes/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
- House honors Cenarrusa after passing Basque country memorial
- Right-to-hunt amendment passes House
- Davis: Plan to end session first to middle of next week
- Unanimous Senate vote sends youth concussion bill to gov's desk
Question: Do you support a two-thirds vote from each house of the Legislature to raise taxes or fees?
After years of debate, the Idaho House has passed a ban on texting while driving, voting 53-17 in favor of legislation proposed by Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene. The bill, 1274a, now returns to the Senate for concurrence in a House amendment that removed an exemption for law enforcement or emergency vehicles; they said they didn’t want or need the exemption, and Hammond backed the amendment. The Senate passed the original bill Feb. 21 on a 29-6 vote. In January, an 18-year-old Caldwell woman, Taylor Sauer, died in a Idaho freeway crash while texting. Her family offered tearful testimony in favor of the bill in committee hearings in both houses/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here. (Betsy Russell's SR photo: Shauna Sauer addresses the Senate Transportation Committee, accompanied by her husband, Clay, and four surviving children)
Question: Right call?
A $36 million tax cut for Idaho’s top earners is roaring through the Idaho Legislature, backed by Gov. Butch Otter and co-sponsored by a majority of the members of the Idaho House. The move comes even as Idaho’s reeling from three years of deep budget cuts to everything from schools to Medicaid, very few of which are being restored. “The governor has recommended that we not collect this money, that we’re collecting too much,” said Rep. Marv Hagedorn (pictured), R-Meridian, one of the bill’s 40 house co-sponsors; the Idaho House has 70 members. “It’s probably the best economic development bill we’ve seen all year,” declared House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, HB 563’s lead sponsor. The bill passed the House on a 49-20 vote today and now heads to the Senate/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: I can think of far better use for a budget surplus than tax cut for Idaho's top earners, can't you?
Sen. Jim Hammond, in his closing comments on SB 1274, the bill to ban texting while driving, told the House Transportation Committee that he's in full support of a proposed amendment to the bill drafted by committee Vice Chair Julie Ellsworth, R-Boise, to remove a law-enforcement exemption; it's not needed, he said, as the bill is only about use of hand-held electronic devices, and police and emergency workers don't use those to text on the job. “Is it a feel-good law?” Hammond asked. “If we can save the lives of some of our youths, and that feels good, then yeah, I guess this is a feel-good law”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
- Parks Passport program wins unanimous Senate OK
- Unanimous consent kills Siddoway's wolf-kill bill
- Siddoway: Killing by wolves “is going on and on and on”
- Disgraced McGee resigns as Canyon County chairman
- Revised state energy plan clears House 56-9
- Hearing on texting-while-driving: “Teen-agers need it spelled out”
Question: Anyone out there not support a ban on texting while driving?
The Idaho House has passed HJM 4, a non-binding memorial calling on Congress to add a third federal judge in Idaho, but only by a 47-21 vote and after objections on the floor to allowing a Democratic president to appoint another federal judge. Idaho's had just two federal district judges since 1954, said the measure's sponsor, Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, (pictured) and the federal caseload has increased so dramatically that there are now big delays in processing civil cases. … Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, said he believes the “federal judiciary has served as a handmaiden” to overstepping the U.S. Constitution. He said he'd be willing to support the memorial, but only after a new president is elected and replaces President Obama/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
- Drug settlement brings $625K to Idaho
- Idaho's stagnant prison population growng again
- Senate backs online rule change to allow teacher in same building as students
- Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Paul file for Idaho's March 6 caucuses
- Backers of cig tax increase deliver thousands of postcards to legislators
- Otter favors taxing Internet sales
- Cocalalla minimum lake measure sent back to Senate committee
- Otter hints new option in the works re: health insurance exchange
- 'Add the Words' rallies held across the state
Medical marijuana legislation was introduced in the Idaho House today, where Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, introduced HB 370 as a personal bill. He proposed similar legislation last year; it got an informational hearing from the House Health & Welfare Committee, but didn't proceed. HB 370 would permit patients with debilitating medical conditions to be dispensed up to 2 ounces of marijuana every 28 days; they'd have to get it from state-authorized “alternative treatment centers”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
More from Eye On Boise:
- Senate bill would allow big trucks to go 75 mph on freeways
- Senate Education discusses online course rule
- Hill: Senate GOP onboard to work with Dems on 3 new ethics proposals
- Denney says GOP will work with Dems on new ethics proposals
- Durst, Ward Engelking to try rematch of close 2010 election
- H&W report: Overall savings on track from 2011 Medicaid cuts
- Some solons concerned re: cost of food stamp distribution changeover
- A look at who's on food stamps in Idaho
- Report: Sparse Idaho college scholarship money has gone unspent
Question: I support medical marijuana in concept. But am wary of medical marijuana legislation after reading about all the problems with it in Montana and Washington. Is it worth the headaches?
The Idaho House, the former Simplot mansion that's now Idaho's never-yet-occupied governor's mansion, will hold a holiday open house today to give the public a first look at recent renovations. The event is a benefit for the Wyakin Warrior Foundation for severely wounded veterans; donations will be accepted. It runs from 1-7 p.m., with Gov. Butch Otter and First Lady Lori Otter greeting guests from 5-7 p.m. Parking is at the base of Simplot Hill, where shuttles will run every 15 minutes to bring guests up to the house, where parking is limited. You can see the full invite for the event here.
Gov. Butch Otter announced Friday that he chose Gayle Batt of Wilder to fill the House seat vacated by the passing of former Rep. Pat Takasugi, also a Republican from Wilder. Takasugi passed away Nov. 6 after a prolonged battle with cancer. His term ends in December 2012. Batt will be no stranger to the job when the Legislature meets for business beginning in January. She filled in for Takasugi for the duration of the 2011 legislative session while he battled appendix cancer. She was instrumental in the passage of a reform to Idaho’s open records law/Idaho Reporter. More here.
It’s a Wild West sideshow at the Idaho Legislature these days, where some of the elected buckaroos are trying to rewrite the “Three R’s” of higher ed. If they get their way, college soon will be a place of “Reading, ’Riting and Rugers.” A legislative committee has passed and sent a measure to the House that would let anyone openly pack heat on any Idaho college campus, including football games. What could possibly go wrong? I’ll tell you. Sometimes the college football rivalries bring out the worst in otherwise sane individuals. Take Boise State President Bob Kustra, for example. Last year in a football flap, Kustra accused the University of Idaho of harboring a “nasty, inebriated” culture. Man, the Vandals fans were livid. Well, at least they were after sobering up, anyway. The point is that things can get pretty crazy during football season. Obnoxious fans sometimes hurl empties at their enemies. Do we want to see some of these besotted loons becoming even more armed and dangerous?/Doug Clark, SR. More here.
Question: Do you think athletic events between rivals like Boise State and Idaho will become more dangerous if students are allowed to arm themselves?
Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, spoke out against the bill. “There’s a lot of things that are inattentive driving,” he said, that he’s seen drivers do - from reading a newspaper to lighting a cigarette with both hands while driving with their knees. “Those are all just as bad.” Patrick said he thought texting while driving would be difficult to prove. “Just because they’ve got their phone in their hand doesn’t prove anything.” Patrick said he doesn’t text and drive, but said, “I also don’t read a book and drive, I don’t put on lipstick - well, I don’t any time.” Said Rep. Steve Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, “It seems to me that we’re passing a statute here that cannot be enforced”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
- Senate OKs Medicaid budget bill 27-8/Eye On Boise
- Idaho House and Senate adjourn until Monday/Eye On Boise
- Idaho losing LCSC president Dene Thomas/Eye On Boise
- Measure easing rules to sell public lands stalls adjournment/Dan Popkey, Idaho Politics
- Senate panel stalls on requiring school districts to put records online/Brad Iverson-Long, Idaho Reporter
- Solons OK hiring extra auditors/Brad Iverson-Long
Question: Critics say that texting-while-driving is hard to prove. What do you think?