Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Idaho ballot proposal would lower sales tax, cut exemptions

The League of Women Voters of Idaho is launching a ballot initiative drive to lower Idaho's sales tax from 6 percent to 5 percent, while eliminating an array of exemptions and expanding the tax to cover most services - which would have the result of raising $424 million more a year that could be spent on schools.

If the measure makes the 2016 ballot, it'd give voters a chance to restructure Idaho's exemption-riddled sales tax system, which now exempts more in sales than the tax raises. But the League could have a tough sell in expanding the sales tax to services ranging from construction to legal advice to haircuts, and big-money interests may fight the loss of their existing exemptions.

“I applaud them – I think their heart is clearly in the right place here in terms of making a fair tax structure, but I think it’s going to be a really hard sell,” said Boise State University political scientist emeritus Gary Moncrief, an expert on elections and initiatives.

Idaho’s 6 percent sales tax currently raises about $1.5 billion a year in gross collections, according to the state Division of Financial Management; while the amount of exemptions, including existing exemptions for services, is tallied at more than $2 billion.“We’ve had a lot of trouble in this state getting exemptions closed in the past,” Moncrief said.

Repeated attempts by the state Legislature over the years to review existing sales tax exemptions have all failed; instead, lawmakers have continued to enact new ones each year. “Now, going to an initiative is certainly a much better way than going to the Legislature – there’s no way this is getting through the Legislature,” Moncrief said. “But they’re obviously going to be fought hard on that by a lot of pretty heavily monied interests in the state. And one of the things we know about initiatives is that money works best when it’s trying to defeat an initiative.”

The League’s initiative, entitled “Fair Share Idaho,” would eliminate 22 current sales tax exemptions on July 1, 2017, and subject 12 services to sales taxes. Targeted exemptions range from sales of funeral caskets, which would generate $1.6 million a year in sales taxes; to Idaho National Laboratory research and development purchases, at $6.2 million a year.

Others include goods purchased by contractors to install into real property in non-taxing states, $5.1 million; research and development equipment, $7.2 million; interstate trucks, $8.6 million; and remotely accessed digital media, $8.5 million. The initiative also would remove the sales tax exemption for lottery tickets; apply the tax to construction labor; and impose it on vending machine sales, auto manufacturer rebates and purchases by senior centers.

The biggest dollar amounts come from services that would be newly subject to the sales tax, including transportation of freight and passengers, $47 million; information services, $83.5 million; repairs, $48.2 million; professional services, including legal, accounting, architectural and consulting services, $254.4 million; and business services, $133.1 million.

Idaho already taxes some categories of services, including lodging, recreation, admissions, restaurant meals and printing. “Our members said sales tax exemptions for basic human needs should be protected,” said Betsy McBride, state advocacy chair for the League. Left untouched were sales tax exemptions for medical care, churches, home heating, and education.

“If they have an accountant or a personal massage therapist, there will be new sales tax,” McBride said. “But for the average Idaho family who spends most of their money on groceries, and shoes for their kids, and hamburgers, their tax is going to be lower.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com; there’s more info here on the League’s initiative, including a full list of the targeted exemptions.

The week that was…

Tonight’s “Idaho Reports” on Idaho Public Television focuses on water and climate issues; also, I join Jim Weatherby, Rocky Barker, and co-hosts Aaron Kunz and Melissa Davlin on the pundits panel to discuss everything from water and ski area snowmaking to refugee resettlement and Idaho’s Constitutional Defense Fund.

The show airs at 8 tonight on Idaho Public TV; after it airs, you can watch it here online any time. It also re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time, 9:30 Pacific.

Rural Idaho town elects its first all-Latino city council

The town of Wilder near the Idaho-Oregon border has a population of 1,500 that is about 75 percent Hispanic, and it broke political barriers early this month by electing its first all-Latino city council, the AP reports. Community advocates say recent changes in the tiny town mark a huge step for the state's growing Latino population, which has historically experienced a lack of political representation.

As of 2012, Idaho's Commission on Hispanic Affairs estimated there were 20 Hispanic elected officials representing various offices throughout the state, with just five serving in city positions. Meanwhile, Idaho's overall population is more than 11 percent Hispanic. AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi has a full report here.

Ted Cruz names Ron Crane, Norm Semanko to head his Idaho campaign

GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz has named Idaho state Treasurer Ron Crane as his Idaho state chairman, and former state GOP Chairman Norm Semanko as his state campaign director. “Idaho is an important state for us, and with Ron serving as our chairman and Norm as our state director, we gain two of the most respected conservatives in the state,” Cruz said in a press release. Crane said, “Idaho is a state that I believe Ted Cruz will win next March. … Ted Cruz has a proven track record of not wavering or ducking the tough battles.”

Cruz is an outspoken U.S. senator from Texas. He’s just the latest GOP presidential candidate to name an Idaho campaign team. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has state Controller Brandon Woolf as his Idaho campaign chairman, and also recently announced the endorsement of Idaho GOP Sen. Jim Risch. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has named Idaho state Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, as his Idaho campaign co-chairman.

Idaho 1st District GOp Congressman Raul Labrador is the western states co-chairman for the presidential campaign of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Former Rep. Hart fails to pay up on time, IRS will auction his Athol log home again

Tax-protesting former Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart failed to pay on time in his bid to buy back his Athol home from the IRS at a public auction, so now the IRS is planning to put the log home up for sale again in a new public auction.

David Tucker, IRS spokesman in Seattle, confirmed that Hart didn’t meet an extended deadline to pay up by Nov. 12; he had earlier missed an Oct. 22 deadline, but asked a federal court to give him more time. Under terms of the auction, that means Hart’s $23,260 deposit is forfeited. According to court documents, that money will be “paid to the United States for application to defendant Philip L. Hart’s tax liabilities.”

The IRS seized Hart’s log home to help satisfy his more than $586,000 federal income tax debt. At a public auction in Coeur d’Alene on Oct. 1, Hart was the high bidder for the home on 10 acres, bidding $202,740, well above the minimum bid of $110,000; the 3-bedroom, 3-bath, 2,888 square foot home is assessed for tax purposes at $268,681. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Hart stopped filing both federal and state income tax returns in 1996 while he unsuccessfully pressed a federal lawsuit challenging the federal income tax as unconstitutional; after the case was rejected, he began filing returns again, but authorities said he never fully paid up. He’s also been fighting an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, interest and penalties; he’s lost numerous appeals in that case, including one to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Hart settled his federal tax case in January and agreed to allow the auction of his home. When the IRS first went after the home, Hart claimed he didn’t own it, though he built it and lived there. Federal authorities, in court filings, called Hart’s attempted transfer of the home to a trust in his daughter’s name a “fraudulent transaction” with a “sham entity.”

It’s the same home for which Hart illegally cut trees from state school endowment land in 1996, maintaining that as a citizen, he had a right to take the logs for free; after repeated, unsuccessful appeals, he never fully satisfied a $22,827 court judgment over the timber theft. An expired statute of limitations prevented the state from pressing collection efforts.

Hart was defeated in his bid for a fifth term in the Idaho House – where his service on the House Tax Committee drew an ethics complaint – in the 2012 GOP primary, but he’s remained active in state GOP politics, and is currently is the Idaho Republican Party’s Legislative District 2 chairman and vice president of the Republican Liberty Caucus.

Bipartisan federal sentencing reform bill clears House Judiciary Committee

The House Judiciary Committee today approved bipartisan legislation to reform federal sentencing laws that’s co-sponsored by Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador.  The measure, H.R. 3713, dubbed the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015, reduces some mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, including cutting a “three strikes” mandatory life sentence to 25 years; it also provides judges with greater discretion on sentencing for non-violent drug offenders. You can read a full report here from the AP in Washington, D.C.

Labrador had this statement: “Today the House Judiciary Committee seized an opportunity to make history. A bipartisan coalition came together to advance reforms that address the mistakes of the past and establish a positive framework for the future. Our Sentencing Reform Act ensures law enforcement officers have the tools they need to protect us from dangerous criminals, while giving non-violent offenders the chance to turn their lives around and contribute to society. I thank Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers and our many partners in this just cause.”

The bill’s sponsors include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, and ranking member Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Labrador clashes with Breitbart reporter

Idaho Rep. Raul  Labrador is in an escalating battle with a reporter for Breitbart News, Politico reports today, with the congressman calling the reporter “not truthful” and the news outlet calling the congressman a “liar.”

At the monthly "Conversations with Conservatives” session that Labrador and other House conservatives hold with reporters in Washington, D.C., Breitbart reporter Julia Hahn asked the various members of congress assembled to raise their hands if they would be "willing to support a suspension or reduction in Muslim immigration." Some raised their hands, and as Hahn tried to ask a question of those who did not, Labrador interrupted, Politico reported. "I don't answer questions from you because you are not a truthful reporter and I will not answer any of your questions,” Labrador said. “So let's move on to somebody else."

Breitbart chairman Stephen K. Bannon said told Politico, “In fact HE is the liar! Breitbart News will not back down and we stand by Julia's reporting 120%." You can read the Politico report on the spat here.

Idaho’s constitutional defense fund hasn’t paid for a winning case since 1996

A special state fund created to help Idaho navigate state sovereignty conflicts with the federal government has paid out more than $2.1 million over the last two decades, nearly all of it spent on losing legal battles, according to an AP analysis. The Constitutional Defense Fund hasn't paid for a winning case since 1996, when Idaho reached a settlement with the federal government over nuclear waste storage and cleanup. The law allows the fund to be spent proactively — such as filing lawsuits or hiring public relations specialists to fight for state sovereignty — or retroactively, defending Idaho from lawsuits. A review of historical documents shows that it's almost entirely gone to the latter, writes AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

You can read her full report here. There's currently about $322,000 remaining in the account. Earlier this year, a judge struck down an Idaho law banning undercover investigations of farming operations, and the fund could be drawn down further if the state uses it to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees for that case.

Gov. Butch Otter has said he intends to ask lawmakers in January to shore up the fund with another $1 million. The fund has remained true to its purpose and concept, "defending the sovereignty of our state and our citizens," Otter said in a statement.

Of Idaho’s Dem super-delegates, one has committed to Hillary Clinton, other three uncommitted

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Only one of Idaho's four Democratic superdelegates has declared support for Hillary Clinton. An Associated Press survey found that the state's remaining three superdelegates are currently uncommitted in their public support. Clinton is seeking the party's nomination over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. Superdelegates are Democratic National Convention delegates who can support the candidate of their choice, regardless of what happens in primaries and caucuses. They make up about 30 percent of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination. DNC member Carolyn Boyce says she supports Clinton because of her experience and electability. Uncommitted superdelegates include state Democratic Party Chairman Bert Marley, state Democratic Party Vice Chairwoman Jeanne Buell and DNC member Pete Gertonson.

Associated Taxpayers commissions statewide poll on tax policy issues

The Associated Taxpayers of Idaho, a business group that long has held an annual conference in early December each year that’s something of a run-up to the legislative session and draws lots of lawmakers, lobbyists and local government officials, has commissioned a statewide public opinion poll Idaho’s economy and tax policies. Results will be released at the annual ATI conference, which is set for Dec. 9 at the Boise Centre in downtown Boise.

Ben Davenport, ATI president, said it’s the first time the group has commissioned a poll since the early 2000s. It conducts research on Idaho tax policy and provides it to lawmakers, the state Tax Commission and others.

The poll will be presented at the conference by American Strategies, a polling firm based in Washington, D.C. “We will be going into the field to ask Idahoans how they feel about the general economy, as well as specific budgeting and taxation issues,” Davenport said. “This is an Idaho poll that we have commissioned specifically for our conference in December.  We will be having American Strategies out to speak to us about the poll results and hopefully give us a picture of how Idahoans feel on tax and fiscal policy issues.” There’s more info on the conference here.

The week that was…

Tonight’s “Idaho Reports” on Idaho Public Television includes co-host Melissa Davlin’s interview with JFAC Co-Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, on state budget and revenue issues; reports on Sen. Jim Risch’s endorsement of Marco Rubio for President and the Waters of the United States vote in Congress; some comments from Gov. Butch Otter about four-day school weeks; and this week’s pundits discussion, in which I join Jim Weatherby, Bill Roberts, co-host Aaron Kunz and Davlin to discuss local election results, school funding and more. Plus, a web extra online continues our discussion.

The show airs at 8 tonight on Idaho Public TV; after it airs, you can watch it here online any time. It also re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time, 9:30 Pacific.

Labrador sets town hall meeting Wednesday in Meridian

1st District Idaho Congressman Raúl Labrador will hold a town hall meeting in Meridian on Wednesday, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Meridian City Hall council chambers, 33 E. Broadway Ave. He will take questions from the audience, and also will meet with reporters prior to the town hall session.

Labrador also is scheduled to speak at an 11 a.m. Veterans Day ceremony at the Caldwell Veterans Memorial Hall, 1101 Cleveland Blvd.; following the ceremony and until 3 p.m., the public is invited to tour the facility and view displays from veterans service organizations.

Risch endorses Marco Rubio for president

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Risch from Idaho says he's throwing his support behind fellow GOP Sen. Marco Rubio for president. Risch announced his endorsement of the Florida politician on Wednesday. Risch says he's been impressed with Rubio's communication skills and understanding of serious issues while working together in the U.S. Senate. The support from Risch, a former Idaho governor, comes on the heels of also receiving endorsements earlier this week from Republican U.S. Sens. Steve Daines from Montana and Cory Gardner of Colorado.

In a Rubio campaign press release, Risch said, "Having worked with Senator Rubio since his early days in the Senate, I have been greatly impressed with his understanding and quick grasp of the serious issues that arise here. Notably, his communication skills, which are so important in this business, are unparalleled. Marco brings a fresh view to the many challenges facing America today, domestically with our serious financial problems and internationally with our security and standing on the world stage both dramatically deteriorating. I enthusiastically support Senator Rubio in his campaign for the presidency."

Tax-protesting former Idaho lawmaker re-purchases home at tax auction, fails to pay on time

Tax-protesting former Idaho State Rep. Phil Hart successfully re-purchased his Athol home from the IRS at a public auction last month, but he missed an Oct. 22 deadline to pay the balance of the purchase price and is now appealing in court for more time.

Phil Hart

The IRS seized Hart’s log home to help satisfy his more than $586,000 federal income tax debt. At a public auction in Coeur d’Alene on Oct. 1, Hart was the high bidder for the home on 10 acres, bidding $202,740, well above the minimum bid of $110,000; the 3-bedroom, 3-bath, 2,888 square foot home is assessed for tax purposes at $268,681. He submitted a deposit to the IRS of $23,260, and the balance was due by Oct. 22.

But instead of paying up on that date, Hart instead filed an emergency motion in federal court asking for a delay until December. Hart’s attorney, Charles McFarland of New Castle, Kentucky, wrote that the payment deadline was “an unrealistic time frame in light of the complications in this case.” He said Hart had obtained financing through “Loan Star Mortgage,” but had encountered delays getting title insurance.

Terms of the federal auction of the home say that if the successful bidder defaults, he loses his deposit, and the IRS would have the choice of offering the home for sale again or selling it to the second-highest bidder.

Federal prosecutors opposed Hart’s request, saying the delays were Hart’s own fault, but said they’d agree to a 21-day extension, to Nov. 12, provided no further extensions are granted. Senior U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge sided with prosecutors, and gave Hart until Nov. 12 to pay up.

“Mr. Hart has requested several extensions of time throughout this case,” Lodge wrote in an Oct. 28 order. “The Court has accommodated many of those prior requests. This motion, however, provides no basis for doing so. The terms and deadlines governing the sale of the real property were proposed by the parties. … Mr. Hart waited until the day the balance was due and owing on the property to file his request for extension of time.”

Lodge wrote that there was “simply no basis upon which to grant Mr. Hart’s request” for 45 more days, but that, “in the interest of justice,” he’d grant a “very limited extension.” After Nov. 12, Lodge wrote, “No further extensions shall be granted.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com. 

‘Idaho Reports’ looks at Iran, nuke waste, local elections, tax changes…

Tonight’s “Idaho Reports” on Idaho Public Television includes co-host Melissa Davlin’s interview with Sen. Jim Risch about Iran, the budget, and federal involvement on issues important to Idaho; an update on shipments of nuclear fuel that had been bound for Idaho; and discussion of upcoming city and school elections, possible state tax changes and more. I join Jim Weatherby, Kevin Richert, co-host Aaron Kunz and Davlin for the discussion on tonight’s show.  

The show airs at 8 tonight on Idaho Public TV; after it airs, you can watch it here online any time. It also re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time, 9:30 Pacific. 

Crapo announces Kempthorne endorsement, repeats ‘conservative’ 5 times

Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo announced today that former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, also a Republican and former Idaho senator, has endorsed Crapo’s re-election bid, something that’s hardly a surprise. Crapo is seeking a fourth six-year term in the Senate, after serving three terms in the U.S. House and eight years in the Idaho Senate, where he was president pro tem from 1988 to 1992.

A week ago, Crapo announced that he’d raised another $660,000 in the third quarter of this year for his re-election campaign, bring his campaign warchest to $4,495,000. He currently has no announced opposition.

Crapo released this statement from Kempthorne, who also served as U.S. Secretary of the Interior and mayor of Boise in his political career: “During Mike’s service, the people of Idaho have been well represented as he has tenaciously fought for conservative solutions that reflect the values of our state. With all the challenges that currently face our nation, it is of the utmost importance to have his effective conservative leadership in Washington D.C. I urge my fellow Idahoans to join me in supporting Mike Crapo.”

It’s no coincidence that Kempthorne’s statement repeats the word “conservative” twice. Crapo has been leaning hard to the right as he campaigns for another term in the Senate, in an effort to avoid a primary challenge two years after his surprising and uncharacteristic drunken driving arrest in Virginia. Today’s announcement, like every campaign press release Crapo has issued this year, says Crapo is “an unwavering conservative” and notes his A+ rating from the NRA and his 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. All told, today’s press release contains the word “conservative” five times.

‘Idaho Reports’ examines Boulder-White Clouds, states’ rights, more

Tonight’s “Idaho Reports” on Idaho Public Television focuses on the newly passed, landmark legislation to designate the Boulder-White Clouds as wilderness, and features an interview with 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson, who worked for 15 years to work out a wilderness bill that could draw support from parties ranging from ranchers and rural county commissioners to conservationists and backpackers. Also, Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman and Justin Vaughn of Boise State University join me and co-host Melissa Davlin on the pundits panel to discuss states’ rights, human rights, gender inequities and more.  

The show airs at 8 tonight; after it airs, you can watch it here online any time. It also re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time, 9:30 Pacific. 

Idaho Reports is on tonight at 8…

Tonight’s “Idaho Reports” features an interview with 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador about his work in Washington, D.C., as the House is in turmoil over its leadership fight. Also, Bill Dentzer of the Idaho Statesman joins the pundits for discussion, including myself, Jim Weatherby, and co-hosts Aaron Kunz and Melissa Davlin; the panel also will have an additional web-only discussion about legislative tax reform efforts and Commerce Director Doug Sayer’s recent comments.

The show airs at 8 tonight; after it airs, you can watch it here online any time. It also re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time, 9:30 Pacific.

Constitutional Defense Council votes to pay Navy vet’s legal fees in same-sex burial case

It took less than 5 minutes today for the state’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 – to vote unanimously to pay the state’s latest bill for attorney fees and costs for the other side in a court case the state lost. In this case, it was the case of Madelynn Lee Taylor, a Navy veteran who sued after the state Veterans Cemetery initially refused to allow her to be interred there with the ashes of her late wife, Jean Mixner, citing the state’s then-ban on same-sex marriage.

“This is a legitimate claim against the state,” Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. “The court has found against the state. It’s a proper expense for the Constitutional Defenses Fund.”

“We went through a legal process, and our case didn’t have as much merit as theirs,” Gov. Butch Otter said after the short meeting. “So we lost the case and they were awarded costs and fees, so we have to pay ‘em.” Asked if this routine is getting familiar – Idaho has had a series of court losses in which it’s been ordered to pay the other sides costs and fees – Otter chuckled ruefully, and said, “We’ve got more of those coming.”

Still in the pipeline is the case that overturned Idaho’s “ag-gag” law, which criminalized surreptitious videotaping of agricultural operations; a federal court held that the law violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Also, Idaho lost a case in the Idaho Supreme Court over Otter’s belated veto of legislation to ban instant racing gambling machines; the court ordered the state to pay the other side’s attorney fees, but the state is now arguing the other side, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, missed a filing deadline so the state shouldn’t have to pay the $95,000 in question.

In the Taylor case, the Constitutional Defense Council today – with House Speaker Scott Bedke missing but all other members present – voted to pay $70,000 in attorney fees to Ferguson Durham of Boise and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, plus interest from the date of judgment at an annual rate of 0.33 percent.

Labrador, Simpson haven’t spoken since dust-up last spring

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson haven’t spoken to each other since the two openly clashed last spring, reports Bill Dentzer of the Idaho Statesman. Dentzer writes that the conflict between the two Idaho representatives showcases the split among Republicans in the House as they consider who should replace John Boehner as speaker; Dentzer’s full story is online here.

The spring clash, over Labrador’s vote against reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools program as part of a larger bill on Medicare payments, included Simpson saying a congressman would “have to look long and hard to find a reason to vote no” on the bill, and Labrador responding in an interview with Boise State Public Radio that “Mike Simpson has been part of the establishment in Washington D.C. for 12 years,” and “He loves to go out drinking and smoking with the Speaker [John Boehner]. He loves to have these relationships where it’s all about making false promises to his constituents and then going back there to Washington D.C. to compromise.” He then dubbed Simpson a liar.

Simpson’s response to that at the time, through a spokesman: “This isn't the first time Congressman Labrador has uttered this nonsense and I'm sure it won't be the last."

Dentzer’s story includes Labrador’s account of his and four other Freedom Caucus members' meeting with Boehner the day before the speaker announced his resignation, and both congressmen’s takes on the why’s and what-next’s.

Malek navigates Republican politics, Kootenai County-style

Luke Malek is a young lawyer, a North Idaho resident since the second grade with deep ties in the community, and the son of two local physicians. A Republican, he worked for former Sen. Larry Craig and Sen. Mike Crapo, and was recruited by former Gov. Jim Risch to be the state’s first governor’s representative to North Idaho. He comes from a religious family; his brothers are Matthew, Marc and John.

Elected to the state Legislature in 2012, he quickly became a popular and well-respected lawmaker. But he barely squeaked through the GOP primary last year against an unknown newcomer. Welcome to GOP politics in heavily Republican, but still much-divided, Kootenai County.

A recent arrival from California who claimed to be the true conservative came within 180 votes of defeating Malek in the 2014 GOP primary. But just 3,322 people cast ballots in that primary race, in a legislative district with more than 44,000 residents and nearly 22,500 registered voters.

It was Idaho’s second closed Republican primary election for the Legislature, when only those who registered as Republicans could participate. Previously, Idahoans hadn’t had to register by party, and many take pleasure in calling themselves independents. The month of the primary election, nearly 14,000 of the district’s registered voters were registered as “unaffiliated” with any party – meaning they couldn’t vote in the GOP race. Only 6,407 had registered as Republicans, and nearly half of those didn't vote.

That leaves a small group making the call in the primary, with little competition in Idaho’s general elections. After winning the primary, Malek was unopposed in the November 2014 general election and received more than 8,700 votes. Currently, statewide, 49.5 percent of Idaho’s 736,212 registered voters are registered as unaffiliated with any party.

Jasper LiCalzi, a professor of political economy at the College of Idaho, said in heavily GOP-dominated Idaho – where every statewide elected office and 80 percent of the seats in the Legislature are held by Republicans – “the problem is not enough people who identify, really, by their voting record as Republicans register as Republicans.”

Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger, a lifelong Republican and former city councilman who backs Malek, called it “comical” that anyone would question Malek’s GOP pedigree. “He’s got a pretty long history of being a staunch Republican,” Wolfinger said. You can read my full story here from Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.

‘Idaho Reports’ is back; season starts tonight at 8

“Idaho Reports” is back. The program on Idaho Public TV starts its season tonight; it’ll feature a report on Clean Water Act litigation, plus I’ll join Jim Weatherby, Ben Ysursa, and co-hosts Aaron Kunz and Melissa Davlin to discuss recent developments in Idaho, including the Idaho Supreme Court’s instant racing veto decision; open meeting questions; and tax reform. There’s also a “web extra” with the pundits panel continuing our discussion, from lawsuits to public defense reform.

The show airs at 8 tonight; after it airs, you can watch it here online any time. It also re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time, 9:30 Pacific.

Rubio campaign taps state Controller Woolf as Idaho chair; Kasich campaign taps Hagedorn

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio on Wednesday selected Idaho State Controller Brandon Woolf to serve as state chairman for the campaign. Woolf says the Florida senator has a conservative vision that is needed in America and admires the Republican's leadership. Rubio is among more than a dozen Republicans seeking the party's nomination. The candidate made a campaign stop in Idaho earlier this year, and has been named a favorite of Idaho's mega-donor Frank VanderSloot. Idaho recently moved up its presidential primary election to March 8, with the hopes of making its 32 GOP delegates more relevant in the upcoming election.

Last week, the John Kasich presidential campaign named its Idaho campaign co-chairman: Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian. Hagedorn is a second-term state senator who served three terms in the House; he’s retired from the U.S. Navy. Kasich is the governor of Ohio.

Boehner announces resignation as speaker, a day after meeting with Labrador, other dissidents over gov’t shutdown

Big news from Washington, D.C. today, as House Speaker John Boehner announces he’ll both step down as speaker and resign from Congress at the end of October. A Boehner aide told NBC News that the speaker "believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.”

Boehner met with five members of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group, including Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador on Thursday afternoon, according to Politico, as the dissidents pushed for a government shutdown over defunding Planned Parenthood. Politico reported last night, “Upon leaving the meeting, none of the dissidents would commit to trying to overthrow Boehner or comment directly on what was said during the session in the speaker's office. But the Freedom Caucus held two private meetings on Thursday, according to a source, and a number of members of the group are openly discussing the need to replace Boehner.”

Shortly after 10:30 a.m. today, Labrador issued this statement:

“Though I differed with Speaker Boehner on the pace of reform, I respect and admire him. He served Ohio and the House with distinction and grace. I wish him the very best. As for succession, today is not the day for such talk. But I am committed to supporting leaders who will keep our promise to the American people to fight for real change in Washington.”

Here is a statement from 2nd District Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, who has been an ally of Boehner:

“First, I cannot say strongly enough my gratitude for Speaker Boehner's leadership over the past five years.  Facing challenges that often seemed insurmountable, he has consistently acted with integrity and in the best interest of this nation.  I am confident that history will look kindly on John Boehner's speakership.

“Leadership on the national stage looks appealing to many, but those who step into his shoes do not have an enviable task ahead.  Good leadership requires wisdom, humility, a willingness to listen to those who might have a different perspective, and the courage to do the right thing. This is especially difficult when you are leading a fractious party and divided nation, but this is how Speaker Boehner led.  I wish my friend well as he finishes his work here and moves on.”

Idaho Reports host Melissa Davlin notes that that IR interviewed Labrador earlier this month in his Washington, D.C. office, and he dropped hints about trying to force out Boehner, whom he has both voted against and for as speaker. “I voted against him two years ago and I voted for him this time because he made me a promise that he was going to change,” Labrador told IR’s Aaron Kunz. “Well, that promise has not been kept.”

“I was giving him a chance, because we had a new House, a new Senate, we had the largest majorities we had ever had in a generation or more, and I thought that things would change now that we have a Senate majority,” Labrador said. “I think things are worse. What needs to change is either they change as a leadership team or we need to change the leadership team. And that’s what this month is really about, this next month of September.”

Davlin’s full blog post is online here, along with an excerpt from the Labrador interview; the full interview will be featured on the upcoming season of Idaho Reports, which starts airing Oct. 2.

Constitution Party hopes to entice its presidential hopefuls to campaign in Idaho

The Constitution Party of Idaho says it’s hoping to have multiple candidates competing in Idaho’s March presidential primary, and already has seen one of its party’s hopefuls, the Rev. Scott Copeland of Weatherford, Texas, come to Idaho to campaign, making a swing from Coeur d’Alene to Twin Falls in May. “Several other candidates have expressed interest,” said state party Chairman Floyd Whitley of Coeur d’Alene, though none of them have yet visited the Gem State to campaign.

Whitley said the Constitution Party has more than 2,000 registered voters in Idaho. The winner of its presidential primary will get all of Idaho’s delegates to the national Constitution Party convention in Salt Lake City in April of 2016. However, it’s the party’s state convention that certifies the national ticket to the Idaho Secretary of State for placement on the November 2016 ballot. That means the Constitution Party of Idaho “will not necessarily be bound to a presidential nominee of the national party, should that nominee elect NOT to participate in the March 8, 2016 Idaho Presidential Primary,” Whitley said.

If that’s not enough incentive to get the party’s presidential hopefuls to compete in Idaho, Whitley said the party also is hoping to organize a Constitution Party presidential debate in Boise in February of 2016. The deadline for candidates to file in Idaho is Dec. 9. If only one candidate files – and there’s a $1,000 filing fee – there won’t be a primary, and that candidate will be declared the party's primary winner.

In 2012, Constitution Party candidate Virgil H. Goode received 2,222 votes in Idaho, placing last among the six candidates on the ballot with 0.3 percent of the vote. Republican Mitt Romney was the Idaho winner, with 64.5 percent of the vote; Democratic President Barack Obama received 32.6 percent; Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got 1.4 percent; and Goode and two independents each had less than 1 percent.

Of parties, delegate selection, and the March 8 primary…

When the Idaho Republican Party holds its presidential primary election on March 8, it’ll determine how the state’s 32 delegates to the Republican National Convention are apportioned, and it’s not as simple as just proportional or winner-take-all. That’s because national GOP rules require that if a state party does its selection process – whether by primary election, caucus or convention – between March 1 and March 15, its delegates must be apportioned proportionally based on the results, but with two optional exceptions, a “floor” and a “ceiling.”

The Idaho Republican Party has opted for both, and chosen a 20 percent floor and 50 percent-plus-one ceiling. That means any GOP presidential candidate who gets less than 20 percent of the vote in the primary won’t get any of Idaho’s delegates. And if one candidate gets 50 percent plus one or more – a majority – that candidate will get all of the state’s 32 delegates. If no candidate gets a majority, the delegates will be divided proportionally, based on the votes for all candidates who get 20 percent or more.

Dave Johnston, Idaho GOP executive director, said the party first went to a caucus selection system in order to move up the timing in the spring, so the outcome wouldn’t already be determined based on other states. Then, it became concerned that caucuses limited participation, so it pushed for the new March 8 primary. “I think this move to a presidential primary is a win-win-win,” Johnston said. “We’re being an active player in the presidential nomination process. … We’ve already had two candidates visit Idaho, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we have more.”

The March 8 primary is solely for presidential selection. At this point, two parties have notified the Idaho Secretary of State’s office that they plan to participate: The Idaho Republican Party, and the Constitution Party. Parties have until November to give that notification. Tim Hurst, chief deputy Secretary of State, noted that to appear on the presidential primary ballot, a party must have more than one candidate file; candidates have until Dec. 9 to file, and there’s a $1,000 filing fee. If just one Constitution Party candidate files, that party won’t be on the primary ballot and the candidate will be declared its nominee.

The Idaho Democratic Party will hold caucuses for its presidential selection. All other federal, state, and local primary election races will be part of Idaho’s regular primary election, which is scheduled for May 17, 2016.

New study finds big gender imbalance on Idaho boards, commissions

A new BSU study of state, county and city board appointments shows that only about a third of the appointees are women, while two-thirds are men. The study, which examined nearly 5,000 appointments in Idaho, was presented at last week’s Andrus Center for Public Policy Women and Leadership Conference.

“The pattern is consistent at the state, county and city levels,” the study found. “At the state level, 30.8 percent of appointees were women, compared to 69.2 percent for men.” At the county level, 34.4 percent of appointees were women, while 65.5 percent were men. At Idaho cities, 38.3 percent of appointments went to women, while men received 61.7 percent.

Further, the study found “evidence of gender sorting on board appointments.” That means that women were disproportionately appointed to boards with functions traditionally classified as “feminine,” including those related to children and family, education, health, arts and culture. Women received 51.1 percent of appointments to state boards with functions classified as feminine, but only 15.8 percent of appointments to boards with functions classified as masculine, including commerce, finance, economy, environment, energy, natural resources, science and technology.

BSU professors Jaclyn Kettler and Justin Vaughn conducted the research. They created a protocol for classification of the gendered nature of each drawn from existing scholarly studies of gender and bureaucracy. Boards were classified as masculine, feminine or neutral, with issues including housing, planning and regulation categorized as neutral. The two professors have published an article here in BSU’s Blue Review on their research and findings.

Idaho Dems release delegate selection plan for 2016 presidential race

The Idaho Democratic Party has released its delegate selection plan for the 2016 presidential election; Idaho Democrats will elect 384 delegates to their state convention at county caucuses around the state on March 22, based on their presidential preference, and then the state convention in June will elect 24 delegates to the national Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia. An array of complex rules governs the delegates, and presidential candidates have  approval over the national delegates who will head to Philadelphia pledged to support them; the delegates will be apportioned based on the results of the county caucuses, with a 15 percent threshold - candidates who get less than 15 percent support won't be assigned delegates.  Delegates must cover all their own costs to attend the conventions, and qualify for specific delegate categories. There’s more info here.

The Idaho Republican Party will skip caucuses this year, and instead apportion its presidential delegates based on a presidential primary election on March 8. 

Ybarra: ‘Failure is just a stepping stone on our path to success’

Idaho state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra has sent a guest opinion out to Idaho newspapers warning that as the state moves toward “mastery based education,” one of the recommendations of Gov. Butch Otter’s education task force, education will become more personalized for Idaho students, but the process may be “messy and chaotic, and there will be failures and misfortunes that we will need to learn from, in order for our educational system to get better.”

“We have been so centered on ‘not failing’ that we haven’t been aiming for success!” Ybarra writes. She recalls that in her classroom, she used to have a poster on the wall saying, “This is a mistake-making place.” The idea was that success isn’t always immediate, and students need to develop strategies to work through mistakes and move beyond them. Writes Ybarra, “Failure is just a stepping stone on our path to success!” You can read her full guest opinion here.

GOP presidential candidates court Idaho’s mega-donor

Frank VanderSloot, eastern Idaho businessman and one of the GOP’s wealthiest donors, is being courted by GOP presidential candidates eager to benefit from VanderSloot’s fundraising reputation, which he brought to bear as a critical fundraiser for Mitt Romney in the last presidential race, the AP reports. "It was surely a lot easier four years ago," VanderSloot told The Associated Press. "There was a clear front runner to get behind. Romney was head and shoulders above the rest of the field … I surely have who I think will be the best president in my mind. But the question is, can they get elected? If they can't get elected, you're just wasting your time, aren't you?"

"You're looking at a major player in GOP politics. He has tremendous ability to exert influence," said David Adler, former director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University. "He can lift someone from the middle of the pack and put them out in front."

VanderSloot told AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi that five candidates out of the crowded Republican field have caught his eye, including his favorites Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former H-P CEO Carly Fiorina. Also on his short list is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whom VanderSloot praised for being articulate and having the resources to raise campaign dollars. And while he believes the hype surrounding Donald Trump will eventually fade, VanderSloot said he likes the businessman's ability to resonate with the public by kicking political correctness to the wind. "(Trump) is such a breath of fresh air. But it's not about what he's done, what's his motive? He's always been it if for Trump and he will always be in it for Trump first," VanderSloot said.

Though VanderSloot hosted a regional GOP BBQ at his ranch last month that featured presidential hopeful Rand Paul, who was making his fourth stop in Idaho in a week, he said Paul’s not among his favorites. "If Paul wins the nomination, we'll see a Democrat in the White House," said VanderSloot. "He is far down on our list." You can read Kruesi’s full report here.