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JEERS … to Idaho Senate President Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. Hill is the epitome of transparency and ethical political behavior. Yet he so mishandled the Sen. John McGee fiasco that in comparison, Boss Denney's mild rebuke of tax scofflaw Phil Hart last year looks like a public flogging. And Hart was only guilty of hypocrisy - refusing to pay his own taxes while serving on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.McGee, R-Caldwell, on the other hand, committed a crime - one that could have killed somebody/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. Marty's Cheers & Jeers column here.
Question: Do you agree with Marty Trillhaase that Brent Hill's protection of Sen. John McGee is worse than Lawerence Denney's protection of Phil Hart last year?
Boss Denney, left, and Stormin' Norman launched their lawsuit after the Idaho Supreme Court tossed out the six-member panel's unanimously adopted redistricting plan. Crow and Hansen, claimed Denney and Semanko, were too easy on the Democrats. To preclude a repeat, Denney wanted to appoint former Rep. Bob Forrey, R-Nampa. Semanko had named Angela Cross of Post Falls. Wednesday, the Idaho Supreme Court dumped that petition in the trash can, agreeing with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden that Crow and Hansen can't be fired. But the GOP and Troupis have no reason not to try again. When their suits against the state fail, they lose nothing.If they win, they can collect attorney fees — from you. Isn't that cute?/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Do you prefer Boss Denney & Stormin' Norman? Or Boss Denney & Sultan Semanko?
In a big table in a small room on the first floor of the Capitol stand six paper tents with the names of six redistricting commissioners: Republicans Dolores Crow, Randy Hansen and Sheila Olsen, and Democrats Ron Bietelspacher, Shauneen Grange and Elmer Martinez. The names have been reprinted since Oct. 18, when the commission agreed on plans for congressional and legislative districts. But legislative staff made no accommodation for the efforts of House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and Idaho Republican Chairman Norm Semanko to fire Crow and Hansen, a move rebuffed by the Idaho Supreme Court late Wednesday. Did they even print name tents for the prospective replacements, Bob Forrey of Nampa and Angela Cross of Post Falls? "No, we didn't," said Jeff Youtz, director of the Legislative Services Office/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Which redistricting team would you rather have on the job now — the one with Dolores Crow & Randy Hansen or the one with Denney/Semanko new picks Bob Forrey & Angela Cross?
House Speaker Lawerence Denney, left, and Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko are shown during a North Idaho tour they took in May 2009 with Gov. Butch Otter.
Following is a joint Statement from Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko regarding the adverse Idaho Supreme Court’s decision on their redistricting lawsuit: “Unfortunately, the Idaho Supreme Court was unable to reach the merits of the case yesterday, opting instead to dismiss it on procedural grounds. As a result, the Court did not decide whether the Redistricting Commissioners can, in fact, be replaced. We are hopeful that the Court will have the opportunity to address the issue in the near future and are continuing to evaluate our legal options as we review the decision. In the meantime, the Commission will reconvene today with a cloud of uncertainty continuing to hang over it with regard to the ultimate legality of any new plan that it may adopt. That is the unfortunate reality of yesterday’s ruling.”
Question: Will the Idaho Republican Party be hurt/helped if it continues to try to replace redistricters Dolores Crow and Randy Hansen?
Angela Cross of Post Falls was in high spirits at a September 2009 Tea Party rally at the Greyhound Track in Post Falls. But she probably isn't as happy today. The Idaho Supreme Court ruled moments ago against a lawsuit by House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko to make her one of two replacements on the Idaho Redistricting Commission. The two GOP leaders tried to "fire" Republican redistricters Dolores Crow and Randy Hansen for not being partisan in drawing their boundaries. Betsy Russell's story here.
The Idaho Supreme Court has issued an order denying the petition from House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko asking the court to order Secretary of State Ben Ysursa to declare two vacancies on the state's citizen redistricting commission; you can read the order here. The court essentially ruled that Denney and Semanko hadn't come up with sufficient legal reasons why the court should take that action; this means their challenge is dead, and the citizen redistricting commission is good to go as-is; it's scheduled to meet tomorrow morning at 9/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Do you agree with Supreme Court decision on petition by Norm Semanko & Lawerence Denney?
If Republican leaders try to hijack the redistricting process, they run the risk of compromising years of "remarkable success" at the polls. That's the assessment from one of the architects of the GOP's success — Phil Batt, a former governor, lieutenant governor, legislator and state Republican chairman. Batt submitted a guest opinion today, criticizing House Speaker Lawerence Denney and GOP Chairman Norm Semanko for trying to fire redistricting commissioners Dolores Crow and Randy Hansen. Writes Batt: "Our party leaders want to sully the reapportionment process for more political gain. I guess they want 100 percent Republicans of their own variety (Dolores and I probably don’t qualify)/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP file photo of Phil Batt)
DFO: And you wonder why I continue to consider Phil Batt the most effective governor of my 30 years in North Idaho? I finally figured out what kind of Republican I am. I am a Phil Batt Republican — one who respects fair play and common sense over the hardline zealotry of those now in charge of the Idaho GOP.
Question: Is former Gov. Phil Batt right? Will continued heavy-handedness by Norm Semanko and GOP leaders undercut the Idaho Republican Party?
In targeting Idaho's independent redistricting commission for decapitation, Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko and House Speaker Lawerence Denney are all in. They're ignoring history. They're disenfranchising voters. They're wading deeply into illogical waters. And they've partnered with the legal equivalent of the Flat Earth Society. Where would they get the notion that they might pull it off? From the highest court in the state. Last week, the Idaho Supreme Court voted 4-1 to strike down the citizen commission's plan for realigning Idaho's population growth with its 35 legislative districts. That redistricting plan was a remarkable feat, accomplished quickly and unanimously by the commission's three Republican and three Democratic members/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Should the redistricting process be taken out of the hands of the Idaho Legislature altogether?
Update: House Speaker Lawerence Denney has appointed Bob Forrey of Nampa and State Chairman Norm Semanko has appointed Angela Cross of Post Falls.
The Republican Party is suing the secretary of state over redistricting in the Idaho Supreme Court, contending the party's chairman and the speaker of the House of Representatives have the power to fire their appointees and name new members to the panel. Republican Chairman Norm Semanko (right) and House Speaker Lawerence Denney (left) want to remove redistricting commissioners Randy Hansen, a former Twin Falls legislator, and Dolores Crow, a former House member from Nampa. But the Idaho attorney general says Semanko and Denney don't have the power to remove them, even though they appointed Hansen and Crow to the panel/Associated Press. More here.
Question: Would Kootenai County/North Idaho benefit from having a redistricter from Post Falls (if the Idaho GOP is permitted to replace current commissioners)?
The Idaho Democratic Party issued a statement this afternoon decrying the latest move by Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko (pictured) and GOP House Speaker Lawerence Denney to attempt to fire their two appointees to the state's bipartisan citizen redistricting commission. “Make no mistake, this is a Republican against Republican fight and a clear example of the unacceptable culture in the GOP-controlled Statehouse. That culture is one of ongoing bullying and arrogance as GOP leaders seek to purge moderate, reasonable lawmakers from their ranks,” the Dems' statement said/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
The renovated Idaho Capitol opened more than two years ago with secluded office space for lawmakers. Now that seclusion is limiting public access to House lawmakers. Last week, House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, ordered that all access points to House lawmakers’ offices be secured and locked to the general public. Meetings with House lawmakers must now be scheduled and visitors are required to check in with security before entering the office areas. This is a break of process from the prior two sessions in the Capitol building. For the past two years, visitors could come and go as they pleased in order to meet with lawmakers/Idaho Reporter staff. More here.
Question: Is it starting to sound as though Denney is a control freak?
The Idaho Republican Party announced today that State Chairman Norm Semanko and Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney have removed Randy Hansen and Dolores Crow from the Idaho Redistricting Commission effective immediately. The names of the two new commissioners will be released Tuesday morning. The Redistricting Commission will convene on Thursday, January 26th at 9am at the Idaho Capitol/Idaho GOP news release.
Question: What do you think of this move in light of an opinion last week that the redistricters can't be removed from their appointed position?
Redistricting commissioners can't be removed by those who appointed them, according to an Idaho Attorney General's opinion issued today in response to an inquiry from Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. “No mechanism exists for the removal of a Commissioner once appointed,” Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane wrote in the opinion. “A vacancy can occur if a Commissioner resigns.” You can read the full opinion here. The question comes up because House Speaker Lawerence Denney said yesterday he wants to fire commission GOP Co-Chair Dolores Crow of Nampa (pictured), whom he appointed to the panel/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Isn't it nice that Boss Denney & Co. aren't above Idaho law … yet?
Republican House Speaker Lawerence Denney may fire his appointee to Idaho's redistricting commission, former GOP state Rep. Dolores Crow, because party members don't think she protected their interests. That's after Idaho Supreme Court justices threw out the new political boundaries Wednesday. On Thursday afternoon, Denney told the Associated Press that GOP legislators are angry and believe Crow and other Republican commissioners in October backed a plan that's too generous to minority Democrats. They want commissioners who will support a map more favorable to Republicans. Denney says he'd prefer Crow to resign, not force him to fire her/Associated Press. More here.
Question: Obviously, supermajority Republicans believe that the best redistricting plan is one that favors them. Do you agree that what's best for Idaho Republicans is best for Idaho overall?
It's breathtaking to watch how Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, (pictured) has found the religion of ethics reform. Last week, Denney said he'd support political ethics bills the Democratic minority is pursuing. It was all good words, good works and "come to Jesus." Then Friday, Boss Denney said two can play this "culture of corruption" game, responding to state Democratic Chairman Larry Grant's blast at the GOP. So Denney began lobbing water balloons at Democratic legislators. One, he said, used a state computer to solicit campaign contributions. Another, he said, used a state computer to forward employee complaints against a state commission chairman to influence another political contest. … Let it be said that using taxpayer resources on partisan campaigns is a no-no. But Boss Denney, the new ethics cop?/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Do you think House Speaker Lawerence Denney's commitment to ethics reform this year is sincere — or a matter of getting people off his back?
Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney (pictured) is lashing back at some Democrats who have been criticizing what they call a “culture of corruption” among Republican officials, saying some Democratic lawmakers, too, have stepped across ethical lines. “Both sides – Republicans and Democrats – make mistakes or even cross the line into the camp of ethical lapses of judgment,” Denney wrote in a statement. “Both sides are looking at reforming the process to, as is best possible, reduce the chance of partisanship when looking into complaints of ethical violations”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Do you think there's a "culture of corruption" in the Idaho Legislature?
Idaho Democrats unveiled draft legislation setting up a new independent state ethics commission today, and they also announced that they’ve agreed with GOP leaders to set up a working group, with lawmakers from both parties and both houses, to agree on a bipartisan bill within the next couple of weeks. Both House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill confirmed the agreement. “I believe we must maintain and grow public trust in government,” declared Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, who said she began working on the bill in the fall. “My intent was to keep it simple, easy to use and low-cost. I am pleased to say that Speaker Denney also recognizes the importance of the idea and will collaborate with us”/Betsy Russell, SR. More here.
Question: Will an independent ethics commission help restore your trust in Idaho government? Or is it too little/too late in wake of recent ethics lapses by Republican lawmakers that were swept under the rug?
Idaho legislative leaders from both parties say they favor new, stronger ethics laws for Idaho this year. House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, who in the past has single-handedly blocked new ethics laws, said he’s now ready to consider an independent ethics commission to oversee Idaho lawmakers. That’s something 41 states have, but Idaho lacks. “I really don’t believe, as far as ethics goes, that it’s necessary, but perception is reality,” Denney said. The Idaho House convened its ethics committee multiple times in the past year, mostly for complaints involving tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, who also came under fire for his 1996 illegal harvest of logs from state school endowment lands/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Why is ethically challenged House Speaker Lawerence Denney now talking about beefing up ethics laws — now that Rep. Phil Hart has wiggled off the hook several times? Oh!
JEERS … to Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale. The ethically challenged speaker had a banner year. Here's a sample:
- He single-handedly blocked the House Revenue and Taxation Committee from even exploring the idea of joining a multi-state consortium pledged to help states collect the millions in sales tax due on Internet and catalog transactions.
- After all but looking the other way at tax scofflaw and timber thief Rep. Phil Hart's transgressions, Denney pushed through new rules to keep preliminary investigations of legislator ethics violations out of the public view.
- Which was convenient, considering the next blow-up involved Denney's colleague, State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona. A bill that might have hampered Loertscher's side of a road abandonment dispute in Bonneville County went from the House Transportation Committee, where it belonged, to Loertscher's desk drawer, where it disappeared. Denney arranged the re-routing.
Question: Which Idaho political leader would you Cheer or Jeer for his/her performance in 2011?
HucksOnline isn't surprised that no Democrat makes StateImpact's list of Top 5 most influential Idaho legislators. The superminority Democrats have little clout in the state Capitol. But no North Idaho legislators made the list either — not even Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint — who should get an honorable mention, at least. Oh well, article by Emilie Saunders Ritter about Brent Hill, Lawerence Denney, & three other friends worth the read as we all prepare for 2012 version of legislative Keystone Kops. Click here.
Question: Do you agree with this list of Top 5 legislators?
- Wednesday Poll: 67 of 109 respondents (69.72%) say Idaho House Republicans need to find another House Speaker in lieu of the several ethics problems dogging foot soldiers of Lawerence Denney. 19 of 109 (17.43%) could care less. Only 11 of 109 (10.09%) support Denney's leadership. 3 were undecided.
- Today's Poll: Should Kootenai County Republicans be promoting a townhall meeting backing distribution of raw milk?
Idaho always has tolerated an element of good old boy politics. Its lawmakers self-policed themselves. But at least when the political parties were more balanced, a natural tension kept legislators honest. The good old boys also operated under a honor system. In the Senate, a ethics review essentially ousted former Sen. Jack Noble, R-Kuna, who tried to promote a bill to profit himself. In the House, former Speaker Bruce Newcomb, R-Burley, once called an ethics probe on himself. Political balance no longer exists. The good old boys are gone. So is their political culture that held itself to an ethical standard. The sooner Idahoans realize that, the sooner they'll give the job of enforcing ethics to somebody else/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Is it time for ethical GOP lawmakers — if there are any of them with a backbone — to band together to remove Lawerence Denney from his role as House Speaker?
The Legislature’s most recent ethics investigation was hardly House Speaker Lawerence Denney’s finest moment. Hayden Republican Rep. Phil Hart relinquished his vice chairmanship of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee — which seemed only fitting, since the self-styled tax protester faced allegations of repeatedly blowing off filing deadlines. Denney pulled Hart from this powerful committee only after Hart gave the move his blessing. Denney seemed interested in providing a soft landing for an ideological ally, and far less interested in preserving the reputation of the House. What can Denney do for an encore? How about dropping the entire pretense of an ethics committee investigation? Denney has another problem on his hands, again involving a trusted foot soldier (Tom Loertscher)/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: What would a loyal foot soldier of House Speaker Denney have to do to get in real trouble in the Idaho House of Representatives?
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's House Speaker says he will not call for an ethics investigation into whether Rep. Tom Loertscher benefited personally from a bill he helped kill during the 2011 Legislature. Speaker Lawerence Denney said Thursday he doesn't believe Loertscher acted inappropriately or gained financially by burying a bill designed to clarify the process of abandoning public roads. Loertscher is a Republican from Iona and is suing in state court to have old roads that provide public access across his ranch declared private. But last week, the Post Register reported that Loertscher took his case to court weeks after using his authority as chairman of the State Affairs Committee to derail a bill that would have required counties to hold public hearings before vacating roads. Idaho law also allows individual House members to request an ethics investigation.
Over the holiday weekend, the Idaho Falls Post Register broke a story about House Speaker Lawerence Denney and House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, sidetracking and killing a bill regarding disputes over county roads, while Loertscher and former state Sen. Stan Hawkins were in the midst of a dispute over county roads in Bonneville County - they filed a lawsuit in April seeking to declare three designated county roads there as private, over the objections of neighbors who no longer would be able to use them. The Post Register is calling for an ethics investigation; you can read their Sunday editorial here and the Friday article here by reporter Emma Breysse.
- Monday Poll: Overwhelmingly, Hucks Nation thinks less of House Speaker Lawerence Denney for his role in (mis)handling ethics problems involving Rep. Phil Hart's tax and timber problems. 85 of 92 respondents (92.4%) said they think less of Denney now than before the various ethics complaints surfaced against Hart. Only 5 of 92 (5.4%) think more of Denney. 2 were undecided.
- Education Poll: When asked "Who knows what's best for Idaho education," 107 of 133 respondents (80.45%) said educators and 26 of 133 (19.55%) said Superintendent Tom Luna.
- Today's Poll: Should Post Falls Officer Ian Johnson have been fired for pretending to Taser a friend while on duty?
- Weekend Poll: 99 of 176 respondents (56.2%) voted that girls shouldn't be allowed to compete against boys in high school wrestling. This, after a top-ranked boy refused to wrestle in girl in Iowa state high school competition. 70 of 176 (39.8%) said girls should be allowed to wrestle. 7 were undecided.
- Today's Poll: Do you respect House Speaker Lawerence Denney more/less as a result of the way he handled Rep. Phil Hart's tax and timber problems?
Marty Trillhaase/Lewiston Tribune, takes House Speaker Lawerence Denney to task today for not only failing to properly punish state Rep. Phil Hart for his tax dodging/timber stealing ways but also for allowing the ethics process to be closed from the public in the future. Trillhaase writes: "Denney's impotence is the one constant in this mess. Denney had it within his prerogatives to strip the timber-stealing tax scofflaw of all committee assignments - letting him cool his heels on the House floor - until Hart paid his taxes and settled up with the state for the timber."
Question: Have you changed your view of House Speaker Lawerence Denney as a result of his handling of Rep. Phil Hart's several missteps?
House Speaker Lawerence Denney, after introducing proposed changes in House ethics rules on Tuesday. The rules clarify that only House members - not just anyone - can file complaints, and add a clause for ethics violations that consist of "conduct unbecoming a member of the House."
The House State Affairs Committee has approved legislation from Speaker Lawerence Denney making changes in the House's ethics rules, and sent it on to the full House for a vote, where it needs two-thirds approval to pass. The key change: Clarifying that “any member” of the House, not just “any person,” can file an ethics complaint against another member.
This year, the House received two ethics complaints from citizens, one from Hayden businessman Howard Griffiths, a write-in candidate this year against Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, against Hart; and one from Hart supporter Larry Spencer against Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, who had filed an ethics complaint against Hart. Both were found to be without basis and “frivolous.” Betsy Russell, EOB Read more.
Even as dozens of Idahoans are testifying to JFAC that Idaho should look to more revenue - including, many have suggested, possibly taxing Internet sales - rather than cutting services to the disabled, House Speaker Lawerence Denney has single-handedly sidelined a bill that was moving along to open the door to future online taxes/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
- Medicaid hearing wraps up after 4 hours
- Testimony: Tax Internet services, don't cut services to disabled
- Testimony: 'A time to test our character"
Question: Should Internet sales be taxed to raise revenue for cash-strapped Idaho?
Years ago, I worked with a member of Congress who had this basic rule: Never repeat details of a conversation with the President of the United States. He would say in general terms what he and the President talked about, but he not say exactly what the President told him. The rule served my boss well. It’s too bad Rep. Eric Anderson of Priest Lake didn’t use similar sensible judgment before shooting his mouth off about his unfair treatment during the Idaho Legislature’s reorganization for this session. Anderson’s actions only validated leadership’s decision not to give him a committee chairmanship or vice chairmanship/Chuck Malloy, From The Inside. More here. H/T: Kevin Richert.
- Chuck Malloy is a former editorial page editor of the Idaho Statesman. You can read his new blog, From the Inside, here.
Question: Did Eric Anderson get what he deserved from GOP House leadership for filing an ethics complaint against Rep. Phil Hart?