Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt is engaged to be married to Francee Reilly, of Boise, later this summer. The 88-year-old Batt was Idaho's governor for one term from 1995-1999. In September, Batt's first wife, Jacque Batt, died of natural causes. The two had been married for 66 years.
- Phil Batt
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter today issued this statement in response to a federal lawsuit threat from former Govs. Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus over nuclear waste shipments:
“The allegation that I am doing anything less than protecting Idaho under the terms of the 1995 Settlement Agreement is simply wrong. No governor has shipped more waste out of the state than me. It seems as if the former governors would be satisfied with cleaning up the INL and shutting it down. Their approach ignores the asset the INL has become to eastern Idaho, the state and nation. Clean up under the terms of the agreement, including removal of ALL materials by 2035, remains our first priority, but it is not our only priority. Continuing the valuable research at the Lab with its world-class facilities and people is the future and one we should all work towards. It is clear the former governors see the Lab as a liability, while I see its possibilities.”
Former Idaho Govs. Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt fired off a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Energy this morning threatening a federal lawsuit over a deal between the Otter Administration and the Department of Energy to allow a shipment of commercial spent nuclear fuel into Idaho under a waiver of the 1995 Batt Agreement on nuclear waste. Otter has maintained it’s a small amount that’s to be used in research, but the two former governors said regardless of the amount, the move violates the public notice requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
“The Department of Energy should follow the law,” Andrus declared. Batt said he’s not soothed by Gov. Butch Otter’s comment that it’d only be 50 spent fuel rods. “I almost got recalled over bringing in eight,” Batt said. He noted that under his administration, he put the issue on the ballot. “The people made it very clear … they didn’t want additional nuclear waste stored above the aquifer, the Snake River Aquifer.” That aquifer flows below the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho, where the spent fuel would go.
Batt said if Otter’s administration wants to bring more waste in – in any amount – “They should take it to the people. They’re the ones that said they didn’t want any more.” The two former governors said they’re not persuaded that just a single shipment is at stake; they said documents they’ve seen show the waiver is for a 10-year program of shipments on which the federal government will spend up to $200 million.
“We’ve had almost 50 years, since I’ve been involved, of being lied to,” Andrus said. “They didn’t meet any of the timelines they set out to meet. I wouldn’t trust ‘em.”
Laird Lucas of Advocates for the West, an environmental lawyer who specializes in federal court litigation, said the proposed shipment is commercial spent fuel – not the Navy waste the INL has taken in the past. He said NEPA requires the DOE to disclose to the public what it’s doing, including why it’s proposing to bring the waste into Idaho and what will happen to it here, and take public input - and it hasn’t. “They are waiving the ban on shipments with this agreement,” Lucas said. “They’ve done it with no public notice. … The citizens of Idaho do not know what the DOE proposes to do with regard to spent nuclear commercial fuel above the aquifer.”
Just this morning, the state Department of Environmental Quality sent out a news release announcing the state has reached an agreement with the DOE over its violation of several deadlines related to mixed waste stored at the INL. And last Friday, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden sent a letter to the federal government rescinding his support, given in a Jan. 8 letter, for plans for the shipment waiver, saying another deadline is being missed; you can read the letter here. (Note: Wasden maintains his position hasn’t changed, because his support always was conditional on DOE meeting cleanup deadlines.)
Batt said if the federal government maneuvers Idaho into becoming the new destination for commercial spent nuclear fuel that's stacking up at commercial nuclear plants around the nation, the state will suffer. “You get the least hint of it, publicity all over the world, and that’s the end of the Idaho potato industry,” he warned.
Andrus said Lucas will be the two former governors’ lawyer if they sue. “The intent of this is to tell them either comply with the policies set forth in NEPA," he said, "or the governor and I will be forced to file litigation in the federal court, which we intend to do if it’s necessary – and we hope it isn’t.” Lucas said the shipment is currently scheduled for June.
Two former Idaho governors – Republican Phil Batt and Democrat Cecil Andrus – called a press conference today to object sitting Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s agreement to accept more nuclear waste at the Idaho National Laboratory, saying it violates Batt’s 1995 agreement with the feds.
“Attorney General Wasden tells me that the reason for this offer of accepting waste for research contingent on compliance is to give them more incentive to comply with the high-level abatement plan,” Batt said. “I think they’ve got plenty of incentive already, and I think it’s a mistake, because the main part of the agreement is violated. You take an ounce of the waste from the federal government, they want to give you 10,000 pounds. And they always say they’ll move it out, but they won’t.”
Andrus called the move a “travesty,” and said, “It’s pretty obvious that they were putting this together for many weeks,” but held off until after the election, announcing the move only on the busy weekend of the inauguration. “There was really not any opportunity in their mind for Gov. Batt and myself to take issue with them. … Neither one of us have any intention of letting this decision by two of the elected officials of the state of Idaho come to pass.” Andrus added, “I can tell him what his legacy is going to be … it’s going to be that they have created a Yucca Mountain in Idaho.”
Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker has a full report here, including video from the press conference. AP reporter Keith Ridler has a report here. Gov. Otter will speak to reporters about it shortly.
Former Idaho First Lady Jacque Batt was 88 when she died Sunday of natural causes at St. Alphonsus Hospital. She and Phil, her husband of 66 years, met at the University of Idaho and were married in 1948; they had three children, William, Rebecca and Leslie Ann. A lover of animals, dancer, riding instructor and pilot, Mrs. Batt was a private person whose most public stance as First Lady was taking a lead role in the "Race for the Cure" against breast cancer. The Batts also were frequently seen with their pets, including a "small mutt" named Sniffer who frequently visited the governor's office during Batt's term as governor in the 1990s.
She is survived by her husband, Phil, her children and extended families and relatives; services are under the direction of Flahiff Funeral Chapel in Caldwell. In his book, "The Compleat Phil Batt: A Kaleidoscope," former Gov. Batt referred to her as "my dear wife" and shared a musical composition he'd written in her honor, the Jacque Elaine Waltz. Click below for Mrs. Batt's full obituary.
Former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt has endorsed Phil McGrane in the four-way GOP primary for Idaho Secretary of State – a notable endorsement not just because Batt is a respected former governor of the state, but also because he’s a former highly successful chairman of the Idaho Republican Party. Asked how often he’s made an endorsement in the primary, Batt said, “Oh, not very often, I don’t think.”
In this case, though, he said, “One candidate has demonstrated the ability as well as the character and integrity necessary to fulfill the obligations of this office and that is Phil McGrane.” Batt, shown here in a 2013 photo, said, “Over the years, I’ve had the utmost respect and confidence in the Secretary of State’s office being led by Pete Cenarrusa and Ben Ysursa to be run with sound judgment, common sense and fiscal responsibility. Phil McGrane is the right Republican to continue this tradition. I encourage others to join Ben and me in voting for Phil McGrane for Secretary of State.”
Ysursa endorsed McGrane for the post he’s retiring from this year on Tuesday.
There are four candidates vying in the GOP primary; in addition to McGrane, they include former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale; former Sen. Evan Frasure, R-Pocatello; and former Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise. The victor will face Democratic Rep. Holli Woodings of Boise in November; she’s unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Batt said the Secretary of State’s office is unique. “I think a person has to be studiously objective in that office,” he said. “Certainly there’s no room for any partisan maneuvering at all, favoritism. It’s an objective-type position. I think it’s extremely important, because there’s always people trying to maneuver election possibilities. I think it’s necessary to have an objective person in that office.”
Former Gov. Batt endorses expanding Idaho Human Rights Act that he authored, to ban discrmination against gays
Advocates of extending civil rights protections to gays and lesbians are getting a big boost from the author of the Idaho Human Rights Act, former Republican Gov. Phil Batt, reports Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman. Popkey writes that on Tuesday, as Batt, 86, became the first recipient of the Idaho Human Rights Lifetime Achievement Award in Caldwell, the popular former governor endorsed the “Add the Words ” campaign to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Act’s prohibition of discrimination based on race, gender, color, religion, national origin and disability.
“A homosexual who can’t rent a room or get a job because of his orientation doesn’t make any sense to anybody,” Batt said. “Why some of the politicians are not more sensitive than that — more sensible, I should say than that — beats me.” The former governor also said Idaho lawmakers’ refusal to amend the Human Rights Act in the 2013 session “accomplished absolutely nothing…except to be made to look like fools.” Popkey’s full report is online here; he notes that Batt’s comments were first reported in Friday’s Lewiston Tribune by editorial page editor Marty Trillhaase. Popkey writes that he checked in with Batt today, who told him, “It’s just something that needs to be said.”
The Idaho Human Rights Commission has scheduled a public forum for a week from tomorrow in Canyon County, to hear public comments about human rights work and issues in the county, followed by a reception honoring the recipients of two top awards: Former Gov. Phil Batt, who will receive the Human Rights Lifetime Achievement Award, and Idaho Department of Labor Director Roger Madsen, who will receive the Humanitarian Award.
The commission will meet Oct. 29 from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Caldwell at the College of Idaho, Simplot Dining Commons, south dining room; its open forum will run from 1-3 p.m., with the reception from 3-4. Among those scheduled to speak at the open forum are the heads of the Nampa Housing Authority and the Idaho Office on Aging and Mexican Consul Guillermo Ordorica.
When former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt was honored yesterday with the naming of the Idaho Transportation Department headquarters after him, he shared some transportation-related stories from back when. One was about changing a flat tire on the old White Bird Hill segment of Highway 95 in North Idaho in the sleet and rain with a pregnant wife and two big dogs in the car. Others touched on other “hair raising” stretches of road in the state before they were upgraded. “They really raised your eyebrows,” he said.
Then there was this story from his time as governor: Batt once was headed out to a funeral for some wildland firefighters south of Kuna when a Russian diplomat stopped by his office. “I told him I’d give him 10 minutes. I knew I had to get going. A half-hour later, I finally booted him out of there and we got in the car.”
Batt told an aide to “step on it,” and put in a call to the state police, saying, “Cut us a little slack, we’re running late. We need to get over to this funeral.” Laughter started up among the audience. “Course, the radios picked that up and it was in the newspapers and all over the place,” Batt said. “I had to apologize and write a poem for the paper and all that. But that was one of my easier duties, it was all right.”
- Phil Batt
Idaho named its state Transportation Department headquarters after former Gov. Phil Batt today, and at the ceremony unveiling the new name, Batt sent a stern message to the current Legislature and political leaders: Idaho needs to step up to fund its transportation needs, as it did for many years under many governors, but hasn’t for the past 17 years; read my full story here at spokesman.com. Batt, who served as a senator, senate leader, transportation board member and lieutenant governor before being elected governor in 1994, pushed through the state’s last gas tax increase in 1996, and it hasn’t been raised since. That’s the main way Idaho funds its roads, and the per-gallon tax not only isn’t indexed for inflation, it’s seen declines as vehicles have become more efficient.
Batt recalled major upgrades Idaho’s roads have seen over the years, including treacherous sections of U.S. Highway 95 in North Idaho and down south, Horseshoe Bend hill, which “used to regularly develop mysterious sinking sections.” Now, he said, they’re safer, more useful highways. “These projects and others like them throughout the state cost a pile of money, but Idahoans in early days were willing to tax themselves to pay the bill,” Batt told the crowd gathered for the building renaming ceremony. But that’s now changed, he said. When the state decided to upgrade the freeway between Boise and Canyon County, it borrowed money from the federal government through GARVEE bonds. But Batt warned that federal funding can’t be relied on, and will be decreasing in the future. “We need to get together and raise the finances to take care of all our state's transportation needs, not just the Treasure Valley, and not by borrowing money – that honeymoon is over.”
Amid laughter, Batt said, “I ran as a skinflint for governor and I served as a tightwad.” But, he said, “What could be more equitable than charging users fees for our roads, gas tax and registration fees? … We’re broke – our credit card is maxed out.”
Then, abruptly, he said, “But enough of my lecture. I just wanted to thank you all for the honor, this is a great honor for me.”
Numerous speakers lauded Batt, whose accomplishments over his career included major transportation upgrades for the state, the Idaho Human Rights Act, securing long-sought workers’ compensation for agricultural workers, signing a nuclear waste agreement with the federal government requiring waste to be removed from the state, and much more. Said Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, “Gov. Batt will always be remembered for doing the right thing, even if it’s not popular at the time.” Idaho’s congressional delegation, in a letter read at the ceremony, called Batt “a true innovator in fiscal matters, infrastructure and overall leadership.” Gov. Butch Otter said to laughter, “I couldn’t say enough about Phil, and I’d spend a lot more time than the few minutes that he ever allowed me as his lieutenant governor.”
The ITD headquarters on State Street is now officially emblazoned, “State of Idaho, Transportation Department, Philip E. Batt Building.” The ceremony included music, including Batt's compsition "Freedom Idaho," performed by West Junior High School students; Batt, a noted jazz clarinetist, accompanied them on clarinet. Transportation Board member Jim Kempton told Batt, “I look forward to walking into this building every time I come here with your name on it.”
Several lawmakers in attendance said they took Batt’s message about transportation funding to heart. “I think he’s absolutely correct,” said Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise. House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said, “This generation cannot duck our responsibility to maintain the investment that previous generations have put into our roads, so when the time’s right, I’m optimistic that we’ll step up.”
Batt said if the gas tax set in 1996 – “two bits” a gallon, or 25 cents – were the same percentage of what people were then paying for gas, it’d be 76 cents today. “Butch has tried his best to get some funding,” Batt said after the ceremony. “It’s the legislators that wouldn’t cooperate. There’s some talk that they won’t do it again this year because it’s an election year. I never believed in that philosophy, but I understand it.”
Otter called Batt’s warning “a great message,” adding, “And I think it’s a message that you’re going to hear more about.”
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Two former governors oppose modifying Idaho's 1995 nuclear cleanup agreement with the federal government after a new draft report suggested changes be considered as part of efforts to assure the Idaho National Laboratory's future. Republican Gov. Phil Batt sent a letter to the Idaho Statesman Monday and Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus wrote to Department of Commerce director Jeff Sayer, who headed up the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission. Sayer's panel last week released a preliminary report to spur public comment about Idaho's nuclear future. Its authors wrote, among other things, that changes to the 1995 pact could help preserve the INL's status as America's lead nuclear energy laboratory. To that, Batt cautioned Sayer against "modification of my nuclear waste agreement," while Andrus reiterated his opposition to accepting more nuclear waste.
In the past few days, three Idaho governors - former Govs. Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt and current Gov. Butch Otter - have published guest opinions in the Idaho Statesman newspaper with strongly worded messages about potential changes in the nuclear waste agreement Batt famously negotiated with the feds, guaranteeing that Idaho won't become the nation's future nuke waste repository. Today, Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker sorts through the charges; you can read his full report here. The upshot: Both Andrus and Batt are urging Otter to stick with the 1995 agreement, and despite possible changes outlined by current INL Director John Grossenbacher, Otter is pledging that he will.
Idahoans of all persuasions, political as well as religious, should congratulate their former attorney general on his call to serve as a general authority and a member of the LDS Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy. It is an honor long overdue. EchoHawk, 63, was also the 1994 Democratic nominee for governor, but lost narrowly to former Lt. Governor Phil Batt. The Wilder State Senator won 52% to 48% giving EchoHawk the distinction of being the first Native American to come close to being elected governor. EchoHawk, a Pawnee, is currently the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. To know Larry is to like him. He’s just one of those truly fine people all too rare nowadays/Chris Carlson, Ridenbaugh Press. More here. (AP file photo: Terry EchoHawk wipes the tears away as her husband, Larry EchoHawk, concedes his bid for Idaho governor on Nov. 9, 1994, in Boise)
Question: Do you remember Larry EchoHawk?
In his editorial today, Marty Trillhaase of the Lewiston Tribune harkens back 18 years when the Idaho Republican Party was led by such stalwarts as Phil Batt (pictured), Tom Boyd, Mike Simpson, Bruce Newcomb, the late Jerry Twiggs, Mike Crapo, and Jim Risch. Trillhaase appreciated their ethics and collegiality. That was then. Here's what he sez about the current crop of Idaho GOP leaders: "This is not your father's Idaho Republican Party. In the second decade of one-party rule, Idaho's GOP serves its own interests, not yours. It arrogantly dispatches questions about cronyism, ethical lapses and front-page embarrassments. The GOP brand has been tainted. Not enough to give Idaho's under-financed and poorly organized Democrats an opening to exploit. But that day is getting closer"/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here. (SR file photo by Jesse Tinsley)
Question: Are any current Idaho GOP leaders in the same mold as Phil Batt, Bruce Newcomb, and the late Jim McClure?
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?
Former Gov. Cecil Andrus opened his remarks at Thursday's City Club of Boise forum distancing himself from the claim of his former press secretary, Chris Carlson, that Andrus is Idaho's "greatest governor." Andrus and Carlson appeared to discuss Carlson's new memoir, "Cecil Andrus: Idaho's Greatest Governor," which has prompted a good deal of debate about who is worthy of the title. Before Andrus answered the first question posed by moderator Marty Peterson, Andrus asked for time for what he called a "disclaimer." "This is Carlson's book, not mine," Andrus said, "and I took offense at the cover and the title, you know, 'The Greatest Governor.' What an arrogant sounding, conceited title." Andrus, a Democrat, then suggested three contenders for the "greatest" moniker: Republicans Phil Batt and Bob Smylie and Democrat John Evans/Dan Popkey, Statesman. More here.
This will not be an easy task. The demonization of political opponents has turned into a cottage industry of hate that benefits many. And the emotions of regular people have been raised to a frenzy by the politics of fear from all sides of the debate. But Idaho can offer a model for taking on the worst elements. No matter what the motivation of the shooter, who killed six and wounded Giffords and more than a dozen others, the incident has prompted a national discussion that is long overdue. There was a time not long ago when Idaho was viewed as the center of the right-wing hate movement in the United States. But even as our politics has become more conservative, we have excised the hate-mongers and our image as a refuge for neo-Nazis. We had become a base for these people because of our tolerance and our basic “leave-us-alone” attitude. But when we as a state realized where it had taken us, we shifted gears led by leaders like Phil Batt and Bill Wassmuth/Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman. More here. (SR file photo of Bill Wassmuth at 1997 NIC Popcorn Forum)
Question: What have you done personally as a blogger and online commenter to reduce hateful rhetoric and inflamed political commentary online?
Phil Batt wasn’t Idaho’s flashiest governor, but the onion farmer from Wilder was one of its most respected, both for his fiscal restraint and his political vision. So when Batt, now 83, stepped away from his retirement on Tuesday to endorse Vaughn Ward in an Idaho GOP congressional primary race, it resounded. “I think the governor understands the gravity of the situation, with trying to take back this seat,” said Ward, who faces Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, and three other Republicans in the GOP primary race for Idaho’s 1st Congressional District seat - which now is held by conservative Democrat Walt Minnick.
When Batt was chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, he rebuilt it from a low point at which Idaho’s state Senate was split 21-21 between Republicans and Democrats into the powerhouse it stands today, controlling every statewide elective office, three of four seats in the congressional delegation and two-thirds of the Legislature. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt today endorsed Vaughn Ward in the GOP primary race for the 1st District congressional seat, joining a group of GOP Canyon County elected officials in taking sides in the hotly contested Republican primary race. “I think he’s a better-qualified candidate, a deeper thinker, a harder worker,” Batt said of Ward, who’s facing off with state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, in the primary contest. That means Ward now has two former Idaho governors - Batt and former GOP Gov. Dirk Kempthorne - on his side in the race. Batt said he’s not particularly displeased with the performance of the current 1st District congressman, conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat Walt Minnick/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Does Batt’s endorsement give Ward the over-the-top momentum he needs to defeat Raul Labrador in the Republican primary?