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Eye On Boise archive for Jan. 1, 2009

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 21, 2009

Idaho's Senate Health & Welfare Committee considers Medicaid cuts; a large crowd turned out to oppose them, 1/21/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Crowd wants to ease cuts for disabled

Disabled people, their family members and advocates are urging that cuts in treatment hours imposed due to state budget holdbacks be moderated by making them temporary, rather than permanent, and by allowing exceptions where needed. Kelly Buckland, executive director of the State Independent Living Council,…

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People line up to testify at a crowded hearing about cuts in Medicaid; the crowd overflowed the hearing room into the hallway outside, 1/21/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Lining up to testify

Dozens of people are lined up outside a very full, and very hot, hearing room where the Senate Health & Welfare Committee is considering rules to implement cuts in treatment hours for children and adults with developmental disabilities. "It's time to stop punishing individuals for…

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Rep. Steve Kren, R-Nampa, was closely questioned by the House Resources Committee when he proposed a bill regarding hunting fees without first consulting with the state Fish & Game Department. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Panel peppers Kren with questions

Rep. Steve Kren, R-Nampa, got himself peppered with questions today when he proposed legislation in the House Resources Committee to limit so-called "super hunts" mostly to state residents, allowing only 10 percent of the permits to go to non-residents. That's the case already for most…

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Wood says Wood is OK

Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, a doctor, said Rep. JoAn Wood, whom he accompanied to the hospital earlier, is OK. "When I left she was doing fine," he said. "I expect her to do fine." She had suffered from some abdominal pain, he said. "She was…

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Happenings at the annex...

House Transportation Chairwoman JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, was taken to the hospital just now, escorted by Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, a physician, and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle. Wood reportedly looked a bit pale; she walked to the car, on Fred Wood's arm, and there's no…

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House State Affairs Committee members hear from Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, about a proposal to reject legislative pay raises. All committee members voted in favor of the proposal, 1/21/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

All 'yes' votes

Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, said he wasn't surprised at the unanimous roll-call vote on his measure to reject legislative pay increases. In fact, two Democratic lawmakers had already announced, before the legislative session, that they would introduce such legislation. Bolz beat them to it. He…

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Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, asks the House State Affairs Committee to reject all raises for lawmakers in the coming year; they agreed unanimously. The measure now moves to the full House. 1/21/09  (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

'Everybody has to hurt'

One after another, the members of the House State Affairs Committee voted "Aye," all 18 of them, on Rep. Darrell Bolz' proposal to reject legislative pay raises this year. Bolz' proposal also rejects all the changes in mileage and per diem expenses that a citizen…

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TUESDAY, JAN. 20, 2009

Deputy Attorney General Ted Spangler presents new rules about secret tax settlements to senators, 1/20/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Senators criticize new rules on secret tax deals 

Senators weren't enthusiastic this afternoon about a new Tax Commission rule that would clarify when the commission can secretly settle big tax cases. It comes after a whistleblower's report charging that the commission was cutting secret deals to excuse millions in income taxes for large…

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Idaho's House State Affairs Committee listens to a proposal to change the name of the Idaho State Liquor Dispensary, 2/20/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

A liquor dispensary by any other name...

The Idaho State Liquor Dispensary proposed legislation this morning to change its name to the Idaho State Liquor Division, and to change its chief's title from "superintendent" of the dispensary to "director" of the division. "It's strictly a name change to modernize," Deputy Superintendent Larry…

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A few Idaho state lawmakers and Capitol Annex staffers gathered to watch the presidential inauguration on a small, scratchy TV in the annex's library, 1/20/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

A new president is inaugurated

A few legislators and Capitol Annex staffers gathered around a small, scratchy TV in the fifth-floor library to watch Barack Obama's inauguration as the next president of the United States. At one point, Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey pointed and said, "There's Jim Risch!" Risch,…

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When cuts are magnified

With the sharp holdbacks already imposed at the Department of Health & Welfare, the department may not need a $20 million supplemental appropriation for Medicaid this year after all, Medicaid administrator Leslie Clement told legislative budget writers. She said agency officials hope to work with…

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Idaho Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong makes his budget pitch to state lawmakers, 1/20/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

And from the silver lining department...

Amid the tough times at the state Department of Health & Welfare, there's been a somewhat surprising bright spot: More parents are paying their back child support in these difficult economic times. There's a reason, however: They've lost their jobs and gone on unemployment. "We…

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Bribery law called into question

Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey has a fascinating story today about how a prominent lobbyist's promise of a campaign contribution was withdrawn after the candidate cast an adverse vote on a state regulatory board - and despite complaints to the state, officials said what happened…

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MONDAY, JAN. 19, 2009

News abounds on holiday

Lots of legislative news today - despite the fact that it's a state holiday, sanctioned by the Legislature, and most state offices are closed. The Legislature doesn't take holidays when it's in session. Here's a link to my full story on the new performance audit…

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What happened to that management system

One of the sharpest criticisms of the Idaho Transportation Department in the new audit is that the department lacks a maintenance management system, a computer software system to track when, why and how certain sections of roadway are maintained. There hasn't been one since 2005,…

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Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little speaks at Idaho's state ceremony marking Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

'Respect for human rights and freedom'

Lt. Gov. Brad Little read a proclamation from Gov. Butch Otter, and the rich and interweaving sounds of the Common Ground Community Chorus singing "I Dream a World" followed a trumpet fanfare and Girl Scouts presentation of colors to open Idaho's state ceremony today for…

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McGee: Transportation is 'grossly underfunded'

Senate Transportation Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell, said the new transportation audit confirms just what Gov. Butch Otter has been saying, that Idaho's transportation system is "grossly underfunded." Auditor Bob Thomas summed up the overall findings of the audit like this: "The current situation facing Idaho's…

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'We need to do something'

In response to the new performance audit of the Idaho Transportation Department, Clete Edmunson, transportation adviser to Gov. Butch Otter, just told lawmakers, "We really appreciate the findings in this report. ... We need to do something, we need to take care of this investment…

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ITD disputes GARVEE criticism

The new audit suggests that the Idaho Transportation Department could be out $19.6 million due to the cost of "negative arbitrage" on future GARVEE bond issuances - the cost related to cash balances awaiting payment for project costs borrowed at high long-term rates, but invested…

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'Worst-first' approach 'inefficient'

The Idaho Transportation Department's "worst-first" strategy for dealing with deteriorated pavement is "inefficient," according to the new audit, and should be replaced with a "preservation-first" strategy. Instead of focusing on the roadways with the worst conditions, which then require immediate, costly reconstruction, the state could…

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Audit: Guv's plan not enough

The new audit of the Idaho Transportation Department looked at the governor's $240 million proposal for increased funding, of which $137 million would go to ITD (much of the rest goes to local highway jurisdictions). It's no permanent fix, the audit found. "Even with the…

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The entire House GOP leadership team and Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes are among those watching the unveiling of the new audit of the Idaho Transportation Department, 1/19/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Looking for savings...

Here's how much interest there is in finding savings at the Idaho Transportation Department through efficiencies: Among those in the audience for the unveiling of the new audit today are Senate President Pro-tem Bob Geddes, House Speaker Lawerence Denney, and the entire House GOP leadership…

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'Funding is insufficient'

"Our audit team strongly believes that the current ITD funding is insufficient to maintain the state highway program," auditor Mike Huddleston told lawmakers, summing up the findings of an extensive audit of Idaho's Transportation Department that's just being unveiled today. Furthermore, the audit found that…

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The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee hears from state Office of Performance Evaluations director Rakesh Mohan as it receives a new performance audit of the Idaho Transportation Department, 1/19/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Audit on time and under budget

The $550,000 audit of the Idaho Transportation Department that's being released today ended up costing only $450,000, Office of Performance Evaluations chief Rakesh Mohan just told the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee. "It's a large and complex study, but we did it in a short amount…

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Debbie Field, director of the state Office of Drug Policy, addresses the Legislature's joint budget committee, 1/19/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

'We have saved some lives'

Former House Judiciary Chair Debbie Field, now the head of Gov. Butch Otter's Office of Drug Policy, presented the statewide request for substance abuse services funding to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning, joined by the directors of the state departments of Health & Welfare,…

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