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Eye On Boise archive for Feb. 2009

SATURDAY, FEB. 28, 2009

A panel including, from left, Boise State University political scientist emeritus Jim Weatherby, Spokesman-Review reporter Betsy Z. Russell, Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey, former House Revenue & Taxation Committee Chairwoman Dolores Crow, budget director for Gov. Butch Otter Wayne Hammon, and host Thanh Tan discuss the events of the seventh week of Idaho's legislative session on Idaho Public Television's "Idaho Reports" program. (Photo courtesy of Idaho Public TV / Photo courtesy of Idaho Public TV)

The week that was... 

Click here to watch a slide show of the 7th week of this year's legislative session in photos. It was an eventful and in many ways grueling week and made for lively discussion on this week's "Idaho Reports" program on Idaho Public TV, on which…

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FRIDAY, FEB. 27, 2009

'Stimulus doldrums' hit Capitol Annex

AP reporter John Miller notes that the House didn't consider a single bill today - no committee hearings at all, and their session lasted just long enough for a prayer. Action in the Legislature has ground to something of a stall, as lawmakers await word…

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Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, explains SB 1059a to other senators who had questions about the measure to allow higher incentive payments to Idaho Lottery retailers based on sales. Despite opposition, including much from opponents of the lottery who said they don't want sales pushed, the bill passed 19-14 and now moves to the House. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Lottery bill prompts Senate debate

Legislation to allow Idaho Lottery retailers to get larger incentive payments for increasing sales barely passed the Senate today, after much debate. "I don't need someone asking me if I want to super-size my lottery ticket," said Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. "It's designed for ...…

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Idaho must change stimulus spending plan for roads

It appears that Idaho will be able to replace the Dover Bridge in North Idaho, purchase a much-needed maintenance management software system for the Idaho Transportation Department, and pour millions into fixing roads statewide with federal stimulus funds, state lawmakers heard this morning. But there…

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Legislative budget analyst Paul Headlee briefs lawmakers about federal stimulus money for transportation and how it'll affect Idaho. Nearly all of the state fits the federal definition of "economically distressed" areas and therefore qualifies for priority funding for infrastructure improvements, Headlee said - except for the Ketchum-Sun Valley area. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

The only undistressed spot?

Legislative budget analyst Paul Headlee is now briefing JFAC on the impact of the economic stimulus bill on transportation funding for Idaho. The state stands to receive $181.9 million for highway infrastructure investment, plus $18.4 million for transit capital assistance. There are some requirements for…

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IEA: School cuts not needed

The Idaho Education Association has issued a statement that there is “more than enough money” to avoid proposed cuts in public schools next year, between federal economic stimulus funds and state budget reserves. “Idaho is eligible to receive more than $300 million for K-12 public…

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THURSDAY, FEB. 26, 2009

Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, sponsored legislation that passed the Senate 34-1 on Thursday to help law enforcement officers who are permanently disabled in the line of duty with health insurance costs for their families. Jorgenson worked on the bill for five years, after Coeur d'Alene police officer Mike Kralicek suffered critical injuries when he was shot in the face by a fleeing suspect in 2004; Kralicek lost the health insurance he used to provide for his family once he was no longer employed, so the family has to buy its own insurance. The bill funds the program entirely through slightly increased retirement contributions from the officers it covers. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Jorgenson: 'I could be happy and end my career' 

Here's a link to my full story on the Idaho Senate's near-unanimous passage today of legislation to help permanently disabled law enforcement officers like Mike Kralicek of Coeur d'Alene with health insurance costs for their families. Kralicek himself won't benefit from the bill; it'll help…

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Fuel tax vote delayed

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — House leaders say it will be a week — or longer — before the Transportation Committee votes on Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's proposal to raise Idaho's 25-cents-per-gallon gas tax by 10 cents over…

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Injured officer benefit bill clears Senate

After five years of tries, Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, has won near-unanimous approval of his legislation to cover health insurance costs for the families of law enforcement officers who are permanently disabled in the line of duty. The bill, SB 1111, sets up a…

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'When the money's gone, the job's gone'

Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, asked legislative budget analyst Ray Houston if all the federal grant money being made available through the federal economic stimulus will prompt the hiring of more state employees to administer all the grants. "DEQ is thinking they may need some temporary…

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Legislative budget analyst Amy Castro presents a bewildering array of information to lawmakers about the impact of the federal stimulus on health and human services in the state. The rules are complex and vary, but the state could receive millions. Among those listening are JFAC members Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, and Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, 2/26/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

It's anything but simple... 11 

A bewildering array of numbers, federal programs, individual titles and sections of the stimulus bill and changing rules was spun out to legislative budget writers this morning as they heard the first details on what the stimulus legislation means for Idaho's health and human services…

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WEDNESDAY, FEB. 25, 2009

Idaho could lose $14 mil in stimulus 

It may sound counter-intuitive, but the same economic stimulus bill that's promising a billion dollars in federal funds to Idaho also could cost the state $14 million in state tax revenue. That's because, as Idaho Falls Post Register reporter Nick Draper reported today, tax breaks…

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Lots of questions about Internet bill 

Rep. Steve Hartgen's bill to ban Internet harassment ran into a blizzard of questions in the House Judiciary Committee today, which finally voted near-unanimously to hold the bill until next Thursday. Rep. Bill Killen, an attorney, asked Hartgen if the bill would cover his accessing…

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'A powerful lobby...'

Here's a link to my full story at on the rejection today of legislation to raise Idaho's beer and wine tax to pay for substance abuse treatment. Among the tidbits in the story: Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, suggested that rather than focus on…

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Roden: 'It was a good vote'

Asked how he pulled it off, here's what lobbyist Bill Roden had to say about the lopsided vote today to kill the beer and wine tax increase bill: "It was a good vote." He added, "We worked at it. But you know legislators, they listen…

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Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, speaks out against legislation to raise Idaho's beer and wine taxes to raise money for substance abuse treatment. The bill died in committee. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

How they voted

Here's the Rev & Tax vote that killed HB 140, the bill to raise the beer and wine tax to fund substance abuse treatment. The motion, by Rep. Ken Roberts, was to kill the bill:Voting yes (to kill the bill):Reps. Collins, Barrett, Moyle, Raybould, Roberts,…

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House Health & Welfare Chairwoman Sharon Block urges the House Revenue & Taxation Committee to pass much-debated legislation to raise Idaho's beer and wine taxes - unchanged for more than four decades - to fund substance abuse treatment services in Idaho. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Beer, wine tax increase killed 11 

After three days of long and intense hearings, the House Revenue & Taxation Committee has voted 13-5 to kill legislation to raise Idaho's beer and wine taxes. The measure, HB 140, was designed to raise a tax not raised in more than four decades, to…

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Senate Transportation Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell, tells the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to spend federal economic stimulus money on shovel-ready road projects around the state that wouldn't be funded otherwise - like the Dover Bridge in North Idaho. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

McGee: Use stimulus for road projects

Senate Transportation Chairman John McGee's message to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning had a marked difference from that of his House counterpart, House Transportation Chairwoman JoAn Wood, who addressed the panel last week. Wood said her idea was that Idaho should use the federal…

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House Education Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, tells legislative budget writers that education budget cuts likely will come in 2011 if they're avoided sooner, and that his committee favors spreading that impact out by looking at cuts next year. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Ed chairmen talk school budget cuts

Both Senate Education Chairman John Goedde and House Education Chairman Bob Nonini had a similar message for legislative budget writers this morning: Preserve student-teacher contact time even as the state faces budget cuts in education. "The superintendent says it best - the students don't get…

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Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, tells legislative budget writers that cutting an early retirement incentive for teachers might actually cost the state money, rather than bring savings. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Early retirement cut might not save

Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, in his presentation to JFAC this morning on education budgets, said his committee reviewed the $62 million in cuts for public schools proposed earlier by state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, and had concerns about whether one really…

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TUESDAY, FEB. 24, 2009

A stark choice on school cuts... 

Idaho faces a stark choice: Impose unprecedented budget cuts on public schools next year, or stave off those cuts but risk deeper ones the following year. "I think it depends on how big a gambler you are, and I'm pretty pessimistic," said Sen. Shawn Keough,…

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Puzzled members of the House Transportation Committee quiz Gov. Butch Otter's aides about one of his transportation proposals, adding fees to specialty plates, which then stalled in the committee amid an array of questions. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

One passes, one stalls 

The first two bills in Gov. Butch Otter's six-bill transportation package came up for hearings in the House Transportation Committee today, and while one passed unanimously - HB 96, to repeal the ethanol exemption - the other stalled. HB 150, to add a $20 fee…

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