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Eye On Boise archive for Jan. 1, 2011

TUESDAY, JAN. 18, 2011

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee opens its budget hearing on the public schools budget, meeting jointly with the House and Senate education committees on Tuesday. (Betsy Russell)

Public schools budget hearing opens

As JFAC takes up the biggest single slice of the state budget today - public schools - it's convened jointly with the House and Senate education committees in the Capitol Auditorium. "There's 47 of us - we almost have half the Legislature here," commented JFAC…

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MONDAY, JAN. 17, 2011

Guv to announce new Tax Commish chair

Gov. Butch Otter will hold a press conference tomorrow at 2 p.m. to announce his choice for a new chairman of the Idaho State Tax Commission. The press conference, in the governor's ceremonial office, will be streamed live here. Meanwhile, former longtime state tax auditor…

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Cigar group wants Idaho to ban 'blunt wraps' 

The Cigar Association of America wants Idaho to outlaw "blunt wraps," a type of roll-your-own cigar wrapper, as drug paraphernalia. Russ Westerberg, lobbyist for the group, told the Idaho Senate Judiciary Committee today that "blunts" traditionally were cigars rolled in a single, continuous tobacco leaf,…

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Holocaust survivor Rose Beal speaks in the Capitol rotunda at the state's official observance of Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day on Monday. (Betsy Russell)

MLK Day ceremony draws hundreds to rotunda

Hundreds of people filled the Capitol rotunda today for Idaho's official observation of Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day, including lots of children. Estella Zamora, president of the Idaho Human Rights Commission, quoted Martin Luther King: "Now is the time to make justice a…

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The changing FMAP rate...

At the height of the increased matching rate that the federal government offered states for Medicaid, Idaho was getting a 79.18 percent federal matching rate for the program, meaning the state only had to fund 20.82 percent of the program's costs. Now, the federal match…

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State Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong tells lawmakers at a joint hearing on Monday that the only option to cope with soaring Medicaid costs is to cut services. Idaho already has the strictest eligibility criteria in the nation, he said, and provider rates are "dangerously low" already. (Betsy Russell)

Armstrong: Only option is to cut services

How to save money in Idaho's ballooning Medicaid program? State Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong said, "We already have one of the most restrictive Medicaid programs in the nation as far as eligibility. Further tightening would not help us much, even if we could."…

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Armstrong details H&W struggles 

Idaho led the nation in food stamp growth in 2010, state Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong told lawmakers this morning. That's partly because in 2008, Idaho was 48th in the nation for food-stamp participation. At that time, only half the Idahoans who qualified for…

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JFAC joins with the House and Senate health and welfare committees in a joint hearing Monday morning on Health & Welfare and Medicaid budgets. (Betsy Russell)

Really, really big joint committee convenes

It looks like a really, really big committee that's holding a joint hearing today on Health & Welfare and Medicaid budgets. That's because the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee - which itself has 20 members - is sitting jointly with the House and Senate health and welfare…

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Today is MLK/Idaho Human Rights holiday

Today is Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day, an official state holiday, though the Legislature - which doesn't take holidays - is in session. Legislative doings today include a joint hearing between JFAC and the House and Senate health and welfare committees in the…

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SUNDAY, JAN. 16, 2011

Ward back in Idaho political fray 

Failed congressional candidate Vaughn Ward, now CEO of a for-profit hospital in Post Falls, has waded right back into the middle of the political fray in Idaho, the Associated Press' John Miler reports. Ward's new task is to help lead the latest charge by private…

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Forest service concerned about megaloads

The Missoulian reports that the U.S. Forest Service has expressed concerns to transportation departments in both Idaho and Montana about the megaloads of oil equipment proposed for U.S. Highway 12, saying they could conflict with its ability to "preserve, protect and manage the cultural and…

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FRIDAY, JAN. 14, 2011

From left, Jim Weatherby, Betsy Russell, Dan Popkey, Marc Johnson, and host Thanh Tan on the set of "Idaho Reports," the first episode of which airs Friday night and focuses on Gov. Butch Otter's State of the State message and budget proposal, and state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna's education reform plan. (Kevin Televs)

The week that was... 

On tonight's "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public TV, I join host Thanh Tan, Marc Johnson, Dan Popkey and Jim Weatherby to discuss the events of the week, including Gov. Butch Otter's State of the State message and state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna's education reform…

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Dems slam Luna reform plan 

Idaho Democrats have issued a statement slamming state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna's sweeping school-reform plan. Among their comments: "If after four years of his leadership, our public school system is 'broken,' why should any parent, student or voter put the slightest faith in any…

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Idahoan is new chief of staff for VP Biden

Bruce Reed, son of former state Sen. Mary Lou Reed of Coeur d'Alene and Coeur d'Alene attorney Scott Reed, was named Vice President Joe Biden's chief of staff today. You can read the official White House press release here. “I’ve known and admired Bruce for…

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Energy rebate extension in the works

For the past five years, developers of geothermal, solar or wind power generation facilities have gotten a rebate from the state for the sales tax they pay on the major, permanent equipment that goes into their plants, but the tax credit will expire in June.…

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Wayne Hammon, Gov. Butch Otter's budget chief, presents the budgets for the executive office of the governor and the state Division of Financial Management to lawmakers Friday. Among money-saving moves he shared: Interns now are unpaid. (Betsy Russell)

Money-saving move: Interns now unpaid 

The governor's office and his Division of Financial Management have eliminated pay for their interns, as part of money-saving moves, DFM administrator Wayne Hammon told JFAC this morning, as he presented the two agencies' budget pitches to lawmakers. "In 2012, the budget is flat compared…

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On estimating revenues... 

Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, quoted John Maynard Keynes, saying, "It's better to be roughly right than precisely wrong," as she moved for JFAC to accept the revenue committee's report. Added Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, "The only thing that we're certain is that we're all wrong."

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