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Eye On Boise

House wraps up by passing Dem-sponsored bill

After the dust-up over the reading of the sex offender bill, the next bill up in the House was one sponsored by House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston. SB 1100 makes technical changes to child immunization laws; it earlier passed the Senate on a unanimous vote. When Rusche asked for unanimous consent to waive the full reading of SB 1100, Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, who was presiding over the House, drew a laugh when he said, "That's kind of awkward." It was granted, though, and the bill passed, though there were plenty of "no" votes. The House then adjourned for the day; it'll be back in session at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow. Click below for an entertaining look from AP reporter John Miller at the events and antics of the day.

In 'Slowdown Showdown,' Dems, GOP fight continues
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — As the spat that's becoming known around the Capitol as the "Slowdown Showdown" hit its second day, Democrats and Republicans again went after each other in a style that befits siblings in the family car's backseat.

Thursday morning's hearing in the State Affairs Committee was another good example of tit-for-tat politics.

Democratic Rep. Phylis King of Boise was pushing a resolution to promote adoption as a state policy. But when fellow Democrat Rep. Elfreda Higgins of Garden City moved to immediately send the measure to the House floor for a vote, Republicans refused — even though most GOP lawmakers support promoting alternatives to possible abortions.

Democrats are forcing bills on the House floor to be read in their entirety. This delay tactic is meant to pressure dominant GOP lawmakers into holding hearings on a cigarette tax hike to shore up the education and Medicaid, as well as a separate proposal to put a referendum before voters in 2012 on whether public schools chief Tom Luna's disputed education reforms should be repealed.

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, says he thinks his side is getting its message across.

"What we have done is made legislators uncomfortable," Rusche said Thursday afternoon. "That's not necessarily a bad thing."

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter told reporters he'd leave it up to legislators to decide how long they felt was appropriate to meet to resolve the public's business.

But Otter, who made holding the line on taxes a key theme in his 2010 re-election campaign after his failed 2009 bid to hike gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees, clearly wasn't excited about the Democrats' push for hiking the cigarette tax by $1.25, from 57 cents a pack.

"What about the people who because of obesity have health care problems, probably more so or equal to what we're suffering in tobacco-related illnesses?" Otter said. "Where do you end that discussion? You have to start with all of it. You can't just single out one product."

Giving in to Democratic demands isn't an option, said House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.

"You're just not going to be forced into going there," he said.

Still, Bedke didn't begrudge the minority party for employing what limited tactics are available to its 13 members as they go up against a 57-member Republican supermajority.

"We would not be above employing these tactics if the shoe were on the other foot," Bedke said, adding he still thinks the 2011 Legislature will be done by next Friday.

On Thursday morning, Democrats had an opportunity to take their battle beyond the procedural and drop a real stink bomb during the debate over a proposal to extend Idaho's 6 percent sales tax rebate to alternative energy companies.

With 25 conservative Republicans against it, there were enough Democrats to kill the measure, which would have been a blow to Bedke, who helped negotiate a compromise on that bill. They might have used that as a bargaining chip, in exchange for being given hearings on their bills.

After all, Republicans the previous evening weren't above killing a Democrat-sponsored measure — to benefit disabled children — to protest the minority's delay tactics.

When a reporter pointed this out, Rusche said his caucus wouldn't have wanted the rebates, worth tens of millions for wind, geothermal and other alternative energy developers, to be sacrificed as a political hostage.

"We could gum things up, but we won't do it to the extent that it undermines good public policy," Rusche said. "We're protesters, not anarchists."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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