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Eye On Boise

Catching up on the news…

The holidays aren’t typically a big news period, but lo and behold, there was legislative news while I was off, and it wasn’t about taxes, health care, education funding or roads. Instead, it was wedding bells, as House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, tied the knot with Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls. Moyle told the Idaho Press-Tribune that the two had been dating for a while and recently decided to elope. Their districts are far apart, and the Press-Tribune and the Associated Press reported that the two plan to continue living in their separate districts and have no immediate plans to move.

There is precedent for this. In 1990, former House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, R-Burley, married Rep. Celia Gould, R-Buhl, while both were serving in the House; they represented adjacent districts.

According to court records, Moyle was divorced from his previous wife, Sue Ann, in June of 2015; and Trujillo was divorced from her previous husband, Lowell, in April of this year.

In other news from the past two weeks, while I was focused on skiing, family, friends and relaxing (and it was great!):

COURT RACE MOST SPENDY: Campaign finance reports showed that the most expensive race on the 2016 ballot in Idaho was for an open seat on the Idaho Supreme Court. AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi reported that Twin Falls attorney Robyn Brody spent nearly $285,000 in her successful campaign for the high court, while rival Curt McKenzie, a seven-term state senator, spent $126,000 and also benefited from more than $80,000 in independent expenditures. You can read Kruesi’s full report here.

TAXES AND SURPLUS: While Idaho’s state budget continues piling up a surplus, Idaho Statesman reporter Bill Dentzer writes that there are pressures working against tax cuts in the upcoming legislative session, though they top some GOP members’ priority lists. Among them: Disagreement on which taxes to cut, with some favoring lowering income tax rates and others focused on the sales tax on groceries; the need for pricey upgrades to the state’s schools, roads and bridges; and desires to make bigger changes in Idaho’s tax structure, from re-examining longstanding tax breaks to reforming Idaho’s taxing system. Meanwhile, the state Tax Commission released its annual comparison of Idaho’s per-capita tax burden to other states; Idaho ranked 10th-lowest in the nation and lowest among Western states. You can read Dentzer’s full report here.

MEDICAID EXPANSION/COVERAGE GAP: With 78,000 Idahoans still falling into a health coverage gap and a legislative interim working group recommending addressing that, prospects for expanding Medicaid or otherwise addressing the issue remain uncertain, writes reporter Ruth Brown of the Idaho Press-Tribune. With some lawmakers adopting a wait-and-see stance and changes in store at the federal level, Brown reports that Canyon County has the second-highest number of residents who fall into the coverage gap, at 14,509, nearly as many as much-larger Ada County, and some Canyon lawmakers want action. You can read her full report here.

BOYNTON-BROWN MAKES BID FOR DNC CHAIR: Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton-Brown threw her hat in the ring in the race for Democratic National Committee chair, a hotly contested race as the national party ponders its direction in the wake of this year’s election losses. You can read about her bid here in an article from the AP’s Kruesi. Also, Dentzer profiled Boynton-Brown in an extensive article here, and also published a profile here of Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates, who’s been in the national news of late due to his ties to Taiwan and Donald Trump’s widely noted overtures to the nation.

NEW PRISONS CHIEF TO CONTINUE REFORMS: With former Idaho prisons chief Kevin Kempf off to head a national corrections association, the Press-Tribune’s Brown profiled Henry Atencio, the new director of the Idaho Department of Correction. Brown writes that Atencio is positioned to continue the dramatic changes Idaho’s correctional system has seen under Kempf, from reduced use of solitary confinement to changes in prison standards and releasing hundreds of non-violent offenders into parole programs as part of the state’s justice reinvestment initiative. You can read her full report here.

ANOTHER ESCAPE FROM TENT JAIL: In the no-surprises department, a sixth inmate escaped from a troubled tent-jail in Canyon County. This time, the county sheriff, Kieran Donahue, has asked the Idaho Attorney General’s office to investigate county commissioners for willful neglect of duty for not upgrading the facility. “I have personally gone to the board of county commissioners to address this issue,” Donahue told the Press-Tribune. “The commissioners have made a point through public means that they know the problems exist and have chosen to do nothing about it.” The escapee was quickly recaptured, after shedding his jail clothes in the 12-degree weather. You can read a full AP report here.

EASTERN IDAHO COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Backers of turning Eastern Idaho Technical College into a full community college, like the College of Western Idaho or North Idaho College, turned in 2,852 certified signatures on a petition to get the measure on the May ballot. The proposal goes next to the state Board of Education and then the county commission. The Post Register reports that the Citizens for Affordable Higher Education group expects to make the ballot, and hopes to create a new College of Eastern Idaho.

IT SNOWED, IT REALLY DID: Meanwhile, Boise got hit with enough snow and wintry weather to not only deliver a white Christmas, but to remind everyone about the aches of snow-shoveling, make travel exciting, and provide an excellent kickoff to the season at nonprofit local ski area Bogus Basin, which launched a year-long celebration of its 75th year with a New Year’s Day nighttime parade down the slopes followed by fireworks. As one of the paraders, I had a blast!

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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