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News >  Idaho

House heckles those who taste sound defeat

Betsy Z. Russell The Spokesman-Review

Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, earned himself the “crow” in the House last week for getting his bill, HB 129, overwhelmingly killed.

The mock statue of a crow is presented to any representative whose bill or motion gets fewer than 20 votes. This time, Clark’s colleagues cawed like crows as the item was delivered to Clark’s desk, and added an additional insult: Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, presented Clark with a small stuffed bear that screeches, “I’m a loooooser!”

The trophies will remain on Clark’s desk until another representative’s bill suffers a similar ignominious fate.

HB 129 would have given county prosecutors and their deputies the same early retirement benefits as police officers.

Tax goodies for business

Four new bills were introduced in the House Revenue & Taxation Committee on Wednesday morning to give tax breaks to business.

The first, from Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, answers complaints that his big corporate incentive package would help only the biggest businesses, which likely would be in Boise. It would offer scaled-down tax goodies to smaller businesses that make less investment and offer jobs that are not quite so highly paid.

Another bill from Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, would offer the breaks to businesses creating only 10 new highly paid jobs.

Two other bills, sponsored by key House leaders, are designed for Micron Technology, and provide property tax and sales tax breaks.

Right after the committee introduced the bills with little discussion, Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, got into a heated discussion with Chairwoman Dolores Crow, R-Nampa, as the committee room emptied. Crow insisted that Idaho’s economy needs the boost, but Lake questioned that and noted that Idaho’s already growing.

‘Life and death situations’

Senate Health & Welfare Chairman Dick Compton, R-Coeur d’Alene, had a warning for legislative budget writers last week as they searched for cost savings in Medicaid and Health & Welfare.

“Some of these programs are dealing with life and death situations,” he said. “We need to watch. … We’re seeing consequences on some of these things.”

He noted that Idaho dramatically cut back staffing in its food stamp program because of budget constraints, then saw major problems with errors that affected recipients.

“We were lucky it was food stamps,” Compton said. “No one probably died from it, and there were no great calamities because of it.”

But when his committee was asked to approve ending a program that provides care to victims of cystic fibrosis, Compton said, his panel heard from the patients and their families. One 30-year-old man is able to go to work each day because of the medication he receives, despite severe health problems. “Without the medication Health & Welfare is providing, he probably would be hospitalized and have an early demise.”

Compton told the budget writers that his committee “didn’t do you any favors” when it declined to go along with ending the program.

His presentation was part of a series the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee is hearing from chairmen of House and Senate committees that deal with the agencies for which JFAC is about to set budgets.

He made it just in time

The 3 p.m. meeting of the Senate Education Committee already had started when Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, finally made it back to Boise and slipped into his seat to lead the meeting.

Goedde was one of seven North Idaho lawmakers stranded in Spokane after an early-morning Southwest flight headed down to Boise, circled over the foggy airport, and then returned and dumped its passengers back in Spokane. Goedde and Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, ended up riding on a plane chartered by the Idaho Forest Association’s Jim Riley, who also was on the turned-back flight.

Goedde said, “It was one of those days you’d just rather not remember when traveling.”

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