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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Labrador admits who’s boss when Cantor visits

BOISE – U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor stopped in Boise last week to raise funds for U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador’s re-election campaign and urge Idahoans to send the freshman Republican back to Washington for another term.

“I believe in Raul,” Cantor declared. “He has come in and joined this freshman class and has proven himself an independent thinker.”

He also lauded Labrador’s work on an immigration visa bill, the STEM jobs bill, which failed in the House last month. “He took the lead on that,” Cantor said. “There’s Marco Rubio in the Senate and there’s Raul Labrador in the House.”

Moments later, after Cantor said he was “looking forward to a very productive lame-duck session” in Congress after the election – including action on the delayed farm bill and on debt reduction, entitlement reform and military funding – a reporter pointed out that the night before, Labrador said during a debate he believes there should be no votes during a lame-duck session.

Labrador, while debating Democratic challenger Jimmy Farris, said a lame-duck session that follows the election isn’t the place for big decisions, when a new president could be coming in and members of Congress “are not really that excited to be back there.” He said, “Every major decision that is made during a lame-duck session is actually bad for America.”

But when asked who would win that argument – he or Cantor – Labrador gestured toward Cantor with his thumb and said, “He will.”

“We’ve got some things that have to be addressed,” Cantor said. “I don’t want to see the sequester imposed. … We have to vote on something like that.” He said, “What’s different about this year is the statute automatically will cause taxes to go up on everyone who pays taxes, if we do not do something to act to stave that off. So we’re going to have to have some votes in the lame duck.”

Labrador said, slightly sheepishly, “He’s the one who sets the schedule for the House, so he’s the one who will decide. I don’t think I will be.”

Cantor arrived in a rainy Boise from Sacramento, Calif., and after a visit that included a quick tour of Micron Technology and the downtown fundraiser, he headed out to Montana. He was also scheduled to make stops in Salt Lake City and Phoenix. “This is all about House races,” he said.

The buyout clause

Here’s the answer from state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath as to how soon the $14.2 million “buyout” clause kicks in on the state’s $180 million laptop contract, requiring the state to pay the contractor if it cancels the contract. “The buyout would not kick in until the state begins incurring costs. The state does not plan to do so until after Nov. 6. Right now, the state is in the process of working with HP and HP’s partners to develop a project plan based on the contract that was signed Tuesday. This will be done between 30-60 days from now, per the contract.”

The state last week signed the huge, eight-year contract with Hewlett-Packard Co. and partners to provide laptop computers for every Idaho high school student and teacher. However, though the contract was signed on Tuesday, the state Department of Education still hasn’t released a copy of the contract, despite receiving requests under the Idaho Public Records Law.

McGrath said Friday that the department’s attorneys still were reviewing the contract for possible information exempt from disclosure, such as trade secrets from HP, and that she expected to release it this Tuesday.

Amendment opposition

Retired former Idaho Fish and Game Director Steve Huffaker has come out against HJR2aa, the right to hunt, fish and trap constitutional amendment on the November ballot, and raised questions about the inclusion of a clause about water rights, which was among changes made to the bill during the legislative process.

“I see no valid reason to amend the constitution,” Huffaker told the Boise Guardian on Friday. “We opposed similar attempts for 10 years. And now they have inserted the water language, which is certainly not good news for fish.”

The current Idaho Fish and Game Commission has endorsed the measure.

Idaho gas prices higher

Gas prices across the nation have posted their biggest one-week decline since 2008, AAA Idaho reports, but Idaho hasn’t yet felt it. In the Gem State, gas prices are averaging $3.82 a gallon, 19 cents higher than the U.S. average and down just a penny from a week earlier. The national average dropped 13 cents in the last week to $3.63 a gallon.

AAA predicts that national average gas prices will fall to between $3.40 and $3.65 by Election Day and down to $3.25 to $3.40 by Thanksgiving.

But in Idaho?

“We don’t know,” said Dave Carlson, Idaho AAA director of public and government affairs. “I would think it’s safe to say that we should see some decline in prices.”

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