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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Lawmakers name stand-ins while campaigning

Two legislators who are running for statewide office missed most or all of the past week of lawmaking, appointing subs to serve for them while they campaigned.

Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, who is running for secretary of state, named Howard Rynearson, of Payette, who is running for Denney’s seat, as a substitute for him in the House through Monday.

Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, named Dan Johnson, a real estate agent from Kuna, to fill in for him for the week; Fulcher is running for governor. Johnson told senators, “He needed some personal time.”

Both subs are legislative district GOP chairmen.

Senate backs land swaps

The Idaho Senate has voted 34-1 in favor of SB 1277a to restore the ability for state-owned cottage sites to be disposed of through land exchanges. All such exchanges were suspended earlier this year due to legal questions.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and nearly a half-dozen other lawmakers.

“The purpose of this bill is to try to provide a path forward on land exchanges, all land exchanges,” Keough told the Senate on Friday. The bill now moves to the House.

Students join protest

As 24 “Add the Words” protesters blockaded the Idaho Senate chamber on Thursday morning, calling for Idaho to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, some youngsters added their support.

Eight pep band members from Sandpoint High School, who were in town for a basketball tournament and were visiting the Capitol, briefly joined the protest, standing off to the side along the rotunda in the same stance as the protesters, with their hands over their mouths to signify not being heard.

“I joined because I agree with it,” said sophomore clarinetist Eric Heil. “It’s a good cause, and it’s something that should be stated.”

Risch: ‘Just awful’

U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch addressed the state Senate and House this past week. “It’s really an honor to be here today, although my remarks can be really short if I’m supposed to give you some of the wisdom from Washington, D.C.,” Crapo said.

Risch told the Senate, “The financial condition of the country is just awful. … The bad news is there’s really nothing on track to turn this around. I’ve been in public service all my life, and very few things shock me anymore, but the cavalier attitude that people have about money back there is just absolutely staggering.”

He said when anyone proposes less spending, “They look at you like you got three heads – the only way they’re willing to compromise is if you agree to spend more money to increase programs and what have you, but if you want to start rolling things back, you don’t get a seat at that table.”

Risch said, “In the long haul, I am incredibly optimistic for this country. In the short haul, things don’t look very good.”

Vick’s gun bill

The Idaho Senate has voted 34-0 in favor of legislation from Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, to penalize officials who knowingly and willfully order Idaho law enforcement officers to seize guns or ammunition under a federal order or law, in violation of the Idaho Constitution.

“Can we do this? Yes,” Vick told the Senate. “We can do this and we should.”

The measure is the latest version of one that failed last year to criminalize Idaho police officers who enforce federal gun laws. This one would go after their supervisors, instead, and would impose a civil penalty on first offense and misdemeanor penalties for repeat offenses.

“It’s a high standard,” said Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa.

Vick noted that the bill is supported by the National Rifle Association, along with the Fraternal Order of Police, the Idaho Sheriffs Association and several sheriffs. It still needs House passage and the governor’s signature to become law.

Eliminate CAT fund?

A House committee has agreed to introduce legislation from Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, to repeal the county medical indigency program and the state catastrophic health care program in 2016. “That’s basically all that it does,” Loertscher said; he said the delay “would give them a chance to get everything wound up before that happens, and also to give the Legislature a chance to come up with a plan to replace it, if that is the desire of the Legislature.”

Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said if the programs are repealed and not replaced with Medicaid expansion or something else, “The hospitals then would have no recourse other than to pass this along to other insured or paying clients.” Loertscher said, “That’s the reason for the delay in the implementation. That gives us another year to consider how to handle this. I think it’s very important that we do consider this and keep this on the forefront of our discussions for the next year.”

Rusche said, “I think, though, that this is only half of the question. To the extent that it focuses our attention on a real issue and a real opportunity for Idaho, it’s certainly well worth the discussion.”

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached at, (208) 336-2854.

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