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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Eye on Boise: Idaho reps split votes on transportation, education

Idaho’s two GOP representatives split their votes on two major pieces of legislation that just passed the House after years of debate, with Rep. Mike Simpson voting yes and Rep. Raul Labrador voting no.

The votes were on the highway funding bill, which passed 359-65 on Thursday, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, which passed Wednesday on a bipartisan 359-64 vote. It replaces the No Child Left Behind Act.

Simpson issued a statement lauding the passage of both bills and explaining his support; Labrador had no comment, according to his spokesman, Dan Popkey.

“Funding for highways is some of the most important money appropriated on the federal level. Idaho’s economy depends on an efficient and affordable transportation system to move people and products across the country,” Simpson said. “After years of doing short-term extensions and patches that make long-term planning and investment impossible, this bill will provide critical economic development, job creation and safety improvements on our Federal Highway System. I was also pleased to see this bill make good on the promise to reverse the recent $3 billion cut to crop insurance payments.”

Simpson called the passage of the education reform bill a “victory for education in our country.”

“This bill represents positive reforms to the education system, returns important decisions back to states and localities, and empowers the most integral people in the education system – educators, parents, and of course students. It makes improvements based on what we learned from No Child Left Behind and will no longer allow the president to unilaterally impose his agenda through conditional waivers.”

Simpson said the bills provide certainty to state and local governments for education and transportation planning.

“Each of these two bills makes crucial investments in our economy. Congress has for too long failed in its duty to reauthorize long-expired transportation and education programs,” Simpson said. “As is always the case in a divided government, this is a compromise. But it would be irresponsible to reject forward progress in favor of a failed status quo just because we did not get everything we wanted.”

Lawmaker was refugee

Idaho state Rep. Hy Kloc, who was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany at the end of World War II and came to America as a refugee, has sent out a guest opinion to Idaho newspapers on the current controversy over refugee resettlement. “My parents, my brother and I lived in that camp for three years awaiting permission to travel to America,” he wrote. “For us, like so many refugees, America was more than a place. It was the promise of a new life.”

He noted that also during World War II, the U.S. turned away the steamship St. Louis in 1939 with almost 1,000 Jewish refugees aboard, a quarter of whom were killed in the Holocaust after they were returned to Europe; and that Japanese Americans were interned in camps in the U.S. during the war due to fear of saboteurs. “Today, we look upon both of these actions as casting a shadow of shame on our nation,” Kloc wrote. “And if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them.”

He said the plight of Syrian refugees reminds him of his family and their experiences, “and the other families on board that ship that sailed into New York Harbor on a cold winter day more than six decades ago under the watchful eye of the Statue of Liberty.”

“America is a beacon of hope to the world,” Kloc wrote. “We must not allow fear to rule our judgment and make a mockery of everything we hold most dear.”

Boise, London, Tel Aviv …

Boise will join London, New York and Tel Aviv as sites for a series of conferences dubbed “Wisdom 2.0 Connect,” focusing on bringing mindfulness and innovation to the contemporary workplace. The Jan. 22 session is set for Jack’s Urban Meeting Place, or JUMP, the new center that will open in downtown Boise this month as a tribute to J.R. Simplot.

The events are an offshoot of the “Wisdom 2.0” main event that’s held annually in San Francisco and draws more than 3,000 attendees from around the world. “We’re delighted to have chosen Boise from hundreds of applicants from around the world,” said Soren Gordhamer, author and founder of Wisdom 2.0. “Given the livability of the city, the mixture of start-ups, established corporations and creative entrepreneurs, it’s the perfect place to explore the role of mindfulness in business.”

Dana Menlove, speaker and founder of the Center for Mindful Work in Boise, said, “With the pace of technology and ‘always-on’ workplaces, we are constantly faced with unlimited distractions. Living mindfully is about bringing presence (to) the moments that make up our days and optimizing how we show up for ourselves and others. The natural outcome is greater clarity, innovation, focus and compassion.”

The distinctive “JUMP” building in downtown Boise opens to the public Dec. 15. It’s being constructed by the JR Simplot Foundation alongside a new corporate headquarters for the J.R. Simplot Co. The company describes JUMP as “a not-for-profit, interactive creative center and community gathering place at the heart of downtown Boise.” It includes the late company founder’s collection of 110 antique tractors, along with creative studios, performance and public gathering spaces, an amphitheater, play structure and rooftop gardens.

Hoffman Construction Co., which is building JUMP, also built the Experience Music Project in Seattle and the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in Oregon.

Political reporter Betsy Z. Russell can be reached by email at or (208) 336-2854. Follow Russell’s Eye on Boise blog at

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