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The “Idaho Civility Summit” wrapped up on a positive note last week, with participants including elected officials, civic leaders and members of the press backing several moves to enhance civil discourse in the state, from education and training in the schools to a possible civility pledge to formation of more City Clubs around the state.
After two Idaho citizens, a retired math teacher and a CPA, urged a state panel to do away with the 1990 law that grants big boosts in state retirement pensions to longtime, part-time state legislators who late in their careers take high-paying, full-time state jobs, the panel voted unanimously to call on the Legislature to revisit the issue.
Idaho’s top state elected officials agreed Wednesday to pay $280,000 in attorney fees and costs to a group of unions who successfully challenged an anti-union bill passed by the Idaho Legislature in 2011.
A federal appellate court has upheld an earlier ruling that an anti-union law passed by the Idaho Legislature in 2011 was invalid. The law, which never took effect, banned “job targeting” or “market recovery” programs, in which unions use funds they collect from workers to subsidize bids by union contractors on jobs.
BOISE – A service audit of the Idaho Education Network is raising troubling questions about the pricey statewide broadband and videoconferencing network that links Idaho’s high schools. Looking specifically at the videoconferencing portion of the network, the report from the state’s legislative audits division found that $3.35 million was spent on the now state-owned equipment, but roughly 6 percent of it couldn’t be located, and 53 percent of it isn’t being used. When school districts are using the videoconferencing equipment, they’re mostly not using it for classes specifically provided over the IEN, and the number of those classes has been declining over recent years. Only 2 percent of students served by the IEN are taking classes that are broadcast specifically on the network.
Idaho legislative leaders say they’re concerned about the slot machine-like “instant racing” terminals that are cropping up around the state, including at the Greyhound Park in Post Falls. The machines were authorized under a 2013 law aimed at allowing pari-mutuel betting on past horse races. “I think the extent of it maybe is a surprise, how fast it’s growing, and exactly what they’re doing,” said Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. “The machines have been upgraded a lot since what we saw.”
First, you need to know that Kootenai High (Harrison, Idaho) instructor Andrew Whipple served as an Idaho National Guard captain in Iraq from November 2004 until November 2005. Now, onward. Whipple, who ran successfully for Kootenai County GOP Central Committee member from Precinct 70, was listed as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) in a list of recommended GOPrecinct candidates circulated at a local Coeur d’Alene church last Sunday. GOParty purity is next to godliness among the tin gods who control the Kootenai County GOP machine.
Even as a push from the right to take over the Idaho Republican Party was falling short at the state level, it was succeeding beyond expectations in North Idaho, where two longtime state lawmakers were dumped in Tuesday’s GOP primary. A third incumbent was turned out after just one term, and four arch-conservative incumbents whose challengers were endorsed by GOP Gov. Butch Otter cruised to victory in a low-turnout election that saw one in four registered state voters cast a ballot.
BOISE – Idaho lawmakers who agreed under pressure this week to pay $6.6 million to a broadband contractor say they were dismayed and alarmed to learn that the state last year extended the contract through 2019 without informing them. The contract extension with Nashville, Tenn.-based Education Networks of America to operate the Idaho Education Network through 2019 is worth $10 million. The original five-year contract wasn’t up for renewal until January of this year, but the state Department of Administration opted to renew it in January 2013.
For you newbies, former Spokesman-Review colleague Bill Morlin has written a primer on four decades of Aryan Nations activity in North Idaho. In “Some say potato, most say Aryan Nations” for the Blue Review at Boise State University, Morlin details the impact of supremacist Richard Butler, from his arrival from California in 1973 to the 2000 civil trial that bankrupted his Aryan Nations. Writes Morlin: “Butler didn’t move to Idaho to quietly retire, but as a racist-activist, living in the public limelight and using it to attract followers. To some extent, he met his retirement goals.”
BOISE – Controversial Idaho schools Superintendent Tom Luna will not seek re-election, he announced Monday. That decision will help take politics out of the process of implementing school reforms recommended by a bipartisan state task force this year, he said.
BOISE – Idaho could spend tens of millions more on public schools, raise pay for teachers and state workers, and restore services to the poor and disabled – all while still balancing its budget next year with 10 percent to spare, the state’s former longtime chief economist said Monday. Mike Ferguson joined with two former state school superintendents – Jerry Evans, a Republican, and Marilyn Howard, a Democrat – to release an alternative state budget that would boost school spending next year by 8.3 percent, instead of Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed 2.9 percent. The three were joined by two members of Otter’s school reform task force, urging lawmakers to consider the plan.
BOISE – Idaho lawmakers on a special legislative committee voted unanimously Friday to give state workers pay boosts averaging 2 percent next year, despite Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation for no funding for raises. A joint legislative committee recommended 1 percent for one-time bonuses and 1 percent for permanent boosts. The pay would be distributed by agency directors based on merit and other factors, and agencies also would be encouraged to tap salary savings to give additional merit boosts.
BOISE – A joint legislative committee tasked with looking at whether Idaho should keep three controversial – and temporary – teacher contract laws that lawmakers enacted this year got mixed messages when it met last week. The Idaho Education Association requested that two of the three laws be allowed to expire: SB 1040a, allowing teachers’ pay and contract days to be reduced from one year to the next at a school district’s option, and SB 1147a, limiting contracts between school districts and teachers unions to one year only. They asked for some modifications to the third bill, HB 261, which governs teacher layoffs.
BOISE – Idaho’s education system faces a “stark reality,” state schools Superintendent Tom Luna told a special legislative committee Thursday: “Kids are meeting our standards, but they aren’t the right standards anymore.” The state has a “very high graduation rate, one of the highest in the country,” Luna said, but one of the lowest percentages of students that go on to further education after high school. “And then we see that of those that do go on, almost half of them have to take remedial courses,” he said. “Thirty-eight percent of them do not go on to their second year.”