While most all government agencies and offices are closed for the Memorial Day weekend, the U.S. Senate is open for business. The Senate is in what is known as a "pro-forma" session as Republicans threaten to block adjournment. Such a session is not expected to produce any Senate actions or votes, but it is also expected to block President Obama from making any so-called "recess appointments." Article Two of the Constitution gives the president power to temporarily appoint officials while the Senate is in recess. But no recess means no appointments.
Senate Republicans said they were worried that Obama would grant a recess appointment to Elizabeth Warren, the president's picked to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The new bureau, created by last year's financial regulation law, has an official start date of July 21. During a March hearing, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau "the most powerful agency ever created."
A federal judge says a new endangered-species agreement, encompassing more than 200 species, isn't yet ready. U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan stayed an agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and WildEarth Guardians until mid-June and ordered the parties to craft a new agreement to include yet another environmental organization, The Center for Biological Diversity. The CBD had claimed the original agreement was "too weak and too vague," and ultimately unenforceable.
The former deal would have determined whether to list the greater sage grouse as endangered, which could affect public land use in south-central Idaho. The sage grouse has been conisdered for endangered-species protection for decades.
Federal regulators shut down a Washington State bank late Friday, the second Washington closure in as many weeks. This year so far, 55 U.S. banks have failed, but the pace has slowed compared to last year. By this time in 2010, regulators had closed 78 banks.
The Federal Desposit Insurance Corp. shuttered First Heritgage Bank in Snohomish, Wash. Columbia State Bank is scheduled to take over the bank after the Memorial Day weekend.
Meanwhile, the number of banks on the FDIC's confidential "problem" list bumped up to 888 in the January-March period, from 884 as of Dec. 31.
The Boise Public Library Board of Trustees is laying the groundwork to begin a new study of the downtown facility. BW readers learned recently of the challenges facing the BPL: millions of dollars in expected maintenance over the next few years, and whether to renovate and expand the existing Capitol Boulevard building or to construct a new main branch.
Next Tuesday, June 1, the Board of Trustees is expected to be briefed on a new library study to be conducted by CH2M Hill. The study, to commence the week of June 6 and to be completed within 60 days, is expected to examine "options for short-term solutions to the building's operating deficiencies," and ultimately make recommendations to the board and the Boise City Council.
Nampa's Davey Hamilton will be starting his engine in the 15th slot (in the fifth row) for tomorrow's running of the Indianapolis 500. Hamilton is still looking for his first win at the Brickyard. He ran as high as second in the 1997 Indy 500 before finishing sixth. He led three laps in 1998 and finished fourth.
Hamilton is one of 33 men and women drivers in the 95th running of what is dubbed "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." The official attendance is never disclosed, but seating capacity is more than 250,000 and infield seating raises capacity to an approximate 400,000. Though this year is the 95th race, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500. The race was suspended during both world wars.
Flood-prone conditions have prompted Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to issue a statewide declaration of emergency. The declaration, approved today, brings "the availability of state resources and rapid response to support impacted areas."
Bingham and Jefferson counties in Eastern Idaho were already listed under the state declaration. Otter's office said if conditions warrant, additional counties may be added. The declaration is considered a proactive step to reduce response times if more counties need to be added sooner than later.
A robust snowpack and historically high snow-water equivalent measurements are being blamed for the threat. Early forecasts indicate that 2011 will be one of the top five wettest years on record.
"We have been in constant coordination with local officials as this event has evolved," said Brig. Gen. Bill Shawver, Idaho's Bureau of Homeland Security director. "This declaration gives us the tools to respond as conditions dictate and to be able to react in real time."
Saying, "No one has to sleep outside. It is a choice," Bill Roscoe, executive director of the Boise Rescue Mission, said this morning that his organization's shelters should always have beds available.
"Our most crowded shelter has been at City Light Home for Women and Children, where we've had over 100 women and kids recently." said Roscoe. "That exceeds our bed count of 98, but we can still keep people inside using the floor space."
Roscoe added that when the men's shelter on River Street is full, 30 more men can be accommodated on the dining room floor.
The mission also announced that earlier this month, 22 men and women graduated from its addiction recovery program.
In 2010, the mission reportedly provided 126,300 "bed nights" and more than 340,000 meals. The mission receives no direct government funding.
Once again, the Treasure Valley Young Marines, a group aimed at keeping kids healthy and drug free, will be planting hundreds of American flags on grave sites at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery on Saturday. The exercise is in preparation for Monday morning's Memorial Day services at the cemetery.
In this week's BW, we visit the cemetery, which unfortunately has seen some rather disrespectful behavior of late. We also visit with the man in charge of running the Idaho State Veterans Home in Boise.
In the wake of school chief Tom Luna's announcement of a new classroom technology task force, one group says it is forming an alternative education reform task force to develop what it calls "viable and responsible options" to Luna's plans. Its first order of business: to shadow Luna's technology task force.
On Thursday, Luna named 38 Idahoans to his technology task force, including two members of the Idaho Senate, two from the House, four district school superintendents, principals, school board trustees and parents. Luna also included some opponents to his plan including Democratic Rep. Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum and Idaho Education Association President Sherri Wood. The group's first meeting is scheduled for June 13 in Boise.
But an opposition group, calling itself the Common Sense Democracy Foundation, has created its own technology task force.
"It is clear that Mr. Luna's technology task force ... is a committee largely stacked with Luna supporters and fellow Republicans," said Travis Manning, chair of the Education Reform Task Force. "Not surprisingly, Mr. Luna sits on the State Board of Education and will, as chair of the Technology Task Force, be effectively reporting to himself."
A spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management said late Thursday that so far, no animals managed by the BLM are known to have been infected by Equine Herpes Virus. But the Humane Society of the United States is urging the BLM to discourage and, if possible, prohibit owners of private horses from bringing animals at risk of EHV-1 onto federal lands where they could have contact with wild horses.
"The most vigilant thing for everybody to do is enjoy their horses on their own property until health officials have it sorted all out," the Humane Society's Holly Hazard told the Associated Press.
The BLM is consulting with animal health officials regarding the movement of wild horses and burros, as well as the scheduling of events such as adoptions that may place wild horses and burros in contact with those in the domestic horse community.
While several horse-related events have been postponed or canceled throughout the region, organizers of the White Bird Rodeo, north of Riggins, say their event scheduled for Father's Day weekend in mid-June is still on schedule.