Emmett Republican Rep. Carlos Bilbao, who had told the Gem Messenger Index in December that he would run for District 8 senator, has apparently changed his mind and announced that he'll be stepping away from the Legislature after this session.
The Spokesman Review's Betsy Russell reports that Bilbao sent out an email Wednesday, saying that the new boundaries of the reapportioned District 8 were a factor in his decision to retire. The new district includes three other Republican House incumbents: Lenore Barrett of Challis, Donnelly's Ken Roberts, and Steven Thayn of Emmett, who has indicated that he'll be running for the Idaho Senate.
In the crowded Senate Resources and Environment Committee room Wednesday afternoon, Idaho citizens and representatives of the oil and gas industry testified regarding a number of bills that would remake the way the state interacts with the petroleum industry.
"This bill is really one of about six pieces of the puzzle of updating Idaho's existing statute and code into what's really the best practices of the oil and gas industry," said Suzanne Budge, Idaho Petroleum Council executive director.
Of concern to members of the committee were provisions of the bill that give the state absolute authority over local governments to negotiate with the oil and gas industry.
"This bill seems to swing the pendulum far to the other side," said Rupert Republican Rep. Dean Cameron. "I guess what I'm asking is, why isn't there some middle ground here?"
Those who testified against the bill, like two landowners from Washington County, echoed Sen. Cameron's concerns, related specifically to property rights and accommodations regarding placement and setup of future wells.
Two more high-profile Democratic legislators are stepping away from the Idaho State Senate.
After five terms at the Statehouse, Pocatello Sen. Edgar Malepeai, the upper chamber's minority leader, announced today that he will not run for re-election.
"I have cherished my time in the Idaho Senate," said Malepeai, who expressed sadness over the lack of protection for sexual orientation and gender identity in the existing state Human Rights Act. Malepeai asked fellow members of the Senate State Affairs Committee to consider the Add the Words measure, but to no avail.
"I wanted very much to allow my fellow Idahoans who experience discrimination simply for being themselves to have a chance to bring their stories into this building so that others might understand the overwhelming need to extend the basic protections too many of us take for granted," he said.
Additionally, Pocatello's Diane Bilyeu announced today that she would not seek re-election after three terms in the Senate. A member of the Joint Finance-Appropriations, Local Government and Taxation, and Transportation committees, Bilyeu first served as a senator from 1968 to 1970 and again from 2006 to this year.
Bilyeu has also just finished her second book, A Conversation With Shakespeare, which is set to be published later this year.
In the wake of John McGee's resignation from the Idaho Senate following allegations of sexual misconduct, GOP senators have turned to Meridian Sen. Russ Fulcher to replace McGee as their new majority caucus chairman.
The 27 members of the Senate GOP caucus met behind closed doors this morning and emerged with Fulcher as their new leader.
McGee still faces an investigation by the Idaho Attorney General's Office and Idaho State Police following last week's shocker that a Senate attache had accused the Caldwell lawmaker of sexual harassment.
An effort to tax Internet sales died this morning on a tie 9-9 vote in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.
Lewiston Republican Rep. Jeff Nesset had proposed that Idaho join a national effort to collect sales tax on out-of-state Internet purchases in order to, in his words, "level the playing field" with Idaho's brick-and-mortar businesses. He had predicted that Idaho could collect as much as $35 million a year from the tax.
Meridian Republican Rep. Joe Palmer was the target of some needling from his colleagues in the House State Affairs Committee this morning.
Palmer caught some heat last week after unveiling a bill that would disable parking meters near the Statehouse during the legislative session. On its cover, the measure sparked some earnest debate over the impact of free parking outside the Capitol. But Palmer caught some major flack when he refused to disclose that his son's car had been towed from a Capitol Mall parking spot on Jan. 9, after running up $186 in unpaid parking tickets during the 2011 session.
This morning, Palmer introduced another bill on behalf of Twin Falls Republican Rep. Leon Smith which would shift authority on setting speed limits on state highways that run through municipalities from local authority back to the Idaho Department of Transportation.
"We found that when speed limits were adjusted by cities, they're causing more accidents and making it less safe," said Palmer. "That's what happens when you pull in emotional factors rather than engineering standards."
The committee agreed to print the bill and set a full hearing on the measure.
But before Palmer was through, he had something else to say:
"I probably should have invoked Rule 38," he said, referring to the requirement of conflict-of-interest disclosures.
"I do have four children, and at one time or another they have all had speeding tickets," said Palmer.
The Idaho Legislature's independent, nonpartisan Office of Performance Evaluations offered a sobering report on Idaho's prison system this week.
The OPE reported to lawmakers that they needed to start working on long-term plans to address a growing prison population and an aging prison infrastructure. The Department of Correction estimates that the state will be short 588 beds this year and more than 1,200 beds by 2015.
According to the report, Idaho prisons need to "replace inefficient, poorly designed housing units and support staffing standards." Although the IDOC had updated its staffing plans since 2010, the OPE said the "department does not have enough staff to continuously observe all inmates in all housing units."
The controversial measure that would have allowed Idahoans to shoot wolves from airplanes, use night scopes or even use livestock or pets to lure wolves into the open for a kill has been withdrawn.
Terreton Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway, a sheep rancher, said he had consulted with federal authorities, including Congressman Mike Simpson, and acknowledge that his proposal "threatened to return wolves to the Endangered Species Act."
The bill had cleared through the Senate Resources and Environment Committee on Feb. 22, but Siddoway has asked the full Senate to return the measure back to the committee, where it will either be recrafted or sit in a drawer, effectively killing the bill.
The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a policy by Idaho's Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau that allows an applicant to be placed on a city's waiting list for a liquor license one request at a time.
This morning's Twin Falls Times-News reports that Twin Falls resident Dan Fuchs had applied for a liquor license more than 20 times during the 1990s in six different cities: Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, Bellevue, Ketchum, Hailey and Sun Valley. All but one of Fuch's applications were bounced from the waiting lists in each city and he was refunded more than $5,000 in application fees.
Fuchs fought the Idaho State Police's ABC through Twin Falls District Court and eventually Idaho's high court. The Supreme Court concluded that it was legal to remove Fuchs' name beyond the first application in each city.
With every twist of the long and winding road that is the 2012 presidential race, the importance of next week's Super Tuesday grows. That's when Idaho will join nine other states across five time zones to hold caucuses and/or primaries.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had a pretty good Tuesday night, narrowly defeating former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum by 3 percentage points. Romney picked up 14 delegates, compared to Santorum's 12, with four still up in the air.
Romney had a much better time of it in Arizona, where he gained a comfortable victory and picked up all of that state's 29 delegates.
In today's BW, we examine the Idaho caucuses, how they will work and the men and women behind the scenes making it happen. And we examine how once all of the music has stopped and the candidates have moved on from the Gem State, the Idaho Republican Party will reap the greatest bonanza in its lead up to the May primary, when dozens of important Statehouse party runoffs will occur.