Friday, March 30, 2012

Senate Passes Ethics Resolutions

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 9:56 AM

The Senate has approved three resolutions related to the legacy of the ethics allegations against New Plymouth Republican Sen. Monty Pearce, who disclosed a possible conflict of interest only after committee hearings on bills related to oil and gas drilling, .

Pearce negotiated personal agreements with an oil and gas exploration company before shepherding oil and gas-related legislation through his Senate Resources and Environment Committee. Senate Democrats lodged an ethics complaint, saying Pearce should have disclosed a conflict of interest in committee long before considering the legislation.

Early today, the Senate unveiled resolutions 105, 106 and 107 related to ethics investigations, the removal of Senate employees, and the resulting investigation after an ethics complaint is filed.

"I really regret that I'm one of the last people between you and sine die," said Boise Democrat Sen. Les Bock. "But I do have some debate, and it's important debate. These are weighty matters. I think we need to stop and pause in the rush to head out the door, and think about what we're doing."

With the specter of an imminent sine die looming over the proceedings, the Senate sped through the first two resolutions quickly; however, they slowed when the body took up a measure that would establish a closed-door committee to establish probable cause of ethics allegations.

"This would require probable cause if misconduct has occurred, and whether or not some action should be taken by the committee or by the Senate," said Idaho Falls Republican Sen. Bart Davis.

Yet opponents of Senate Resolution 107 said that the provision allowing a tie vote in the partisan six-member ethics committee to result in the dropping of charges disenfranchises allegations brought by a rival political party.

"In the dark, on a party-line vote, a party can squash any ethics complaint," said Boise Democrat Sen. Nicole LeFavour. "The party can ensure any party is not capable of filing an ethics complaint."

Critics also asked why a rule related to the body would be crafted at the last minute, and without minority party input. One senator received a copy of the resolution just the morning before it was taken up by the Senate.

"There was no intent to leave the minority party out of the process. We did try to include you; maybe we could have tried longer and harder," said Hill.

All three resolutions passed along party lines, 28-7.

Coeur d'Alene Republican Sen. Jim Hammond summed it up:

"Let's genuinely make these improvement. And we'll come back next year, those of us who do, and we can look at it again, said Hammond. "It's a good step forward."

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Cause of Recent Sunshine Mine Fire Still a Mystery

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 9:43 AM

A fire inside the Sunshine Mine near Kellogg in north Idaho, which burned for several weeks, remains a mystery.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reports this morning that officials with Sunshine Silver Mines Corp. said they thought "the fire inside the mine is likely out and carbon monoxide levels have come way down."

The mine was evacuated on Feb. 14 following reports of elevated levels of carbon monoxide. The company had been working on refurbishing the mine since it purchased the property in 2010. Following the evacuation, the company reduced its workforce because of the high gas levels and fire. The company cut off all intakes feeding oxygen into the mine and injected nitrogen to extinguish the fire.

"We can't go down there and look without risking re-ignition," said Monica Brisnehan, a company spokeswoman.

The mine was the scene of one of Idaho's worst tragedies, when 91 men were killed in the so-called Sunshine Mine Fire of 1972.

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Star News: New Meadows Mayor Apologizes For Slapping City Clerk

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 9:37 AM

Even though she apologized for slapping a city employee, there are still some ill feelings between New Meadows Mayor Julie Spelman and city clerk Mac Qualls.

The McCall Star News has a follow-up report on a bizarre incident on March 15, when in the heat of an argument over how the town was responding to rising flood waters, Spelman slapped Qualls.

"He came over [and] started telling me that I didn't know what I was doing," Spelman told the Star News. "I tried to tell him what was going on, and he got right in my face and told me to shut up, and that's when I slapped him. We were both completely stressed out."

Spelman was cited with misdemeanor battery, but the complaint was dismissed.

According to the Star News, the New Meadows City Council called for a special meeting to discuss the incident. That's when Spelman told Qualls, "I apologize. I should never have touched you."

But The Star News said that Qualls wasn't entirely satisfied.

"I the problem is, you don't accept that I did not assault you," said Qualls. "You have slandered me, and I'm really upset about that."

Council Member Gina Mencer had some stern words for the mayor.

"I guess what we need to have from you is a commitment that you're going to hold yourself to a higher standard because that's what the mayor of this community needs to be," said Mencer.

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Americans Paying More For Goods, Saving Less

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 9:30 AM

The latest economic indicators continue to point toward a sluggish recovery.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported this morning that American workers' income barely grew in February and the savings rate dropped to its lowest point in more than two years.

On the bright side, spending is up. Consumer spending rose 0.8 percent last month, double that of January. Part of the increase was because Americans aren't necessarily buying more items, they are simply paying more. As an example, the national average price for a gallon of gas was $3.92 on Thursday. In 11 states, the price was more than $4 per gallon.

Americans are putting less in the bank; the savings rate dropped to 3.7 percent of after-tax income in Feburary, its lowest level since August 2009.

Economists are now anxiously awaiting new job numbers. The economy has added an average of 245,000 jobs per months from December through February. The nation's unemployment rate - 8.3 percent - is the lowest in three years.

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Boise Deputy Chief Patricia Braddock Retires

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Deputy Chief Patricia Braddock

After rising through the ranks to become Boise's first female deputy chief of police, Patricia Braddock will retire today, anxious to spend more time with her husband, six children and 12 grandchildren.

As commander of the Administrative Support Division, Braddock oversaw the Finance Crime Analysis, Computer Support, Public Records, False Alarms, Personnel, Fleet and Supply service units. Braddock was also instrumental in the department's successful bid to provide law enforcement for Boise State. She was promoted to deputy chief in April 2007.

Since Braddock was hired onto the BPD, sworn staff has increased from 142 to 325 full-time positions, the civilian staff has increased from six to 82, and the department budget has increased from $6 million to $44 million.

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Oracle Lawsuit Settlement Costs $58 million; Stock Drops

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Micron has settled a nearly two-year tussle with Oracle, who accused the Boise-based company of artificially inflating microchip prices. Oracle's 2010 suit claimed that several companies, including Micron, conspired to raise prices between 1998 and 2002, a violation of federal and state antitrust laws.

In a company statement late Thursday, Micron said the settlement will result in a net loss of $58 million, which pushed its total net losses for the second fiscal quarter of 2012 to $282 million.

At this morning's opening bell of the NASDAQ exchange, Micron stock dropped 2 percent to $8.25 per share.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lucky Peak Release Will Double Rate of Flow

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 3:25 PM


Those anxious for summer and the prime months for floating the Boise River may have to wait before donning the water wings.

On March 30, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will increase flows from Lucky Peak Dam to help reduce the risk of springtime flooding. As the snowpack melts and the rainy weather kicks up, Boise area reservoirs are at higher-than-average levels, currently at 76 percent of capacity.

By April 3, river flows will increase 500 cubic feet per second, with a flow rate of 6,500 cfs at the Glenwood Bridge gauge, which is more than double the flow rate a month ago. A flow rate of 7,000 cfs is considered flood-stage level.

Officials also said that flow could also increase in the coming months as more water pours into the river system. With the cold water, increased depth and velocity of the river, they advise citizens exercise extra caution near the water.

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Idaho House Adjourns Sine Die; Senate Mulls Ethics Bills

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 3:23 PM

Just before 3 p.m. today, the Idaho House voted to adjourn sine die, which means "without a day," for the 2012 session. Speaker Lawerence Denney banged the gavel and the body applauded the end of work for the House.

The adjournment came after the body moved through nine outstanding bills, including three new JFAC bills, the teacher salary bill, as well as Coeur d'Alene Republican Rep. Bob Nonini's youth challenge bill, which eventually failed.

Across the rotunda, the Senate picked up a suite of resolutions related to ethics. Among them, Senate Resolution 106 would deal with removal of Senate employees and the handling of future ethics complaints in the wake of an ethics allegation lodged against New Plymouth Republican Sen. Monty Pearce.

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Senate Passes Second Anti-Occupy Bill 28-7

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 12:06 PM

The Senate today passed another measure aimed at ousting the Occupiers in front of the Old Ada County Courthouse. House Bill 693 passed 28-7, with all Senate Democrats and some Republicans voting against the bill.

Consideration of the bill was short, the reading dispensed with by Nampa Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie. He said that while the law would give the Department of Administration the power to make rules governing state property, and the ability to sue individuals who continually violate those rules, it isn't aimed at Occupy Boise.

"You cannot do by rule what you can’t do by statute," said Sen. McKenzie. "If there is a constitutional limitation on what we could do, with regard to any type of speech or assembly, or petition to the Legislature, they couldn’t make a rule that would affect that."

However, Ketchum Democrat Sen. Michelle Stennett questioned giving Teresa Luna and the Department of Admininstration final say on Capitol Mall lands.

"It’s putting a lot of power in one director over the entire complex," said Sen. Stennett. "They could sue not just on a threat, but on the perception of a threat. There is no authority [for the Legislature] to undo that."

The Legislature may adjourn sine die by this afternoon.

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Majority Leader Optimistic About Final Gavel in Senate

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 11:41 AM

Republican Majority Leader Idaho Falls Republican Sen. Bart Davis stood before his colleagues this morning and optimistically predicted that the Senate could be sine die later today.

Presenting his so-called road map of what's ahead for lawmakers, Davis said that the full Senate should be considering, among a half-dozen other measures, House Bill 693, the latest anti-Occupy Boise bill, which would immediately grant greater authority to the director of the Department of Administration over activities and behavior on state property around the Capitol Mall.

Later today, Davis said senators should be taking up House Bill 563, approved earlier this morning by the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee, which would cut $35.7 million in state income taxes for Idaho's top earners.

Davis also said that lawmakers should soon have before them the three Senate ethics bills, passed this morning by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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