Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Idaho May Re-Authorize Land Exchanges For Cabin Sites

Posted By on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 2:26 PM

In November, Boise Weekly reported that the state of Idaho had nixed plans to authorize land exchanges for cabin sites, notably along the shores of Payette and Priest lakes, but cabin owners and the state may be working toward a solution that would allow such exchanges, the Spokesman Review reports.

A bill introduced Feb. 3 in the Senate Resources Committee, sponsored by Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Coeur d'Alene, and Reps. John Vander Woude, Grant Burgoyne, George Eskridge, Eric Anderson and Thyra Stevenson, would let the state use land exchanges as a way for the state to relinquish ownership of lakefront cabin sites.

The proposed bill resolves issues surrounding a clause in existing state law that says the state Land Board can exchange endowment land "when it is in the state's best interest," but also says that the land may be swapped for "similar lands of equal value, public or private." The new bill strikes from the existing law the word "similar."

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Idaho Senators to Introduce Higher Minimum Wage Bill This Session

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Three Democratic state senators are pushing for a higher minimum wage in Idaho.

The bill, which will be introduced by Ketchum Sen. Michelle Stennett and co-sponsored by Boise Sens. Cherie Buckner-Webb and Elliot Werk, would raise the minimum hourly wage to $9.75 per hour over two years, then tie it to the consumer price index.

Tipped wages would go from $3.30 per hour to $3.80 per hour. By 2015, the bill would raise that to $4.25 per hour and peg it to the CPI.

Currently Idaho's minimum wage is at the federal minimum: $7.25 per hour. The bill will be introduced in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

The minimum wage promises to be a hot topic this legislative season. Already, three of Idaho's neighbors—Oregon, Montana and Washington—have raised their minimum wages to well above the federally mandated minimum. Ahead of the legislative session, numerous groups have hit the streets to raise awareness and recognition of the issue.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Denney Bounced From Idaho House Speaker Position

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 9:13 AM

Rep. Scott Bedke, Oakley, was voted by GOP lawmakers to become new Speaker of Idaho House.
  • Rep. Scott Bedke, Oakley, was voted by GOP lawmakers to become the new speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives.

Rep. Lawerence Denney, Midvale, was ousted from his position as Speaker of the Idaho House, which he held for three terms.
  • Rep. Lawerence Denney, Midvale, was ousted from his position as speaker of the Idaho House, which he held for three terms.

Idaho lawmakers rearranged their deck chairs at the State Capitol Wednesday night.

In preparation for the 2013 legislative season, Republicans yanked Midvale GOP Rep. Lawerence Denney from his perch as speaker of the House, which he held for three terms, replacing him with Oakley Rep. Scott Bedke.

Star GOP Rep. Mike Moyle retained his slot as majority leader, a position he has held since 2007.

Democrats didn't make any changes in minority leadership, deciding that Lewiston Democratic Rep. John Rusche should lead their party in the House.

Across the rotunda, Senate Republicans maintained the status quo, electing Rexburg GOP Sen. Brent Hill as president pro tem and Idaho Falls Sen. Bart Davis as majority leader.

Senate Democrats chose Ketchum Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett to be minority leader, replacing the retiring Pocatello Sen. Edgar Malepeai.

Leadership from both parties will dole out committee chairmanships and committee assignments later today.

Brace yourself: The 2013 Legislature convenes Monday, Jan. 7, 2013.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Citizen Panel: Lawmakers Deserve 2 Percent Pay Hike

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 9:31 AM

State lawmakers will get a 2 percent salary increase in 2013 if a citizen panel has its way.

Idaho lawmakers currently make $16,116 per year, and a 2 percent increase would raise the annual income to $16,438.

The Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell reports that a six-member committee voted to recommend the pay hike to legislators, who haven't received an increase since 2007. Earlier this year, lawmakers granted a 2 percent salary increase for State of Idaho workers who were "performing to standards."

Unless the Idaho House and Senate rejects the citizens panel recommendation, the pay increase would automatically take effect next year. Three years ago, the same panel recommended a 5 percent salary increase for legislators but lawmakers rejected the effort.

Additionally, the citizen panel voted to put tighter restrictions on per-diem compensation for legislators who keep a second residence near the Statehouse. The Spokesman-Review reports that under the new plan, extra reimbursement would only go to lawmakers whose primary residence is outside of Ada County yet maintain a second residence inside Ada during the legislative session.

In 2011, the Associated Press reported that Republican Sens. John McGee and Curt McKenzie were pulling down the extra per diem while living less than 30 miles from the Capitol. Caldwellite McGee collected $122 a month while sleeping at his parents' home in Boise, and Nampan McKenzie also took extra cash while sleeping on a couch at his Boise law office.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lawmakers Consider New Probation Rules

Posted By on Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 3:50 PM

The Idaho Legislature is mulling whether to give judges more power to lengthen probation periods for offenders struggling with rehabilitation programs. Idaho Magistrate Judge Jack Varin stood before the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee to say the bill would create the ability to extend the probation period for offenders in the state's DUI/Drug Court programs.

"These individuals who participate in the problem-solving courts, once they've graduated, they should be on the road to being mended," said Varin. "Sometimes it helps having additional authority over them for any failures—I’m hesistant to use the word relapses—we might be able to head off."

Boise Rep. Lynn Luker raised concerns about the constitutionality of the proposal, asking if judges had the ability to tack on a probation period after the in-court sentencing procedure years prior.

"Is it anticipated that the authority to make this extension would be kind of a boiler plate in the original sentencing?" asked Luker.

The committee ultimately decided to print the bill, but with the motion adding an amendment to clear up language about extending probation, currently defaulted to a one-year extension.

"If that temptation comes," summed up Varin, "they have learned how to overcome it, now there may be somebody who can hold them answerable to that."

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Redistricting Lawsuit Double Whammy

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 4:35 PM

Each redistricting commission's work faces legal issues. Something as complicated as redrawing lines of 10-year-old voting blocs within a standard deviation of no less than 10 percent is bound to irk a few folks. Now Idaho's Redistricting Commission faces two lawsuits.

After the commission failed to meet a Sept. 6 deadline, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa filed a lawsuit against the six-member bipartisan redistricting commission with the Idaho Supreme Court. Ysursa asked the Idaho Supreme Court to send the commission back to work and guide the members in drawing up new plans.

The Republican members of the committee have also filed suit against their Democratic counterparts, asking for advice from the Idaho Supreme Court on the weight of redistricting rules. Does a provision mandating minimal county splits take precedence over one that states precincts must be connected by a physical road? The suit urges that the court accept Republican plans they claim are superior to Democratic proposals according to their ruling on the issue.

“If they give us the proper clarification and guidance on our inquiries contained within our petition, this process should only take three days of reconvening for the commission to reach an agreement,” stated Lou Esposito, spokesman for the Republican redistricting commissioners in a GOP release.

A redistricting plan requires four votes for approval—meaning at least one member has to side with the opposition party for their work to end. If they can't come to an agreement, an eventual option is for the Idaho Supreme Court to draw the lines themselves.

The Republican Party has also issued a release urging the Legislature to re-evaluate the bipartisan commission. Up until the mid-1990s, Legislators redrew the lines themselves. Idaho citizens voted to amend the Constitution for the current model, with the first citizen commission in 2001. Any legislation for reverting back to the original style would require another popular vote.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

In Wake of 2011 Legislative Session, Contrasting Petition Given to Otter

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2011 at 11:39 AM

Idaho lawmakers closed up the 2011 legislative session Thursday by sending a flurry of new bills to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. United Vision for Idaho had some some paperwork for Otter Thursday: a 140-page petition protesting much of the legislation.

"We're gutting Medicare. We're gutting education," said Adrienne Evans, UVI's executive director. "We're taking everything out of the hands of people who have helped build Idaho and that can't continue."

Evans and her colleagues presented a petition with 2,350 signatures and comments, including:

UVI Exec. Dir. Adrienne Evans Presents Petition

"You have killed the American dream for my husband and me."
"I'm ashamed of my state."
"Don't cut my taxes. Let my kids have good public schools."

In reaction to the petition, Otter spokesman Jon Hanian told Citydesk that "if it is warranted, we will respond once we've had a chance to review it.

"While we are sympathetic to the concerns that they've raised, we also have to be mindful of the fact that raising taxes in this economic climate is not wise and it's also, the truth is, not very realistic," said Hanian.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sine Die at the Capitol

Posted By on Thu, Apr 7, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Idaho lawmakers have closed down an historic 2011 legislative session this afternoon. The Senate adjourned at 12:36 p.m. followed by the House gavel at 2:21 p.m.

Legislators are packing up and heading out, leaving in their wake:

- rules for a new closed primary system

- $34.6 million less in state general funds for Medicaid (undercutting Medicaid by $108 million when missing federal dollars are considered)

- $7.6 million less in state general funds for higher education (the lowest higher ed budget in more than a decade)

- a three-pronged plan to sweep the state's K-12 public education system, shifting money away from teachers' salaries into technology funding and a new pay-for-performance plan

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter has already scheduled a ceremony for Friday morning, when he will sign into law the third measure of school chief Tom Luna's controversial "Students Come First" reform package. Luna and so-called "key stakeholders" are expected at the signing.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unions Rally at Statehouse, Call for Luna Recall

Posted By on Tue, Apr 5, 2011 at 11:31 AM

About 200 picketers outside the Statehouse joined protesters across Idaho Monday in solidarity with public sector workers, who have been under attack in what one legislator called a Republican "war on working people."

The crowd roared when, in his opening remarks, Democratic Rep. Brian Cronin of Boise pointed at the Idaho Capitol and said, “It is such a relief to leave this building and come out and talk to some real people.

“We have really done a number on the teachers,” Cronin said. “Somehow these heroes of the classroom, the people who educate our children, are the villains in conservative ideology. I do not think it’s an exaggeration to call recent actions of various governors and legislatures a war on working people.”


Dave Whaley, rally organizer and president of the AFL-CIO of Idaho, told the crowd, “We cannot leave this Legislature and not forget what happened here this session. They're stealing your rights."

“Folks, it’s been said, but it bears repeating,” Cronin added. “If you are not angry right now, you are simply not paying attention!”

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant told Citydesk an effort to recall State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is under way.

"The recall goes into effect immediately once you get enough signatures. Then,” said Grant, “it would be up to Mr. Luna to either resign or face a special election.”

Recalling Luna will not be easy, however, with 157,000 signatures required to put the question before voters. Petitions to gather those names began circulating this week.CORRECTION: are expected to begin circulating the week of April 18.

“I support that effort," Cronin said, "but I also think that our efforts should really be directed toward the next election and making sure that people we want to throw out now don’t ever get re-elected.”

Similar events were held Monday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls and Pocatello, Whaley said.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Democrats Will Get Hearing on Cigarette Tax Today

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 8:53 AM

Even though an official bill calling for an increase in Idaho’s cigarette sales tax is a near impossibility, Democratic legislators still have plans today for what they call an “informational hearing” on the matter. Democrats said a $1.25 hike for the price of smokes would generate close to $50 million, which could provide a stopgap for cuts to Medicaid or public education.

Just a few weeks ago, Republican Rep. Dennis Lake, chairman of the House Tax Committee, said he had a plan to sponsor such an increase. But last week Lake said he didn’t have enough support and decided to hold back on the measure. The public will be invited to testify at today’s informational hearing, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at the Statehouse.

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