Friday, January 31, 2014

Holli High Woodings Launches Secretary of State Campaign

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Boise Democratic Idaho House Rep. Holli High Woodings, launching her bid to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, said Jan. 31 that she pledged to "continue Ysursa's balanced, honest, and principled leadership to safeguard voters' freedoms and to hold candidates and campaigns accountable."

In early December 2013, Boise Weekly first reported that Woodings was closing in on a decision to run for Ysursa's post.

"That's interesting," she told BW at the time. "I've been thinking about it. There would be a significant amount of fundraising that would need to be done."

Indeed, Woodings will need to get going on that fundraising. To date, four Republicans have already announced that they too covet Ysursa's job: Rep. Lawerence Denney, former Sens. Evan Frasure and Mitch Toryanski and Ada County Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane.

BW profiled Woodings a year ago as she began her first term in the Idaho House after being elected to serve Boise's Legislative District 19.

“I have always believed that my freedom to vote is the most sacred right I have in our democracy," said Woodings in Friday's announcement. "I know that Idahoans feel the same. I promise to do everything I can to make sure our elections are open and honest and to make voting easy and accessible to all.”

Wooding's announcement took place at Boise-based MetaGeek, which she and her husband own, employing 30 employees.

“Idaho businesses are the key to growing Idaho’s economy,” Woodings said. “I want to do all I can to make sure that they’re not held back by red tape.”

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Audit: 'Inappropriate' Transfers by Treasurer Ron Crane May Cost Taxpayers $27 Million

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 2:48 PM

The office of Idaho Treasurer Ron Crane is under scrutiny after legislative auditors concluded that he unnecessarily exposed state funds to risk, the Lewiston Tribune reports.

The results of the audit, released Friday, indicate that Crane's office lost the state as much as $10 million in 2013 after he shifted money from distressed local investment accounts to the state account. In addition, between 2008 and 2009, the Treasurer's Office purchased mortgage-based securities at face value, rather than market value, and auditors speculate that the state's unrealized loss was about $17.4 million, bringing the total loss to $27.4 million.

Crane's office is authorized to transfer idle funds into investment accounts on state and local levels if those funds aren't in use or immediately necessary.

"In an intentional effort to avoid a likely downgrading of the LGIP (local government investment pool), the Treasurer's Office reallocated securities from the LGIP in exchange for (state investment pool) assets," the audit report said. "The LGIP did not participate in the realized losses related to those transferred securities, and now has no exposure to any remaining risk of loss."

Crane objected to the finding and said that the investment practices that resulted in the losses are no longer used by the Treasurer's Office and that those with knowledge of securities lending "would conclude that the Treasurer's Office made decisions that were consistent with its duties."

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Former Boys and Girls Club Employee Pleads Guilty to Rape

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 2:05 PM

A former employee of the Boise and Girls Clubs of the Lewis Clark Valley, honored in 2011 as Youth of the Year, has admitted to raping a 15-year-old girl.

Tyrel Smolinski, 21, of Lewiston had been charged with felony counts of rape and lewd and lascivious contract with a minor younger than 16. The Nez Perce County Sheriff's Office began its probe in May 2013, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Lewis Clark Valley cooperated with the investigation.

This morning's Lewiston Tribune reports that, as part of an agreement under which he would serve no prison time, Smolinski pleaded guilty to rape and left his sentence up to the judge's discretion. But the Rule 11 agreement allows Smolinski to withdraw his plea if 2nd District Judge Carl Kerrick refuses to follow the terms of the agreement.

The maximum sentence for rape in Idaho is up to life in prison and a fine of $50,000.

The Tribune reports that Smolinski, when asked if he had done what the charging documents allege, said "yes."

Smolinski's sentencing is set for Thursday, April 3.

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CDC: Idaho Stop-Smoking Efforts 'Woefully Underfunded'

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 11:42 AM

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is out with a new report this morning, roundly criticizing Idaho's smoking cessation efforts, saying they are "woefully underfunded."

In its 2014 edition of a report dubbed "Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs," the CDC recommends that Idaho needs to spend more than $15 million on tobacco control programs, "seven times the amount the state actually sets aside for efforts to help prevent young people from starting to use tobacco and help those already addicted to quit."

The CDC said Idaho generates $73.2 million a year from tobacco settlement dollars and tobacco taxes, yet Project Filter is currently funded with only $2.2 million.

"While we understand there are many competing priorities in any state budget, improving public health by preventing kids from using tobacco and helping adults quit is a proven and worthwhile investment,” said Stacey Satterlee, Idaho government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “It’s time for Idaho to get serious about reducing tobacco use and, thus, tobacco-related death and disease by adequately funding programs to do just that.”

In the U.S., tobacco kills 480,000 people each year and costs $289 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity.

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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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Mountain Express: Hall of Fame Honors Sun Valley's Skiing Legacy

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 9:33 AM

As a team of seven Idahoans head to Sochi, Russia, in preparation for next week's opening of the Winter Olympic Games, Sun Valley took a few moments Jan. 29 to honor several individuals, some of them posthumously, who helped the Wood River Valley carve out its place in skiing history.

This morning's Idaho Mountain Express reports that this year's honorees were enshrined during the fifth annual Ski Hall of Fame ceremony, hosted by the Ketchum-Sun Valley Historical Society.

The inductees are:

Alison Owen: the only female member of the 1966 U.S. Nordic junior team. The Mountain Express reports that from the moment Owen was allowed to ski alongside males on the U.S. team, there has a been a women's division at U.S. national cross-country ski events. Owen won eight U.S. national titles and became a coach at the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.

Bob Disbrow and Kim Kawaguchi: The pair have provided critical financial support to the Ketchum-Sun Valley ski community since the 1990s and are actively involved with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.

Don and Gretchen Fraser were inducted posthumously. They both competed for the 1940 U.S. Olympic team, and Gretchen won the Olympic gold in slalom in 1948—the first American gold medal in skiing.

Earl and Carol Holding were honored for their ownership and management of Sun Valley Co. and all of its assets, including the Sun Valley Lodge and Inn and the Sun Valley Pavilion.

Maria Maricich was an Olympic downhiller during the 1984 winter games and was ranked as the top downhiller in the United States that year.

Joe Engen headed up the Sun Valley Masters cross-country ski program for more than a decade. He's also a three-time Olympian.

The Teresa Heinz family was also honored for helping to save Galena Lodge, which came close to closing in the early 1990s due to financial troubles. Teresa Heinz also helped the community create an endowment to operate the lodge.

Jimmy Griffith was Ketchum's first native to be named to an Olympic ski team, competing in 1952. But while training for the games, he suffered a fatal ski accident. Griffith was elected to the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1971.

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Boise State Professor Keeps Close Eye on Amanda Knox Trial

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 9:21 AM

Dr. Greg Hampikian, Boise State professor, nationally known DNA expert and director of the Idaho Innocence Project, took particular interest in the Jan. 30 guilty verdict of Seattle-native Amanda Knox, who maintains she is innocent of the 2007 murder of her roommate.

Knox, now 26, spent four years in an Italian prison after being convicted of the murder of her English roommate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, where they were both studying in 2007.

But Hampikian and the Idaho Innocence Project played a role in helping to free Knox three years ago, using DNA evidence to point to a different suspect.

“My introduction to this case was through the British tabloids,” Hampikian said in 2011. “I never expected to work on it for three and a half years.”

Hampkian's team uses uses DNA, found in every human cell, to paint the picture of a crime scene. Using a component from toothpaste and another from a meat tenderizer, the bulk of cellular residue can be cut away to extract the DNA. With a small amount of DNA, a person can be linked to the evidence.

“We can amplify your entire genome from a single cell, and it takes about 90 minutes,” said Hampikian.

But on Jan. 30, an Italian appeals court found Knox and her former boyfriend were guilty of the murder.

Speaking on ABC's Good Morning America this morning, Knox said the news hit her "like a train," and she vowed never to back to Italy willingly.

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