Saturday, March 7, 2015

UPDATE: More Religious Leaders Join in Call for Apology from Idaho Senator Over 'False Gods' Comment

Posted By and on Sat, Mar 7, 2015 at 1:41 PM

Sheryl "Sherry" Nuxoll - SHERYLNUXOLL.COM
  • Sheryl "Sherry" Nuxoll

As Cottonwood Republican Sen. Sherry Nuxoll doubles down on her controversial comments regarding guest chaplain Rajan Zed—who opened a March 3 session of the Idaho Senate with the chamber's first-ever Hindu prayer—more religious leaders are joining in to call for an apology from the senator.

The spotlighted comment: "Hindu is a false faith with false gods."

Now, Rabbi Daniel B. Fink has joined the ranks of those demanding Nuxoll issue a mea culpa.

In a written statement, Fink, who serves as rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel in Boise, said, "As people of varying faith traditions, we believe that mutual respect is essential for the well-being of our community and state. If we are to prosper, both spiritually and economically, we must learn to listen to one another with respect."

Fink called Nuxoll's comments "both hurtful and foolish."

He joins Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Native American spiritual leaders in calling on Nuxoll to apologize to Zed.

ORIGINAL POST: 11:15 a.m., March 6, 2015

While the Idaho Senate opened its March 3 proceedings with a Hindu prayer from guest chaplain Rajan Zed, a handful of Republican senators remained outside the chamber in protest: Lori Den Hartog (Meridian), Bob Nonini (Coeur d'Alene), Sherry Nuxoll (Cottonwood), James Patrick (Twin Falls), Jim Rice (Caldwell), Jeff Siddoway (Terreton) and Steve Vick (Dalton Gardens). 

Vick had gone so far as to lodge a complaint against Zed delivering the invocation, but leadership opted to proceed with the prayer. Nuxoll chimed in against Zed, as well.

"Hindu is a false faith with false gods," she said.

Now, religious leaders from across the country are calling on Nuxoll to apologize.

In a letter to the Idaho Legislative Services Office, Nevada Episcopal Bishop Dan Edwards wrote that it was "disappointing to me that certain Senators protested [Zed's] prayer and spoke disparagingly of his faith. An apology certainly seems to be in order."

According to an email from Zed, more than a dozen leaders representing a range of faiths are also demanding Nuxoll apologize.

Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer, a Jewish faith leader in Nevada and California, wrote that Nuxoll "should be called upon to offer a public apology and perhaps even be sanctioned by the Senate for her inappropriate, insensitive and insulting remarks."

Father Charles T. Durante, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno, wrote that "I find it sad that some legislators in Idaho could not respect the importance of religious diversity by their presence at a brief prayer."

This is not the first time Nuxoll's comments have sparked national controversy. In 2013, the three-term House member's comments comparing the Affordable Care Act to the Holocaust were reported across the country: "Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange." 

Zed is also no stranger to controversy. As president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, interfaith ambassador of the Nevada Clergy Association and spiritual adviser to the National Association of Interchurch and Interfaith Families, he has spoken to members of the European Parliament and in 2007 delivered the first Hindu opening prayer in the United States Senate.

His appearance in the U.S. Senate sparked protest from groups such as the American Family Association and Faith2Action, and included several outbursts from members of the group Operation Save America.  

Zed opened a meeting of the Boise City Council with a Hindu prayer in 2010, which also prompted protest. His invocation in the Idaho Senate was the first-ever Hindu prayer read in the chamber.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan Appointed to Idaho Senate

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 3:25 PM

Maryanne Jordan
  • Maryanne Jordan
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has appointed Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan to the Idaho Senate.

Jordan is set to occupy the seat for District 17 left vacant when seven-term Boise Democratic Sen. Elliot Werk resigned in February to join the four-member Idaho Tax Commission. 

"Thanks to former Sen. Werk for his long and distinguished service," Jordan wrote in a news release. "Jumping in mid-session will be a steep learning curve, but I am confident that I am up to the challenge."

Jordan's name was one of three submitted to Otter on Feb. 26 for consideration to fill the open Senate seat. Other contenders included longtime civil servant and educator Lorraine Clayton and attorney Nicholas Warden.

While Jordan has said this will be her final term in office on the Boise City Council—where she has served since 2003—she told Boise Weekly that for the remainder of her term she will be performing her duties with both the Senate and the Council.

Meanwhile, Boise Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb has taken up Werk's position as assistant minority leader.
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Idaho Power Approved for One-Year Energy Sales Agreement with Simplot's Pocatello Plant

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 12:25 PM

Regulators at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission have approved a one-year energy sales agreement between Idaho Power and J.R. Simplot Company's fertilizer plant in Pocatello.

Power generated at the plant comes from heat or steam that is the byproduct of a fertilizer manufacturing process. The contract calls for an average of 10 megawatts of electricity per month, though the plant can produce as many as 15.9 megawatts per month.

Regulators have determined that Simplot's facility qualifies as a renewable energy generation project under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, or PURPA, which requires utilities to purchase energy from renewable generation projects at regulator-established rates. 

The PUC has approved a proposed rate of $52.72 to be paid to Simplot in 2015, and $52.28 in 2016, though these rates will vary during heavier and lighter load hours, days and seasons over the course of the year.

In February, the PUC reduced the timeline for some PURPA contracts from the previously set 20 years to five years. Idaho Power, meanwhile, is trying to convince the PUC to further reduce those contracts to two years.

According to the PUC, the utility company contends that 20-year contracts requiring the purchase of "intermittent, renewable energy" places "undue risk on customers at a time when ... it has sufficient resources to meet customer demand."

What's more, "the company claims acceptance of the contracts will inflate power supply costs and negatively impact the reliability of its energy delivery system." 

Read the contract ruling below.

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IACI President Placed on Leave in Wake of Offensive Email

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 11:17 AM

The executive committee of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry has placed its president on leave in the midst of a scandal set off by an inflammatory email.

On Jan. 13, IACI President Alex LaBeau fired off an email criticizing ranking Terreton Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway for saying he would block any tax cuts until the Idaho Legislature increases the starting pay for teachers in the Gem State to $40,000. LaBeau's email gave color to his personal feelings toward the senator, but it also indicates an intent to obstruct the legislative process. From the text of the email, first reported Feb. 26 by Idaho Reports:
"Suckaway can eat a dick and hug a teacher. How fucking stupid. Let me see-make me and my committee completely irrelevant for the foreseeable future. Jesus! People have no fucking vision or forethought. Doucher. Regardless we will drop some shit in his lap-just to be dicks.”
Initially, IACI stuck by its president while LaBeau personally apologized to Siddoway, but in a letter to IACI members dated March 5, the group's executive committee announced that its leadership and LaBeau had "mutually agreed" that he would take a temporary leave of absence.

"[LaBeau] recognizes that healing relationships harmed by his actions will take time, and has pledged his dedication to rebuilding that trust," members of the IACI executive committee wrote. 

According to the letter, the powerful business lobby has received numerous communiques from its members expressing concern "about the impact this has on IACI's reputation, the public perception of our positions on key issues, and our conduct within the legislative process," but noted that education and workforce development are one of its top six public policy priorities. 

Read IACI's statement below:

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Gov. Otter Responds to Former Governors on INL Nuclear Waste Importation

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 9:57 AM

Former Idaho Governors Phil Batt (left) and Cecil Andrus (right) addressed a room full of reporters on Jan. 15, expressing opposition to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's attempt to bring more nuclear waste to Idaho. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Former Idaho Governors Phil Batt (left) and Cecil Andrus (right) addressed a room full of reporters on Jan. 15, expressing opposition to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's attempt to bring more nuclear waste to Idaho.
In January, two former Idaho governors held a press conference where they delivered strong words to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on his recent decision to reopen importation of spent nuclear fuel to the Idaho National Laboratory.

Former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus and Republican Gov. Phil Batt were upset that Otter would break Batt's 1995 landmark injunction against any more nuclear waste to come into Idaho.

Andrus said the decision to receive 50 spent nuclear rods—weighing in at nearly 37.5 tons—was made "in the dark of night." 

"It's a travesty," Andrus said at the press conference on Jan. 15, raising his voice.

Nearly three months later, Otter has replied to the former governors in a news release. 

"The allegation that I am doing anything less than protecting Idaho under the terms of the 1995 Settlement Agreement is simply wrong. No governor has shipped more waste out of the state than me," he wrote.

It continues:

"It seems as if the former governors would be satisfied with cleaning up the INL and shutting it down. Their approach ignores the asset the INL has become to eastern Idaho, the state and nation. Clean up under the terms of the agreement, including removal of ALL (sic) materials by 2035, remains our first priority, but it is not our only priority. Continuing the valuable research at the Lab with its world-class facilities and people is the future and one we should all work towards.

"It is clear the former governors see the Lab as a liability, while I see its possibilities."

Andrus and Batt fear the importation of more nuclear waste to the site will pose a risk for the Snake River Plain Aquifer directly under the repository site. 

"If there was contamination in that water," Batt said in the press conference, "it would cause our potato industry to fold up. It would cause fish farms to fold up in Magic Valley. It would create all kind of problems with municipal water."

Andrus added that "it could gain $10 million in revenue, but that isn't one-tenth of 1 percent of what you're gambling against if any of that waste gets lose in the aquifer."

Andrus called this an attempt by Otter to turn Idaho into a new Yucca Mountain, referencing the controversial nuclear waste repository in Nevada that was closed in 2011 following widespread political opposition. 

"I've been around a long time," Andrus said in January. "But I guess I'm going to have to live a bit longer because we're not going to put up with this."
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