Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Idaho House Panel Approves of Super Tuesday Presidential Primary

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 10:19 AM

Senate Bill 1066 has one final hurdle (and it's a big one) to clear  before the measure which would put Idaho in the midst of a Super Tuesday presidential primary night goes to Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter for his signature.

The Idaho House State Affairs Committee, by voice vote, approved the bill, which has already cleared the Idaho Senate. Only four Democratic representatives—Paulette Jordan, John McCrostie, Elaine Smith and Melissa Wintro—and Republican Rep. Lynn Luker voted against the bill.

Idaho's current presidential caucus is in May.

"But generally by May, the presidential nominees are normally done," said co-sponsor Rep. John Vander Woude. 

And Idaho, in 2012, experimented with a presidential caucus, requiring interested voters to drive to select locations to vote, sometimes on multiple ballots.

"But those caucuses are very limited as to who will participate," said Vander Woude.

Lawmakers heard from a number of citizens who said the nighttime caucus procedures prohibited them from participating because of their work or school schedules. They also pointed to the importance of absentee ballots for military service men and women. The caucus process sometimes requires multiple ballots, thus preventing absentee ballots on second or third ballots (or more). 

But Luker balked at the price tag for creating a March presidential primary.

"I can't support the public expenditure for this," said Luker. "I'm going to vote no."

Ultimately, Luker was the only Republican to vote against the bill, which now heads to the full House for its consideration.
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ada County Officials, Including New Coroner Dotti Owens, Take Oath Jan. 12

Posted By on Sun, Jan 11, 2015 at 9:07 AM

Swearing-in ceremonies are set for the morning of Monday, Jan. 12,at the Ada County Courthouse where some familiar faces will take the oath of office, as will the only Democratic candidate to secure a win an Ada County-wide race in the fall of 2014.

Dotti Owens, a former employee of the Ada County Coroner's Office, secured endorsements from Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson and Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney and November's general election, she secured 54 percent of the vote to Republican challenger Mike Chilton's 46 percent.

Owens replaces Erwin Sonnenberg, who served as Ada County Coroner for 30 years.

In other Ada County races, incumbent Republican County Clerk Christopher Rich was re-elected with 56 percent of the vote, and incumbent GOP County Commissioner Rick Yzaguirre was re-elected with 55 percent of the vote.

Ada County Commissioner Jim Tibbs, Assessor Robert McQuade and Treasurer Vicky McIntyre, who all ran unopposed, were also reelected. 

Monday's swearing-in ceremony begins at 9 a.m. in the first floor public meeting room of the Ada County Courthouse in Boise.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Idaho Agribusiness Call for Immigration Reform From New GOP Majority

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Left to right: Brent Olmstead and Ivan Castillo - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Brent Olmstead and Ivan Castillo
This isn't the first time that Brent Olmstead, president of Milk Producers of Idaho and executive director of the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform, and Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Ivan Castillo have called on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, but there's no denying that the most recent plea—a special section running in Nov. 19th's edition of the Washington Times and individual media events across the country—comes at a unique political moment.

Congressional Republicans retook the U.S. Senate during the Nov. 5 midterm elections; on the campaign trail, many of them indicated an interest in some kind of immigration reform.

"Republicans have control of the Senate. They need to live up to the promises they made in the election and fix [the U.S. immigration system]," Olmstead said.

But Congress may not have time to move on immigration reform on its own, and President Barack Obama has indicated that he will take executive action to provide temporary protections to millions of undocumented immigrants Thursday, Nov. 20. 

"Legislative action is always preferable, but we have waited for Congress to act and the Congress has not acted. The president has waited," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the Washington Post.

Nevertheless, Olmstead and Castillo told reporters this morning at the Milk Producers of Idaho office in Boise that the people who have waited for immigration the longest are immigrants themselves, and that giving some kind of legal status to undocumented workers would be a boon for Idaho and the country as a whole. 

"When you give people the opportunity to come out of the shadows, you give people the opportunity to help this country," Castillo said. 

According to Olmstead, there are permits available for an additional 40,000 head of cattle across the state that aren't being used because of a labor shortage, and the dairy industry isn't the only sector of the economy that would benefit from a system that welcomes, rather than discourages, migrant labor. He suggested that reform might include a guest worker program, enhanced border security, work permits renewable in the United States through employers, English language learning and an increase in the number of visas available to highly educated or skilled immigrants, like those with specialized training of Ph.Ds. He cited a double standard within the current immigration system that privileges some applicants at the expense of others.

"There's a visa to bring a ballerina into this country, but there isn't a visa to work on agricultural supply," he said.

While immigration reform is a hot political topic with economic implications, the U.S. immigration system constitutes a human rights crisis. Castillo offered an anecdote about an acquaintance whom he encountered at WalMart shopping for his friends and family who were too frightened of immigration officials to appear in public. According to Castillo, that fear prevents even documented workers and citizens from fully participating in U.S. economic, political and social life.

"We all know someone who doesn't have papers," he said. "Political leaders need to know that Hispanics are here to stay."
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oregonians Facing Deadline to Mail Ballots

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 1:55 PM

For all intents and purposes, voting in Oregon has concluded. According to the Associated Press, the Oregon Secretary of State's office says today is the last day for Oregonians to put ballots in the mail if they want them to arrive in time for Tuesday's election. Ballots must be received in election offices by 8 p.m. on Nov. 4, to be counted.

Oregon voters are considering a number of interesting proposals this election cycle:
  • The creation of a first-of-its kind endowment to boost financial aid for college students.
  • The legalization of recreational marijuana.
  • The requirement of labeling foods made with genetically modified ingredients (GMOs).
  • Allowing driver cards to be issued to Oregon residents without requiring proof of legal residency in the United States.
  • Allowing a "top-two" primary: the top two candidates from a primary election advance to a general election ballot.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BW Video: How Politically Engaged Are Idaho Students?

Posted By on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 10:39 AM

There are multiple voting blocs being wooed by candidates across the political spectrum, yet most campaigns aren't putting much stock in the student vote.  Once again, voter registration among college-age students is paltry at best this year, yet the Campus Vote Project indicates that among those students who actually register, a stunning 87 percent say they show up at the polls.

In this week's Boise Weekly, Boise State student journalists Brandon Walton and Farzan Faramarzi canvass their campus to see the level of political engagement among their fellow students.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ada County Voters Turning Out in Record Numbers to Vote Early in Midterm Election

Posted By on Sat, Oct 25, 2014 at 11:56 AM

Voters across Ada County are turning out to the Ada County Elections Office in record numbers to vote early in this year's midterm election.

As of Oct. 24, approximately 4,000 people had cast early ballots. That's 200 more than had voted by this time in the 2010 midterm election, when, in the first 10 days of early voting, 3,800 people had cast their ballots. By the end of early voting in 2010, 7,705 people had cast ballots ahead of election day.

"It's been the highest it's ever been for a midterm election. It's been pretty steady. We expect over the next week it'll amp up," Chief Deputy to the Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane told Boise Weekly on Saturday morning. 

This is the first midterm election in which the Ada County Elections Office has been open on a Saturday. The practice of allowing the public to vote in the office on weekends began in the 2012 presidential election. There are a number of high-stakes elections this year, including those for the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners, Idaho treasurer and superintendent of public education. But McGrane pointed out that the surge may not reflect final voter turnout.

"It's a reflection of people shifting in how they're voting," he said.

Residents of Ada County will be able to vote early today between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Ada County Elections Office, located at 400 N. Benjamin Lane in Boise. The early voting process will continue through Friday, Oct. 31.
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Commission Candidates Fault ACHD's Relationship With City of Boise at BBP Forum

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Left to right: Bob Bruce, John Seidl, Brock Frazier and Paul Woods - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Bob Bruce, John Seidl, Brock Frazier and Paul Woods

Four of six candidates vying for a seat on the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners told attendees at a forum held at Boise Bicycle Project Wednesday evening that the organization with curb-to-curb control over Ada County's roads has been deaf to the citizens of the communities it serves and has failed as a partner of the city of Boise.

"The problem is animosity. [ACHD and the city of Boise] just aren't working together," said John Seidl, who's running for the ACHD District No. 3 seat, along with Bob Bruce, Brock Frazier and Paul Woods. Other candidates for the seat, but who didn't attend the forum, were Stephanie Blake and J.J. Howard.

The city of Boise and ACHD have had a dramatic relationship in 2014 that garnered headlines about car sensors embedded in the roads under paid parking spaces, roundabouts being installed as part of ACHD's downtown implementation plan, and a high-profile fight over a short-lived bike lane pilot project and subsequent consideration of permanent bike lanes along Capitol Boulevard.

For former Ada County Commissioner Paul Woods, repairing relations between ACHD and the Boise City Council is a priority, along with creating safer routes for children to get to school.

"Improving cooperation is one of the main reasons I'm in this race," Woods said.

But for commissioner hopeful and web and software developer Brock Frazier, the problem isn't that ACHD hasn't given the city what it wants: Rather, he's concerned that the public has "a real problem in this election," and that its interests are being poorly served by career public servants, comparing the public to a candle being burned at both ends. Though he said he favored building bike lanes to serve the growing number of cyclists in Boise, he was adamant that he thought the city placing sensors into the ground to serve parking meters and designing an app to help drivers find open parking spaces—technology the Boise City Council has been keen to deploy downtown—was a potential hazard to drivers and cyclists alike. He also criticized the City Council over police militarization.

However, those in attendance saw cooperation between the two agencies as critical. Sonia Daleiden, a transportation engineer who worked on the bike lane pilot project and said she rides her bike about every other day, described cooperation as "critical," but said that laying community disappointment over the short duration of the bike lane pilot project at ACHD's feet may be unfair.

"Usually there's a much longer [pilot project] period, but I understand ACHD was under a lot of pressure from negative comments from the community," she said, referring to an ACHD-conducted survey that drew primarily negative feedback toward the project from motorists.
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

GOP Superintendent Candidate Ybarra Hasn't Voted Since 1996

Posted By on Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 12:20 PM

Republican state superintendent of public instruction candidate Sherri Ybarra doesn't vote much. Idaho Education News reports that she hasn't voted in a general election since 1996.

"We have all missed an election or two in our lifetime, and I am not exempt from that," she said during a City Club of Boise candidate forum on Sept. 26.

She didn't vote in the 2012 general election when voters overturned Propositions 1, 2 and 3 after the statewide controversy over State Superintendent Tom Luna's education overhaul. Voting records show she missed at least 15 of 17 primary or general elections from 1998 to 2012. She skipped the presidential elections of 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Her opponent, Democrat Jana Jones, has a much stronger record, voting in every general election for the past 14 years, (addition: which is when Bonneville County started tracking voting records. A representative of hers told BW she's voted in every general election she can remember).
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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Early In-Person Voting Launches In the Next Two Weeks

Posted By on Sat, Oct 4, 2014 at 11:51 AM

The election season dials up significantly in the next two weeks as early voting comes to the Treasure Valley.

In-person voting will begin Monday, Oct. 6 at the Canyon County Elections Office on E. Chicago Street in Caldwell. Hours will be Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

In Ada County, early voting will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 14 (the day after Columbus Day) at the Ada County Elections Office on N. Benjamin Lane in Boise. Hours will be Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., with one special Saturday session on Saturday, Oct. 25 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Early voting wraps up at 5 p.m., Oct. 31.

Absentee ballots may also be requested from either office, but absentee ballots must be received at elections offices by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 4.
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Familiar Talking Points Define North Idaho Gubernatorial Debate

Posted By on Sat, Oct 4, 2014 at 11:47 AM

There will be scant opportunity to check out the Idaho gubernatorial candidates side-by side. Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter refused to participate in a recent Twin Falls forum and the City Club of Boise announced that since all of the candidates couldn't attend an event, they wouldn't be holding a forum this year (though they will host a gathering to watch a televised debate in Idaho Falls). 

So voters in North Idaho took advantage of a rare gathering of Idaho gubernatorial candidates Oct. 3, packing the Coeur d'Alene Library to watch Otter and his challengers: Democrat A.J. Balukoff, Libertarian John Bujak and Independent candidate Pro-Life.

"I would like to thank Governor Otter for gracing us with his presence," said Bujak.

This morning's Coeur d'Alene Press reports that there was "very little, if any, of what was said will provide material for late-night comedy shows, unlike a primary debate earlier this year."

"Governor Otter, on your watch, we are second to the last [in the country] in state funding for public education," said Balukoff.

But Otter pushed back, saying "It's not how much money you spend, it's how you spend the money. We're spending it smarter than these other states."

Otter also took the opportunity to defend the Idaho's state-run health insurance marketplace.

"I wanted Idahoans making decisions about one of the most important things that we have in Idaho, and that's our health care system," said the governor.

Which inspired Balukoff to advocate for an expansion of Medicaid to assist more of Idaho's uninsured people.

"We are already paying for their care when they show up at emergency rooms. We pay for that through taxes, through the state general fund taxes, and we also are paying federal taxes that we don't get back by not expanding Medicaid," said Balukoff.

The Press reports that Friday's event was standing-room-only.
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