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Posts published in March 2006

Candidate files – Idaho partial

Candidate filing is underway in Idaho, and we''ll report on it periodically. But maybe not a lot, because - although this is only Day 2 and the filing period has been expanded from one week to two - most candidates appear to have filed already.

Idaho votes logo - Secretary of StateHow many of them? Certainly not all. Several expected (virtually certain) candidates in both parties for Congress and governor have not appeared yet, and nor have any for a number of legislative districts. But a lot of the expected names already are in place.

What's most noticable in these early filings is the relative paucity of Democrats. As of the current posting (when this was written), for all the offices on the congressional and statewide level, just three have filed so far (just one, Dan Romero for lieutenant governor, among the statewides). And just six among legislative candidates statewide - compared with 53 Republicans.

To what extent will Democrats be able to turn those numbers around? That will be one of the significant questions in Idaho politics in the days ahead.

Sealed, perhaps to be opened

The Seattle Times has an excellent series on the sealing of civil cases in King County. The Times is following up by filing motions for the opening of those cases - many of them, at least.

It appears that the Times is on sound legal ground in asking. The Washington Supreme Court has set clear rules on sealing cases, and contemplates that will happen only in rare instances. The paper notes

The Washington Constitution says: "Justice in all cases shall be administered openly." To this, many King County judges have effectively added: "unless the parties don't want it to be."

The judges have displayed an ignorance of, or indifference to, the legal requirements for sealing court records. They have routinely sealed files while 1) offering little or no explanation, 2) applying the wrong legal standard, and 3) failing to acknowledge, much less weigh, the public interest in open court proceedings.

At least 97 percent of their sealing orders disregard rules set down by the Washington Supreme Court in the 1980s.

This is a subject worth following up by other newspapers - and interested citizens - in any and all other jurisdictions, and not just in Washington.

Sali to the ramparts? Or, why not?

Nothing unusual for state Representative Bill Sali, R-Kuna - now a candidate for U.S. representative - to be fiddling around with Idaho abortion law. Monday, he was trying to get introduced the first abortion measure of the session in Idaho, another tinker with the parental-notification on minors situation.

Bill SaliWhy is he bothering? Why waste his time on such minor stuff when the state of South Dakota is cutting to the heart of the matter? Its legislature just passed, and its governor just signed, a law saying this: "No person may knowingly administer to, prescribe for, or procure for, or sell to any pregnant woman any medicine, drug, or other substance with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of an unborn human being. No person may knowingly use or employ any instrument or procedure upon a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of an unborn human being. Any violation of this section is a Class 5 felony."

No abortion period - not for reason of rape, incest or health of the mother - except only to immediately save the life of the mother.

The Idaho Chooses Life website has some qualms, but concludes: "But we must also recognize the fact that we have made precious little progress in ending the wholesale destruction of God’s little ones for more than a generation. We need to up the pressure on our court system." An estimated 11 states, so far, are considering passing similar legislation.

One wonders why Idaho is not yet among them.

Sali has been the face of the hundred-percenters - Those who want to ban abortion, period. Granted, it would be tough to out-do Walt Bayes in the governor's race. But if Sali wants to represent the really serious pro-life movement - the Republican National Coalition for Life endorsed him for Congress just last month as, one presumes, the most pro-life of the candidates - where's his South Dakota bill and why hasn't he brought it in front of the House Ways and Means Committee?

Details, details, and the weight of cost

Got a call from a Boise housing construction contractor who's concerned a new piece of legislation might drive him out of business. He might even be right. And its intended purpose doesn't require such an extreme result.

The measure in question is House Bill 677, which would allow school districts to impose impact fees on new residential construction within the district. The fees could amount to $2.50 per square foot, or, for example, $2,500 for a 1,000-square foot house. The measure is sponsored by leaders of the property tax renovation effort, Senators Shawn Keough and Representatives Dennis Lake, Mike Moyle and Jim Clark, all Republicans.

The idea behind it is generally unassailable: New growth should help pay for the growing budgets needed by school districts, most notably those like Boise and Meridian where the growth has caused serious pressures. Those new kids moving in - and generally, the new people moving in - create costs and so should have to help underwrite.

Under 677 they ultimately do, but the serious pressure instead is placed on the builders of the houses. The fee is imposed on "construction," not on sale or occupancy. Ultimately, presumably, the builder would pass the cost along to the developer and buyer, but in the meantime, for months, that's a high cost he alone would have to bear. In some cases, especially considering the size of houses so often built these days, that could be enough to put some builders out of business. If it were imposed instead at the time of sale, it could be incorporated into house financing relatively easily. And the arrival of the people into the house is more closely tied to the cost to the district than is construction of the building.

The bill is up for amendment on the House floor. Will be interesting to see how, or if, it is amended, as the session nears its frenetic final (well, presumably final) weeks.

Report from Dorchester

Turnout was substantial at Dorschester XLII (42, that is) at Seaside on a cool but pleasant Friday evening: These Republicans want back the governorship, and the prospects for doing that were on tap. It looked like around 500 or; if the official estimate was closer to 600, we won't quibble. It was a substantial group.

Dorchester conference at SeasideBut which way to go? The decision seemed tougher the more this crowd pondered it.

A moment about Dorchester: This is an annual gathering of Oregon Republicans, founded (in largest part) by Robert Packwood, later a U.S. Senator - the Dorchester conferences were one of the devices he used early in his career to catapult his way to statewide prominence. It's very much a private event (albeit well-publicized, with portions like the Friday night event open to the public) which allows Republicans, outside of any formal structure, to meet, interact, discuss and figure out what and who they're all about. It's a good idea any party in any state could adopt to benefit. (Hello, Washington Republicans and Idaho Democrats.)

It can be most useful of all when a party has an important decision looming ahead, as the Oregon Republicans do in choosing among gubernatorial candidates. The sense Friday night seemed to be that they still - and not as a result of dissatisfaction or disapproval - were figuring out how best to weight in. (more…)

Pressure

If you have any doubt that incumbent Democrat Ted Kulongoski is a substantial favorite to win re-election as governor this year, consider one of the uglier but more convincing pieces of evidence to that effect: His refusal so far to engage other candidates in debate, as he did in 2002.

So far he already has missed prospective joint appearances with his declared primary opponents, and appears likely to miss two more - including a Portland City Club event - in the middle of this month.

He has used the usual incumbent excuse of a tight schedule as his rationale for avoidance. he, and his staff, can't imagine anyone actually believes that, do they? If they do, then they're foolish enough to blow the election; if not (which is more probable), they're being dishonest. Either way, they seem to have made the calculation that they're far enough ahead that bailing won't hurt too much.

That rationale will stand until they make the calculus that avoidance would be more potentially damaging that participation. (And we're unsure what they're so worried about; Kulongoski may not be Mr. Charisma but he's surely intelligent and articulate enough to hold his own.) That's where outside pressure - not so much from other candidates, whose pressure in this instance doesn't mean much, but from others - comes in.

The Oregonian, which would have to be a chief player in this, is wading in, first with a front-page news story on Thursday then with an editorial today. That should be the pile-on signal for the rest of the news media, and for interest groups and Oregonians at large.

If it's going to happen, pile-on time has arrived.

WA Senate, staying the course

There seems to have been no serious change in the Washington Senate race for months, ever since it adopted its general Cantwell/McGavick structure: Cantwell has shown a strong, decisive lead every time out. Half a year or so after McGavick's entry, the numbers seem, in general, not to have budged.

More details, many more, come from a look at the crosstabs in a post at the liberal Horse's Ass. The poll is the Elway poll, which has a decent record, and the results comport with what we've seen before. But In this post, Goldy posts more of the details than we've seen before.

Newcomb’s out

Bruce Newcomb, who has been speaker of the Idaho House longer than anyone in the state's history, is headed out: He has announced his retirement.

Bruce Newcomb"Announce" is one of those portentious verbs used a lot in press releases and regularly deleted from mention here at Ridenbaugh Press; but in this case the Newcomb announcement carries the weight. He has been an important figure in Idaho government for nearly all of the 20 years he has been in the Idaho House; he has been in leadership most of that time. Position doesn't account for it all, though.

A usually affable guy, well-liked personally by many in the statehouse, he has managed to keep the tone in the House lighter, on many occasions, than it might otherwise have been. He seems to have capped, early on, any ambition for higher office than he has had, and to an uncommon degree has been willing to put the interests of others first. (Exhibit one would be his good friend Mike Simpson, who probably would not have been a sucessful speaker and later a member of Congress but for the unglamorous work Newcomb did, as Simpson's majority leader, for so many years.) If he merits some long-run criticism for making decisions that have blocked useful progress on taxes and some other subject, he also has been extremely useful in other areas, notably water law.

The departure of all that is half of what makes this announcement an announcement. The other half has to do with what's next. (more…)

Primary kickback

Every state has its hard-to-explain peculiarities: "Why do they do it that way?" "uh ... because there were never enough votes in the Legislature to change it, I guess ..."

One of Washington's has been the mid-September primary election date, which neverhad many defenders and might have been changes years ago except that there were always just enough people opposed to any single one of the realistic options. But no more. The Senate, which for long has kept status quo in this area, gave way today, and - starting next year, unfortunately not this one - the state's voters will have a decent interval between primary and general.

Does that matter, you ask? Secretary of State Sam Reed said that "Moving the Primary from September to August is a win for the people and for democracy itself."

That is because, as his office noted, "Under current law, election workers have less than three weeks after the State Primary is certified to hold recounts, address election contests, hire election board workers, test voting equipment, format and print ballots for the General Election, and finalize and mail Voters' Pamphlets. Election workers have just four or five days between certification of the Primary and the date that military and overseas ballots must be mailed." With resuls like those noted in 2004, when overseas military ballots arrived too late to be counted. Shouldn't happen under this change.

The immediate celebration over this passage (still needs signature of the governor, but that is almost certain) is in state elections offices. Should extend much further.