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Posts published in May 2009

The Great Nonini

We've heard a lot these last number of days about who's gotten crosswise with the Idaho House. It cuts both ways, of course, and you can see some reasons in this in an incident that turned up in Betsy Russell's/Spokesman-Review's blog this morning.

The chair of the House Education Committee, Representative Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, had proposed House Bill 373, changing several provisions in the law concerning teacher and school official pay (to generalize, reductions). The measure passed the House, 49-17, and went to the Senate. There, it died.

One reason is that when it came up for considering today at the Senate Education Committee hearing on his bill, Nonini wasn't there to discuss it. From Russell's blog:

“The chairman knew last Wednesday night I wasn’t coming,” Nonini told Eye on Boise. “The issues have all been discussed. … There was no reason for me to be there.” When told that committee members had questions for him, Nonini said, “Just to be critical and be smart-alecks - I’m not going to go over there and put up with that. I’m not going to put up with that crap.”

So much for collegiality.

Another week

Tomorrow morning I'll be (presumably) back on KLIX-AM at Twin Falls to talk about this week's Idaho legislative session. (See the little block in the column to the right.) The one that now looks likely to bust the all-time record for longevity in Idaho.

It's long all right. The legislature in Washington has adjourned and gone home; it will be back for a special session, but that likely won't run more than a day or two. The Oregon Legislature, running essentially biennially, is only somewhat more than halfway done, but June or July adjournments are the norm there. The norm for Idaho adjournments once was late March, but that may be going by the boards.

How much longer till Idaho's gives it up? Until you get either a compromise out of the governor and the House (the governor has offered such in recent days), or a cave from one of them.

Will I be back on the radio a week from now? Don't bet good money against it.

One city from tri?

The Tri-Cities have been the Tri-Cities - separate entities, with a fast-growing quad (West Richland) hanging around on the edge - for so long, you'd just think there'd be no chance of merger between them. (After all, just look at the civil war when little Ketchum and Sun Valley talked up the idea, before its backers were blown out of the water.)

But now, some indicators that the Tri could become One. From Chris Sivula's editorial blog at the Tri-City Herald (would it have to change its name?) on occasion of a coffee-spiked newspaper-invited community open house:

There was more talk about consolidation than any other topic — pro and con — although proponents of merging the Tri-Cities appeared to have majority.

They think it’s time to start pushing the agenda harder. The thought is that the remaining divided in four small towns — including West Richland — prevents the Tri-Cities from developing an identity that resonates beyond our state borders.

The question raised: “How can Walla Walla, with its size, be on all of the national Atlas maps and most world globes while we are not?” Proponents worry that without a recognized name and identity, our ability to market ourselves and be heard and found in a global economy will suffer.

Were you to merge the four cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland) you'd get a city with more than 165,000 people. That would put it in a close race with Vancouver for fourth largest in the state.

Would they forgive?

The normal rule is supposed to be that if voters approve (or disapprove) a ballot issue, that legislators take that message to heart or run a big political risk. Who wants to act against the voters?

Well, the guess here is that the Oregon Legislature may do just that when it comes to last year's Measure 57.

Measure 57 "increased term of imprisonment for persons convicted of specified drug and property crimes under certain circumstances. The measure enacted law which prohibits courts from imposing less than a presumptive sentence for persons convicted of specified drug and property crimes under certain circumstances, and requires the Department of Corrections to provide treatment to certain offenders and to administer grant program to provide supplemental funding to local governments for certain purposes." It passed with 61.45 of the vote last year.

An it is expensive, in a corrections system where cost has been explosive already for years.

A lot of budget items are likely to be hit, hard, when the numbers are pencilled in starting later this month. A lot of people are pleading for many of those cuts - in education, social services, safety - not to be cut too deeply. But in reading the reports of the legislature's Ways & Means committee road show last month, there seems to be little constituency out there calling hard for fulfilling the terms of 57. Priorities may have changed.

And priorities may be a key issue here. 57 got on the ballot as an alternative to another ballot issue, 61, which would have focused less on inmate treatment and - because of its handling of sentencing and other matters - would have been far more expensive for the state. A lot of people doubtless would as soon have seen neither pass, but blacked in the line on 57 as the better alternative of the two.

How many felt that way? That's a question legislators doubtless will be gauging in the next few weeks.