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Posts published in July 2009

Since October of ’83

Going back a few years, remembering the fall of 1983 - October specifically - in Idaho. I was in Pocatello then, and the city seemed almost to be gasping for air . . . which is to say, business and jobs. A chunk of the downtown shuttered; a big factory in operation since World War II shut down. Hard times.

With that in mind, news today from the Idaho Department of Labor:

June’s rate was the highest jobless rate since October 1983 when the state was pulling out of the double-dip recession that ushered in a major economic shift from natural resources to services augmented by some expanded advanced manufacturing – particularly in the high technology sector.

Another 3,400 Idaho workers lost their jobs in June, driving the number of unemployed to over 62,000 for the first time ever. Over 40,000 of those workers shared $59 million in unemployment insurance benefits paid out during the month. A year ago, Idaho’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, and the number of workers without jobs was under 36,000.

More checks

This is not an argument that the system of background checking is getting out of hand or that these in particular aren't merited. But after a while, you do start to think that some overall parameters should be set around the practice, lest we wind up with half the country doing background checks on the other half.

From the Idaho administrative rules posted Wednesday:

The Department [of Health & Welfare] has added certain individuals and providers who are required to have a criminal history and background checks under other Department rule chapters. This chapter of rules is being updated to add those individuals and providers to the list of those who are required to have checks, including references to the programs’ rule chapters. The programs or individuals being added are: Alcohol or Substance Use Disorders Treatment Facilities and Programs for Adults, Designated Examiners and Designated Dispositioners, Idaho Child Care Program, and Nonhospital, Medically-Monitored Detoxification/Mental Health Diversion Units.

Radical Ron

Ron Wyden

Ron Wyden

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden doesn't often find the word "radical" in close proximity. His manner doesn't suggest it, and neither does his trademark bipartisan work; such gripes as you hear about him back in Oregon tend to come from the left, form people arguing that he's too compromising.

So even in the context - mainly supportive - what President Barack Obama had to say about Wyden's health care plan, using the term "radical" to describe pieces of it really jumped out.

The point of difference is Wyden's proposal to move the linkage between people and health insurance from employers to individuals.

Politically, Obama has a point here. As corrupted as the health care system is overall, a great many people still have health coverage that works decently for them, and they'd reasonably be very concerned about something that would upend it quickly. Obama said that such a "radical restructuring" would face "significant political resistance . . . families who are currently relatively satisfied with their insurance but are worried about rising costs ... would get real nervous about a wholesale change."

Our view has been that employer-based insurance is a structural mistake, and it should be based around individuals. Getting from here to there, though, might have to be more than a one-step process.

Making that change would pull a lot of the structure out of the Wyden proposal. Could be, as the tale progresses in the next few weeks, that large chunks of the rest of the plan are strip-mined for pieces fitted into a different framework.

Obama didn't sound, in this Oregonian interview, critical of Wyden and sounded as if he was open to working with him: ""He was in the Oval Office just two weeks ago where we spent time thinking about this. He is a real thought leader, and I'm confident his voice will be prominent in the debate going forward."

Your thoughts, senator?

WA: The unlimited unregulated

Jeff Kropf

In Washington, certain kinds of wells for certain uses such as domestic, stockwater and some manufacturing and noncommercial, can be drilled and used without a permit. A 1945 state law established that, and limited water extraction to 5,000 gallons per day. A 2005 state attorney general opinion, however, concluded that "the first proviso to RCW 90.44.050 makes it plain that groundwater withdrawals for stock-watering are exempt from the permit requirement, and that the exemption is not limited to withdrawals of less than 5,000 gallons a day." Withdrawals for stock water, in other words, could virtually be without limit.

That's the water backdrop for Easterday Ranches' plan to double the size of its 30,000-head of cattle feedlock northeast of Pasco. Easterday has obtained a water right (approved June 11) from the state Department of Ecology for controlling dust and for cooling cattle, a transfer the former Pepiot water right, to the location near Eltopia (north of Pasco). But it also plans to drill a well to water the cattle, probably drawing more than 5,000 gallons daily.

That in turn has led to a counter-reaction. On June 30, a group of local farmers (including a group called Five Corners Family Farmers) and several environmental groups (including Earthjustice and the Sierra Club) filed a lawsuit at Olympia to challenge the state's interpretation of the well law. From their release: (more…)