Archive for December, 2009

Dec 22 2009

The churched and the unchurched

Published by under Northwest

One of the great dividing lines between the regions west and east of the Cascades is attitudes toward church and religion. Oregon and Washington have (largely on account of their west-of-Cascades population bases) for years been rated among the “least-churched” states in the country, and Idaho toward the other end.

A just-out Pew study suggests that both are moderating in those regards, albeit gently.

Among people who say that religion is very important in their lives, Idaho (at 58%) ranks 19th-highest among the states – not especially far above the median – while Washington (46%) ranks 36th and Oregon (48%) 40th. (Number 1 is Mississippi, at 82%, and the least is New Hampshire/Vermont at 36%. California is almost identical to Washington.)

There are some interesting variations. Utah ranks only 12th on the most-important scale (which seems low), but second in worship attendance. Idaho is 19th on imporance but 15th of regular worship attendance.

H/t to Jeff Mapes at the Oregonian for the alert on this.

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Dec 21 2009

No runaways

Published by under Oregon

No one is running away with the campaign contributions in Oregon’s race for governor. Beyond that, how you assess it depends on how you count the dollars. By number of contributions? In a fund also listed as in support of ballot issues? Or?

Here’s how it stacks up as of the most recent reports at Orestar:

bullet John Kitzhaber (D) – raised $389,670, spent $93,571

bullet Chris Dudley (R) – raised $391,467, spent $75,609 (note that Dudley’s committee, unlike the others, also has been specifically marked as opposing Referenda 66 and 67)

bullet Allen Alley (R) – raised $248,505, spent $199,808

bullet Bill Bradbury (D) – raised $178,803, spent $157,284

bullet Jerry Wilson (Progressive) – raised $4,500, spent $1,750

John Lim (Republican), who has said he is running, is not listed. Steve Shields (Democrat), who has opted out, is.

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Dec 20 2009

County fracture

Published by under Oregon

Jackson County – the Medford area – says it is planning to quit the Association of Oregon Counties, which for many, many years has had as members all 36 in the state. (If recollection serves, its counterparts in Washington and Idaho have all counties as members.) Its annual dues are about $31,000.

Why is apt to be a complicated story and it will probably sound different in the telling by different people. The view from Medford turns up in an intriguing article in today’s Mail Tribune, which suggests that a large part of it has to do with differences over legislative proposals.

More coming on this, probably.

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Dec 20 2009

Wireless from here

Published by under Oregon

Yeah, it’s something of an ad, but techies will find this of interest – a new wireless music product that looks as if it breaks some new ground.

Noted here because the company coming up with it, Avnera, is Northwest-based, in Beaverton. (See also an article on the Oregonian site.)

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Dec 18 2009

A false charge

Published by under Idaho

When you have the mix of tax exemption, non-profit organizations and political activity, you’re in legally-sensitive territory where the potential for slipping into legal gray areas, or even a serious red zone, is very real. You’d probably need an attorney conversant with this sector of the law to know conclusively whether the Common Interest, the Idaho advocacy group, and its recent head, Keith Allred, now a Democratic candidate for governor, conclusively met all the obligations precisely. It’s just a complex field.

But this much, from an e-mail by Jonathan Parker, Idaho Republican executive director, was simpler: “the Idaho Republican Party discovered that Keith Allred and The Common Interest have never filed with the IRS as a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization despite holding themselves out to be.”

A serious legal charge if true – very serious. We’re talking about funnin’ the IRS here. Jail time has happened for some people who have violated these kinds of laws.

Turns out it’s not true.

First, the Common Interest’s web site at least (we can’t account for all printed materials, but the web site these days is a pretty good mark of an official statement) doesn’t say that it is a 501(c)3. Its site says, “We’re are currently seeking IRS 501(c)(3) status for this organization. While we’re already a non-profit and do not have to pay taxes, donations are not tax deductable until and unless we are designated as a 501(c)(3). (The Common Interest of Idaho, Inc. is the legal entity responsible for advocating positions in the Legislature. It is a 501(c)(4) non-profit. It’s work is done excusively by unpaid volunteers.)”

In 2006, it said “Although we are a non-profit, donations are not tax deductable. This is because the federal tax code prohibits deducting donations to non-profits involved in the political process, even to non-partisan organizations like ours.” Which seems cautious enough.

But it legitimately could have gone further. Since 2004 the affiliated group Common Interest In Action (both are listed in Idaho Secretary of State corporate files) has had 501c4 nonprofit status. And last February the IRS sent a formal letter of determination (which Common Interest emailed around to reporters this afternoon) saying 501c3 status was granted and Common Interest was officially designated a “public charity.”

Apology at the least would seem to be warranted.

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Dec 17 2009

Government health insurance

Published by under Washington

Attention all those people concerned about “the government” getting into health insurance, a post from the Washington state insurance commissioner’s blog . . .

Our office ran some numbers for Washington state, tallying the number of people getting health care under Medicare, Medicaid, the state’s Basic Health Plan, and the state’s General Assistance for the Unemployable program.

Medicare and Medicaid are the big ones, of course. Here in Washington, our office calculates that as of the end of 2008, some 917,000 Washingtonians get health coverage through Medicaid. Another 897,000 get it through Medicare. Add in BHP and GA-U, and it’s about 1.93 million people, out of a total state population of about 6.67 million.

In other words, about 29 percent of the state’s population is getting their health coverage under a government-run plan.

And these numbers don’t include the people who get their health care through the military, state employees’ Uniform Medical Plan, federal employees’ health coverage, etc.

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Dec 16 2009

WA 3: Rapidly multiplying

Published by under Washington

We’re going to need a new desktop widget to keep track of all the candidates in Washington District 3. That’s not a surprise (we suggested as much would happen) but the field really has grown large and fast in the few days since Democrat Brian Baird said he would not run again next year. Helped along by the fact that there’s no really obvious successor, and that fact that this is a closely-balanced enough district that it realistically could swing either way next fall.

So. Among the Democrats, we now have: State Senator Craig Pridemore of Vancouver, state Representative Deb Wallace of Vancouver, peace activist Cheryl Crist (who primaried Baird, to little effect, in the last two cycles) and Hispanic activist Maria Rodriguez Salazar.

Among the Republicans, there’s state Representative Jaime Herrera of Ridgefield, David Castillo of Olympia (a former federal veterans department official), Washougal City Council member Jon Russell, and former Marine John William Hedrick of Camas.

That’s eight candidates in the week since Baird’s announcement, and no reason to think there won’t be more.

To try to sift for something resembling a front-runner . . . on the Democratic side, Pridemore probably has the most substantial voting track record (improving his 50.7% in 2004 to 61.7% in 2008), in the center of Vancouver, where the largest chunk of the voters in the district are. Of course, that’s also one of the more liberal sectors of the congressional district, and Wallace’s 61.3% last time in a slightly tougher district wasn’t a bad calling card either. On the Republican side, Herrera (initially appointed but elected last year with 60%) displayed strength and campaign capability too, and is well-connected through her staff work with eastern Washington Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.

But the race is early. It can reshape in many ways in the months ahead.

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Dec 16 2009

The December Washington Digest

Published by under Washington

wpad

Our December 2009 Washington Public Affairs Digest is out, with reviews of the November elections – and new choices for Seattle mayor and King County executive – details of the state unemployment and business situation, developments in Congress, health issues and much more.

There’s an excerpt on the state’s promotion of a “vampire tour” around the Forks area. And the usual rundown of important court decisions, regulatory actions, calendar of upcoming events and much more.

Interested in subscribing, or seeing a sample copy? (Subscribers also get access to the full archives, a detailed recent history of Washington month by month, going back to 1999.)

Just send us a mail at [email protected].

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Dec 15 2009

Busting up the scam

Published by under Washington

On and on we see news scraps from D.C. like this one: “On Monday the president met with top banking executives at the White House (some by speakerphone) to plead with them to do more lending, even as the last of them, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, agreed to pay back their bailout money and free themselves of government control. Obama chided the execs for unleashing their powerful lobby on Congress in order to restrain new regulation.” You get lots of confidence, in other words, that the maniacs on Wall Street are anywhere near restraint.

Elsewhere in that same article (from Newsweek) comes something interesting, a deflater arrow aimed right at Wall Street from Washington Senator Maria Cantwell and (remarkably) Arizona Senator John McCain: To, roughly, bring back the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated investment and commercial banking. Over the last generation, the law has been weakened repeatedly and finally eliminated totally in 1999. With such wonderful results.

There’s some argument that the connections woven through the financial system have become too deep to undo; Newsweek quotes a Treasury official as comparing it to “going back to the Walkman.” Certainly the Obama Administration is opposed.

But middling measures aren’t going to make the sweeping changes Wall Street keeps demonstrating it needs. How far Cantwell, or McCain, will go with this isn’t clear; we couldn’t find anything about it on her web site. But if the public were well enough educated on the stakes and what’s needed to rip out the heart of the problem, there’d be a lot more support around the country for something like this.

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Dec 15 2009

Regressivity

Published by under Washington

regressive

Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy

Definitions for wherever needed: A progressive tax structure taxes somewhat higher those whose incomes are higher, on the idea that more income is disposable, than those whose income are lower. A regressive tax policy hits the lower-income people harder.

In this study (hat tip to Horse’s Ass for noting it), the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy concludes that Washington’s tax setup, with its heavy reliance on the sales tax (which proportionately hits lower incomes harder), is the most regressive in the nation.

The use of the income tax in Oregon and Idaho make those states a lot less regressive.

Goldy at Horse’s Ass puts it this way: “If we were to totally eliminate our state and local sales tax, property tax, B&O tax and various excise taxes and fees (gasoline, alcohol, tobacco, etc.), and replace the revenue with a single graduated income tax that levied a 2.9% rate on our wealthiest households (those with an average income of $1.8 million), and a 17.3% rate on our poorest (those earning an average of $11,000), with those in the middle three quintiles paying between 9.5% and 12.7%, it would have the same exact impact on Washington families as our current tax system does now. Can anybody reasonably argue that such a system would be fair? I don’t think so. But that’s exactly what we have now.”

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Dec 15 2009

The December Oregon Digest

Published by under Digests,Oregon

opad

Our December 2009 Oregon Public Affairs Digest is out, with reports on unemployment developments, and in Oregon political races (including upcoming federal and other races), congressional actions and much more.

There’s a substantial list of state rules and regulations just out, along with a number of congressional actions. And the usual rundown of important court decisions (quite a few of those this month), federal actions, calendar of upcoming events and much more.

Interested in subscribing, or seeing a sample copy? (Subscribers also get access to the full archives, a detailed recent history of Oregon month by month, going back to 2006.)

Just send us a mail at [email protected].

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Dec 14 2009

ID: A Democratic response

Published by under Idaho

A response from Idaho Democratic Chair Keith Roark, to the December 11 post Grant and the percentages. A short note about one point follows.

Randy, there is no observer of Idaho politics that I trust or admire more than you. Nonetheless, I fear you suffer from an affliction common to men and women of the Fourth Estate: inability to recognize the deliberate use of irony by a politician. Larry Grant is not going to run for Walt Minnick’s seat as a Democrat or a Republican. His comment was clearly intended to be humorous and ironic.

Moreover, Keith Allred’s emergence as a candidate for the Idaho Democratic Party’s nomination for Idaho Governor belies nothing in the way of compromise by either the party or the candidate.

At the state and federal levels, Idaho Democrats have traditionally put good government well ahead of raw partisanship. We are not the party of litmus tests or doctrinal purity. We are not the party that favors closed primaries. We are now and have been for many generations the party that believes in quality education for all children, a tax system that fairly allocates the burdens of taxation and the party that believes that organized labor and collective bargaining raise the standard of living for all Idahoans, union members and non-union members alike. Keith Allred, Walt Minnick, and Larry Grant all embrace these values as did Frank Church, Cecil Andrus, John Evans, and Richard Stallings before them.

Idaho’s Governor is not the leaders of his/her party, titular or otherwise. I head the Democratic Party and Norm Semanko heads the Republican Party. The Governor’s job is to steer the ship of state government on a course that runs true for all Idahoans. Idaho Democrats run for office in an effort to make government work for the people of our state – not to “oppose” Republicans for the mere sake of such opposition. Cecil Andrus was a master at bringing legislators together even though he never had a majority of Democrats in the legislature at any time during his four terms in office. Butch Otter enjoys better than 2/3 majorities in both chambers of the legislature and has a difficult time getting them to agree on anything more important than the color of the bathrooms in the restored Statehouse. Keith Allred fits the Andrus model and is the polar opposite of Otter.

Idaho Democrats don’t agree with every vote Walt Minnick has cast since his swearing in. We won’t agree with every decision Governor Allred makes either. But our tent is large and we have long since learned to disagree without being disagreeable. I personally welcome Keith Allred’s decision to run for governor as a Democrat and I’m proud that Walt Minnick is representing his district as a Democrat – but I expect them to be men of conscience and sound judgment first and foremost. “Putting practical solutions ahead special interest and partisan politics” is exactly what Democrats expect their candidates and office holders to do. That is not a “conflict” Randy; that is exactly the philosophy that Frank Church, Cecil Andrus, Ray Rigby, Chick Bilyeu, Bruce Sweeney, John Peavey and so many other Idaho Democrats have preached and practiced throughout the years.

A quick note in response: Grant has (as an update in that Friday post points out) said he isn’t serious about the idea of running as a Republican. The initial Grant comment, as the post also said, came by way of a blog post by Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker; the tenor of his post indicates he didn’t perceive it (at the time) as entirely a joke. Presumably it was less than obvious to the Congressional Quarterly reporter writing in followup about Grant (see also that post), since questioning about it was posed in a serious vein.

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Dec 13 2009

Take the test

Published by under Idaho

Hereby seconding the editorial in today’s Coeur d’Alene Press, suggesting that Americans find out how literate they really are on civic matters.

Developed by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the multiple-choice test covers a range of topics relevant to understanding government, politics, American history and political philosophy. a few of the questions are a little subtle or open to misinterpetation, but a civically-literate person ought to be able to answer the bulk of them without difficulty. The CdA Press editorial writer claimed a score of 88.7%. (Your scribe scored 100%, answering all 33 questions correctly.)

The editorial went on to say: “more than 70 percent of the people taking the test fail it, with scores of 59.9 percent or lower. According to Intercollegiate Studies Institute: Fewer than half of all Americans can name the three branches of government. Only 54 percent of college graduates can correctly identify a basic description of the free enterprise system. Almost a third of elected officials do not know that ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ are the inalienable rights referenced in the Declaration of Independence. Folks, we’ve got some work to do.”

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Dec 12 2009

The December Idaho Digest

Published by under Digests,Idaho

ipad

Our December 2009 Idaho Public Affairs Digest is out, with reports on the November local government elections, in Idaho political races (including the rapidly-changing picture in the 1st congressional district), congressional actions and much more. We also take a look at how area businesses are holding up in the recession.

This was not a big month for publication of state rules and regulations. But the usual rundown of important court decisions, federal actions, calendar of upcoming events and much more is in full review.

Interested in subscribing, or seeing a sample copy? (Subscribers also get access to the full archives, a detailed recent history of Idaho month by month, going back to 1999.)

Just send us a mail at [email protected].

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Dec 11 2009

Cold still

Published by under Oregon

river

Ice on the North Fork of the Yamhill River/Linda Watkins

Brr. Water bodies are freezing over, and that’s happening even in places like those west of of the Cascades, where the temperatures aren’t quite as cold as they are farther east.

Cold enough though. With some hopes for relief this weekend.

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