Up to this point, the effort to end flat criminalization of marijuana – as opposed to the idea of legalizing, tax and regulating it possibly along the lines of alcohol – has gotten support from occasional politicians, of both parties at various times. But the breadth of support has been limited. It takes broad support to make a major change.

Which makes this of interest: The Washington Democratic Party has gone on record endorsing such a measure: Backing Initiative 502, to legalize, tax and regulate.

That action was taken by the Washington State Democratic Central Committee voted 75-43 on Saturday afternoon. Will be interesting to see what a number of Democratic officeholders in the state, most of whom have not gotten on board the idea, will have to say about it. But you do in any event get the sense that, politically, a corner is being turned.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

There was some hullabaloo a couple months back about the possible establishment of a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) near the Boise Airport with the People’s Republic of China.

Some members of Idaho’s Republican right wing immediately smelled a plot. Conservative Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter was accused of selling off Idaho to the “Reds.” Resolutions condemning the FTZ were passed in several counties by GOP central committees. Obsequious legislators promised to introduce legislation prohibiting such heinous activity.

The media had a fine time ridiculing this paranoia by the philosophical descendents of the John Birch Society. Proponents were likened to the all-time champion communist hunting senator from Wisconsin, Joseph A. McCarthy, and his cohort in the Senate, Herman Welker, mockingly known as “Little Joe from Idaho.”

As is the case, though, beneath the hullabaloo, an element of truth is present. After all, Senators McCarthy and Welker were partially correct – there were card-carrying members of the American Communist Party working in the State Department and sympathizers in Hollywood. The issue was the excessive abuse of one’s civil liberties the witch-hunting senators applied in their zeal to save America from the threat of take over from within.

The element of truth lingering beneath the surface of this latest manifestation of a commie under every bed is the fact that the Chinese are well on their way to achieving a super power role and becoming the world’s dominant power by the end of this century. To say this is not to be paranoid. The factual evidence is already present.

Say what one wants, but the Chinese are executing a 50-year plan that will see their economy replacing ours as the world’s largest. As most military experts will testify, it is economic might that underlies true military strength, and the Chinese appear to have divined that the key to both economic and military might is controlling the production and ownership of the so-called rare earth minerals critical to the further development of technological aids in the world of computers and advanced electronics.

Statistics published by the National Mining Association indicate the Chinese already own or have a dominant position in firms controlling 96 percent of the world’s production of rare earth minerals. Some argue this reflects the realities of the demands of China’s expanding economy and is not a consequence of any strategy to dominate the future. Rather it is a necessity. Perhaps.

Idaho is a player on the chessboard of world geo-politics also, though not because of the possible establishment of a free trade zone.

To their credit Governor Otter, Senators Crapo and Risch, and Second District Congressman Mike Simpson have been strong supporters of the development by Vancouver-based Formation Metals of a new cobalt mine some 40 miles west of Salmon.

While not a rare earth metal, it was for some years a strategic metal. The government maintained stockpiles for emergencies. It is still a critical metal vital to a variety of application from medical uses to important defense uses. Despite the pledges of the owners to develop and operate the mine and the metal processing in a safe and environmentally compatible manner, and even with the support of the Idaho Conservation League, it still took over 15 years to obtain the necessary permits.

When the project is running next year it will be the only primaru cobalt mine in the western hemisphere. And don’t think the Chinese are not aware of it. Some analysts worry that if the present owners were to decide to sell there could be an interesting bidding war among some of the world’s major minerals companies. A wary eye would be needed to discern whether China wasn’t a possible silent partner in someone’s bid.

Idaho is also home to what some analysts consider to be an excellent rare earth mine site, but it is on Lemhi Pass, where Lewis and Clark first entered Idaho. Of the 17 elements considered rare earths most are present at this site, but one of them, thorium, is a radioactive element which would complicate the permitting process. Besides the federal land agency involved (the US Forest Service), as well as the various state agencies in Idaho and Montana, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would be a player.

The sad complicating reality is America’s planners, as well as its corporate investors, think only of short-term returns, rather than the longer term that prevails in Chinese thinking.

To really understand what our nation is up against one should read Simon Winchester’s excellent book, “The Man Who Loved China.” It is the fascinating story of a true card-carrying British communist/socialist, Joseph Needham, a brilliant scientist and freethinking intellectual who basically proved that just about every significant thing ever invented by mankind was invented first in China often a good thousand years before it was invented in the west. The book’s appendix lists the major ones and it is simply stunning.

The book ends with the author visiting Jiuquan, the site of China’s super-secret space center, the place where the People’s Liberation Army has perfected its ICBM’s, placed with flawless launch after flawless launch dozens of satellites in space (including possible killer satellites), and sent its own men into space.

There is a huge billboard as one approaches the town near the site. In both bold Chinese and English letters the sign simply says: “Without Haste, Without Fear, We Conquer the World!”

What’s that old weather saying about “Red sun in the morning, sailor take warning”?

A native of Kellogg, a former teacher at Kootenai, and a former journalist, Chris Carlson served as press secretary to former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus for ten years. He is the founding partner of the Gallatin Group, is now retired and he and his wife, Marcia, reside at Medimont.

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This morning’s reports on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s energetic talk at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was all about Microsoft’s future, which sounds from this distance to be very much a work in progress.

What sounded very much like a keynote line: “If Windows 8 is Windows re-imagined, we’re also in the process of re-imagining Microsoft.”

The catch is that Windows 8, many details of which have been circulating for a while now, sounds a little problematic. It is understandably aimed at new technology – intended to be much more tablet and mobile device-friendly – but it seems to be caught betwixt. Windows as an OS aimed specifically at desktop/laptop computers has had a coherence, but one spread among too many uses seems kinf of scattered, with pieces more useful for some places than for others.

Is that the Microsoft to come? Or just another of tech’s hairpin cruves?

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Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has issued his order asking the party leaders in the Idaho Legislature, and the state Republican and Democratic chairs, to name new members to the Idaho Redistricting Commission, the six previous members being ineligible for a rerun.

A new meeting might occur, and the process resume, late in the month.

It might be a creative interpretation of the law (snd probably impermissible, in truth, since he’s an elective officeholder), but consider this – suppose all six appointers name the same person to the commission: Ben Ysursa. Or all six new members simply agreed, sight unseen, to pass whatever Ysursa came up with.

The idea of Ysursa drawing the map has been circulating around. Boise consultant Marc Johnson blogged on it a few days ago. I’ve spoken with some Republicans and some Democrats about it, and all gave the idea a thumbs up. Ysursa is a nearly unique quality: He’s a Republican, but people in both parties, broadly, say they would trust him to do an honest job fair to both sides. After decades of much praise and remarkably scant criticism (from either party) in overseeing Idaho elections, that comes as no surprise.

It goes with the type of person Ysursa is, however, that he almost certainly will want nothing to do with the idea …

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Political news in the last few years has been full of reports, nationally, about how far to the right state (and the national) Republican parties have been moving, many taking on messages tht heavily overlap Tea Party and similar groups.

But … not in Oregon. This year’s Oregon legislative session, when Republicans could have (if they’d followed the trend in some other places) brought work to a halt and locked Salem into furious trench warfare, emerged as something different and in the national context unusual: Cooperative, productive, often centrist-looking.

Was that a fluke, and a repulse of the state party organization? Last weekend suggests not. The state Republican central committee met in Bend, and revised their party platform, generally leftward.

The Oregonian reported, “Wording that essentially condemned same-sex marriage and civil unions, and that stated such couples were unfit to be parents, was removed from the official party platform during a weekend convention in Bend. “We want the public to take another look at the Republican Party and our policies,” said Greg Leo, spokesman for the state party. “It’s fair to say we’re more centrist.” ”

The question arose about how a larger group of active Republicans will respond to that next year. And, of course, other Oregonians as well.

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Everyone laughed when someone asked, during the Washington Redistricting Commission‘s press conference period after the formal meeting today, where Dennis Kucinich’s congressional district was. (In Ohio, someone suggested.)

And Democrat Tim Ceis spoke up to agree with Republican (former Senator) Slade Gorton to say that their maps of congressional districts are really a lot more similar than many people probably assume.

All that said, the Washington remap group, which released its individual-member (four of them) individual maps today, clearly has a lot of work ahead of it.

There is, for example, the matter of majority-minority congressional districts – districts in which minorities actually make up most of the voting population. The Republicans on the panel, as one reporter noted, seem to be a lot more interested in creating maj-min congressional districts than the Democrats were. Which on its surface sounds a little counterintuitive.

Or not. Put aside Gorton’s contention that this simply represents communities of interest compact sizes; it also means that more Democrats are bunched together into fewer districts, giving Republicans more of a chance in the districts that remain. Republicans currently have four of nine U.S. House districts; one issue is whether the new map gives them an edge in winning five or more.

Key in this will be how Olympia is deployed within the new district structure, how King County is split and where – not if – one or two districts jump the Cascade Mountains. (Population considerations are going to make at least one trans-Cascades district highly likely.

The current District 8, closely balanced between the parties but long held by Republicans (now Dave Reichert) and also the mot overpopulated of the state’s nine districts, might become “slightly less marginal” – that is, more Republican, Gorton said. Ceis, a Democratic commission member, said thst he’s seen plans in which that area’s district has a largest city of Issaquah, and second-largest of Wenatchee. Most plans do, however, have something like a new District 3 that’s “more Cowlitz-Clark centered.”

Then there’s the proposed district that takes in the San Juan Islands in the far northwest, and Chelan on the east side of the Cascades. Asked to justify that linkup, Gorton said “they’re both rural, not metro Puget Sound,” and unique San Juan County is almost inevitably going to be lumped in with areas unlike it. Didn’t sound like a sale among the Democrats, though.

There were issues among the legislative districts as well. Spokane Spokesman-Review reporter Jim Cmden said that a look at the three Spokane-area districts in one Republican plan suggested all three would be Republican districts, compared to the one-D, one-R, one-competitive mix at present. (He was told the Republicans saw them as “three competitive districts.” Probably no sale among the Democrats there, either.)

The next meeting, and some of the hardest negotiations, will come October 11.

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One of the usually-obscure state agency rules changes in Idaho last week concerns something that could be of life-altering concern to some Idahoans: The rules covering external review of denials, policies and other details of health insurance provider consumer relations. The changes, many coming at the request of insurers, provide for reviews “to include denials based on appropriateness, health care setting, level of care and effectiveness.”

The reviews mean that when a policy holder has a complaint, an external review can be undertaken to sort out the situation, rather than the highly expensive resort to a lawsuit. This grows out of federal health care law; the general provisions were put in place in Idaho last year, covering policies issue or renewed since the start of 2010. State generally have been doing this; Idaho is among the states which have received a federal approval for its program, run through the state Department of Insurance.

Considering the numbers of complaints people have had about health insurance, one might expect this to be a very busy area. But in Idaho, not so much. Eileen Mundorff, who works on the program, said that in the first calendar year of the program (2010), the department received 13 requests for external review; of those, two company denials were overturned by independent review organizations. So far in 2011 the department has received 22 external review requests, and as of September 8, an estimated $284,821 was recovered for policyholders. Idaho has been approved by the federal government as meeting requirements for external reviews.

Not a lot of requests, though the money recovered when inquiries are undertaken can clearly be substantial.

Oregon, whose insurance division has been tracking all insurance complaints though differently (more comprehensively and for more years) reports in 2010 that there were 912 total complaints and 555 “confirmed complaints.” (Of the 912, Regence BlueCross BlueShield accounted for 162, which may be one reason Northwest stat regulators had a recent sit-down with the firm in Salem recently.)

Similarly, the Washington insurance commissioner’s office reports that for 2010 (as in Oregon, the most recent figures available) health insurance complaints totaled 562 (of which the Washington and Oregon Regence organizations accounted for more than half).

Are these somehow apple and orange comparisons? If not, what accounts for the difference in numbers of complaints? Is there a reason Idahoans are much less inclined to report health insurance complaints?

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Oregon’s allowance of early candidate filing allows for some really early warnings of campaign strangeness to come. The first two days of filing, on Thursday and Friday, were enough to provide one.

Most of the filings (and remember this is the opening of filing – the deadline is many months away) were by incumbent legislators, with a smattering of judges and district attorneys. Just one for Congress, so far. But what a filing it is.

Remember Art Robinson, the Republican candidate for District 4 – against Democratic incumbent Peter DeFazio, from 2010? Well, he’s back for another go-round in 2012.

He gave bloggers and others much to work with in 2010. We reported on him on several occasions (on notable quotes, on education views and a good deal else. His interview – if you can call it that – with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC was something of a classic.

And this time he’s getting an early start.

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grizzly bear

For some weeks now, Idahoans have been hearing howls of anguish in a bvear shooting case – howls from their elected officials, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and the congressional delegation among them. “Many, including me, feel Mr. Hill did what a concerned parent would do. Now, Jeremy and his family must endure the cost of a trial,” Otter remarked last month, after sending a letter to the Obama administration decrying the prosecution. The case became a conservative cause celebre.

What was known at the time essentially was this: A grizzly mother and two cubs had wandered onto Jeremy Hill‘s property at Porthill, and he shot one of them. Shooting an endangered grizzly is against the law, although you’d naturally want to cut some slack to someone acting to defend himself or another person.

Because of that, any useful assessment of Hill’s case needs to turn on the specific details, on exactly what happened. Because the case was in litigation, with possible criminal charges involved, Hill wasn’t saying much publicly – we had little basis for working out the right and wrong. But on Wednesday, he and the feds worked out an agreement. Hill agreed that he violated the Endangered Species Act and paid $1,000 fine, and any criminal case was dropped.

At that point, he released his description of what happened:

After having family over for dinner on Mother’s Day, I was outside at the basketball hoop with four of my children. I went into the house to take a shower. When I finished showering and was getting dressed, my wife, Rachel, looked out the bedroom window and saw three grizzly bears at the edge of our yard, but very close by, standing near a small pen that held the children’s 4-H pigs. The last time I saw my children they were outside. I grabbed a rifle and ran out on the deck. I yelled for the children, but did not hear a response. The bears did not move away from the pen as I was yelling. Fearing for the safety of my children, I shot the bear that was closest to the house. The other two bears ran across part of the lawn and into the brush. The wounded bear followed into the yard, but stopped and turned toward the house. I shot the bear again. About this time, Rachel told me that the children were safe inside the house. The bear I shot was badly wounded, and I believed at that time that it would be very dangerous to leave the bear wounded, possibly posing a threat to others. I also thought the humane thing to do was to put the wounded bear out of its misery.

We do not live in the wilderness. We live in a rural farm community. I have never seen grizzly bears near our home before. I shot the grizzly bear because I was fearful for the safety of my family. I thought I was doing the right thing to protect them. Once I shot the bear, I immediately called Idaho Fish and Game to report the incident.

Impressions will vary. Ours, assuming the accuracy of the story and nothing important left out (the size of yard, the amount of time elapsed), is that Hill was more justified than not. There are gray areas. Since the bears were not near or attacking anyone at the moment, and he was some distance away, presumably he could have waited them out for a few minutes to see if they went away. Or he might have fired a warning shot to see if that would scare them off. That said, he evidently didn’t know quite where his children were (might shooting one have driven the others in his children’s direction?) and – this is critical – grizzlies are extremely unpredictable and dangerous, and fast, and he was inexperienced with dealing with them. All of these points are easier to contemplate at a distance and in hindsight. Might Hill have acted in a way that would have preserved both bears and safety? Maybe. But his actions were certainly not unreasonable either; a danger was clear and present and foraging in his back yard.

Something like the resolution that emerged seems reasonable. Criminal charges might be fitting for someone headed out into the woods to hunt grizzlies, but surely not in a defensive case like this. At the same time, Hill had options, and okaying simply killing grizzlies on sight doesn’t seem right either. The tone of the statements coming out of both sides on Wednesday seemed subdued, and that feels generally appropriate.

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On this day when not one but two lawsuits – both aimed at doing the same thing, which is re-cranking the Idaho redistricting process – were filed at the Idaho Supreme Court, may be a good time to pause and ponder the question of partisan advantage. Just how much partisan advantage were the Republicans and Democrats on the just-disbanded Redistricting Commission really wrangling over?

Prompted in part by a tweet just up this afternoon from John Foster, the one time Walt Minnick campaign manager: “Dear Idaho Redistricting Commission Democrats: Take the ***ing deal! This map is GOOD for you.”

He appeared to be referring to the congressional district plan C38, one of the Republican plans submitted, which creates two U.S. House districts which look a lot like those at present, with the same roster of counties in each district, and with Ada County split just a little differently (a few precincts bumped) to account for population differences.

And why not? Creative proposals were offered that would keep Ada intact – we drafted ad posted one ourselves, before the process even started – but they make no practical sense, butting together vast regions of eastern and northern Idaho that are divided by immense wilderness and mountain areas and historically have had nothing to do with each other. Of course Ada was going to be split; as a practical matter, it’s what has to happen. And given the vast disparities between the two parties, neither Democrats nor Republicans gain a tremendous lot however the line is specifically drawn. Something fairly similar to C38 is almost certain to become law, one way or another.

The legislative plans (which didn’t seem to be Foster’s point) are a different matter. Because Republican majorities in the state are so strong, it would be possible (though it would take some genuine gerrymandering) for Republicans to eliminate Democratic advantages in any of the 35 districts. In their appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, the three Republican commission members touted four of their last legislative proposals: L68, L76, L77 and L82, as having notable merit. Let’s take a look at L82, which was submitted in the commission’s last hour Tuesday afternoon.

Critical to the Democrats are the places where they have been running competitively, if not always winning, in the last few cycles. Those would include: central Coeur d’Alene; Shoshone County; Moscow; Lewiston; the city of Boise; Blaine County; Pocatello; and debatably, central Idaho Falls. The small-population Indian reservations also are Democratic. Democrats would be disadvantaged when these areas are split up, diluted, between districts. Their problem is that these areas generally have not grown as fast as most of the rest of the state, making it harder to avoid dilution.

L82 keeps Shoshone County intact and maintains a central Coeur d’Alene district. It divides Moscow, but links one part of it to Shoshone and the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, and the other part to Lewiston, which generally appears to be maintained intact. In Boise, Democrats have a strong majority in current District 19, which would be maintained in an analogous District 19. Three others (15, 16 and 18 in the proposed plan) could be competitive, which matches to the current three-district-competitive picture in Boise. Democrats could make out unexpectedly well so far under that plan.

Much of the last-minute debate at the commission on Tuesday concerned the eastern Idaho districts, and for good reason: This is where Democrats would have a tougher time. The Blaine County-based district, where for nearly 30 years Democrats have been competitive or (more recently) dominant, would be shaken up, with more conservative territory added to it. A review of the numbers suggests, though, that Democrats still could win there, though the margins would be much closer. And the hottest debate concerns Pocatello, which three decades ago anchored three Democratic districts, then two, currently one and debatably two, and under the new plan … probably one, conceivably two, or maybe none – all the seats in the Bannock County area would be highly competitive. Pocatello itself would be split into three districts.

You can see why that might be a sticking point for the Democrats on the commission. But otherwise, this look at L82 also suggests that the two sides might not be all that far apart – as commission members kept insisting on Tuesday – and that Democrats might no do as badly even under Republican proposals as they might have.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Odds are heavily against it happening soon. Stars would plausibly all have to align perfectly to create a first ever in Idaho politics—the election of a woman as governor.

Looking around the northwest, though, one quickly realizes odds are growing that a qualified female will someday lead even Idaho. Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana and Utah are neighboring northwest states that have had female chief executives.

In Idaho, each party possesses at least one talented, intelligent, articulate, qualified female who, while they might have to be “drafted,” could plausibly run for and win the nomination of their party to be governor, as soon as 2014.

On the Republican side the nominee could be veteran Sandpoint State Senator Shawn Keough. On the Democratic side the nominee could be freshman State Senator Michelle Stennett, from Ketchum.

While there are clear differences between them, they share much in common: both are smart, tough, knowledgeable, non-ideological, pragmatic problem solvers. They share an abiding belief in the importance of education as well as its priority place Idaho’s constitutional writers said it should have.

Senator Keough has an edge in understanding how Idaho’s budget works because of long-standing service on the budget writing Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. Senator Stennett, however, worked closely for many years on legislative and budget matters with her late husband, Clint, who she succeeded upon his death last year.

Keough’s possible candidacy would be more intriguing and surprising for it would throw a major monkey-wrench into the plans of extreme far right Republicans trying to impose ideological purity tests on any who dissent from their views on issues. Even such whacky notions as repealing the amendment that put the election of U.S. Senators in the hands of voters instead of the hands of a Legislature is considered a litmus test in order to call one’s self a Republican.

Both State Senator Keough and neighboring Cocolalla State Senator Joyce Broadsword have been subjected to GOP county party censure resolutions for not being pure enough defenders of right-wing orthodoxy, especially on the issue of education.

Senator Keough’s concerns about proposed Otter/Luna reforms as well as what turned out to be unnecessary cuts in education funding because of political posturing and gamesmanship, could make her candidacy very attractive to the many members of the Republican party, as well as Idaho’s independents, that still support the primacy of adequately funding k-12 education, paying teachers competitive wages and also keeping higher education funding at responsible levels.

While this is all pure speculation, and would be considered at best terribly premature by both (the governorship is not on the ballot until 2014) if either has even given any thought to it, both are astute enough politicians to recognize real obstacles that would stand in the way of such a contest happening.

For Senator Stennett it would be the continuing disarray of the Democratic party itself and its inability to recapture the Cecil Andrus/John Evans formula for attracting enough Republicans and Independents to carry a Democrat into statewide office.

For Senator Keough, she would not only have to withstand a primary challenge sure to come from the right wing in 2012, she would have to hope the “crown prince,” Lt. Governor Brad Little, would be challenged by two hard-core, tea party favorites, and southern Idaho LDS conservatives—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, and First District Congressman Raul Labrador. While there is growing evidence Luna is seriously considering the race, lately some Boise political observers speculate Labrador is also taking a long look at the governorship.

If all three males were to get into the fray, though, it is a safe wager pressure would increase on Senator Keough to take the plunge, especially if the state’s teachers and university educators were to line up in support of her. Then, she could easily emerge from such a fractured primary.

The bigger obstacle though for her may be the effect of Republican Party led changes in Idaho’s primary system. These changes are clearly designed to make party nominees more pure in the eyes of the tea party as well as designed to keep independents from voting in the Republican primary, as well as Democrats from crossing over.

So the stars really will have to line up correctly. It is possible though Idaho could see a rarity of rarities: two highly qualified women leading their party’s ticket in 2014. Idahoans will be the winners regardless of who emerges in such a race, which can’t be said if the GOP selects one of the two possible male candidates who are the only ones that can pass the purity test of the GOP’s wing-nut faction.

A native of Kellogg, a former teacher at Kootenai, and a former journalist, Chris Carlson served as press secretary to former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus for ten years. He is the founding partner of the Gallatin Group, is now retired and he and his wife, Marcia, reside at Medimont.

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“In five minutes, we don’t exist as a commission,” Chair Evan Frasure said. It felt a little surreal, as if an anti-bomb were ticking.

Another motion came up, and then the commissioners voted on C50, a Democratic-backed congressional redistricting plan. It failed on a tied 3-3 vote. (At no point, evidently, did any commissioner from either side break with their party.)

“And we are dissolved here in about three minutes,” Frasure said.

Frasure, who has been probably the most dominant figure on the commission (and was a major figure in the last two reapportionments), said that if the commission is called back by the Idaho Supreme Court, he may not be back, owing to health concerns. He and others said their goodbyes.

And then at 5 p.m. mountain, they turned into a pumpkin. More than two months of effort, review of more than 100 congressional and legislative map proposals (the highest-numbered legislative proposal was 82), came to an end. The commission’s deadline expired. Next, it gets sued for nonperformance, a case that goes to the Idaho Supreme Court.

The need for new congressional and legislative maps will not go away, of course, and now either the Supreme Court will draw its own maps or – more likely – call the commission back for another shot.

It has been an intensive, sometimes emotional and angry, effort. On the last day flashes of anger and accusation cropped up. (Frasure, for example, essentially accused the Democrats of “holding hostage” plans containing only minor differences between the sides.)

In the end, the differences were not enormous, but they were instructive: They seemed to center around those few areas of the state where Democrats are at least somewhat competitive.

A northern Idaho piece of the legislative plan seemed to have won support that was unanimous or nearly so, and did elegantly resolve the Moscow-Lewiston problem: Those two cities traditionally each have, intact, anchored a legislative district, but no longer have the population to do so as they once did. Lines were skillfully drawn keeping Lewiston whole and Moscow nearly so.

But arguments over the lines in Ada County proved less tractable. Democrats were pushing for proposals which would keep Ada County whole (Republicans submitted one that did so, in nine districts), but keeping as many competitive districts as at present is tougher. Democratic Blaine County was a problem area too, as Republicans and Democrats each wanted to match it up with a different collection of nearby Republican counties to form a districts. And the Pocatello area, and the southeast rural areas near it, led to lots of inconclusive back and forth.

The problem, of course, is that any single change reverberates around the rest of the map. Someone winds up getting nailed.

So, next stop: The courts.

ANOTHER THOUGHT So, in Northwest redistricting, we so far have the following results: In Oregon, the legislature produces maps with bipartisan support well ahead of deadline; the Idaho redistricting commission deadlocks on partisan lines and runs out the deadline. Washington’s (commission) up next.

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