Archive for January, 2012

Jan 18 2012

Carlson: Peak v. Hitchens

Published by under Carlson

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Kathleen Parker is one of the finest syndicated columnists writing today. Thoughtful, analytical, practical, non-ideological, she offers an always insightful and informative perspective. Recently she wrote a sensitive, moving eulogy on the passing of Christopher Hitchens, the talented, prolific, iconoclastic English writer who died at age 62 from esophageal cancer.

The literary cognoscenti of the English-speaking world universally mourned his loss. His last book, a voluminous collection of essays on an incredibly broad range of subjects, was listed at year’s end by the New York Times Book Review editors as one of the ten best “must read” books for 2011.

Hitchens could clearly be a charming personality. Never having met him, like many one lets the view of another we respect influence our own. In the case of Hitchens, though, there is cause for pause, and ample reason for the Kathleen Parkers to separate image from the real person.

Hitchens was obviously a gifted writer. One might even say he was blessed with God-given talent, except he was a militant atheist and would be highly offended. For many his in your face militancy made him an unpleasant person.

Kathleen Parker will never meet Joe Peak. It’s a shame because he too is an iconoclastic, one of a kind character. For years Joe has operated a well-known watering hole a few miles off of I-90 up the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River, a former bordello called the Snake Pit. Full of ambience and odd historical relics, as well as Joe and wife Rose Mary, it has been a must stop for years for thousands of fly fishermen seeking a burger and an adult beverage, along with advice on where to find the wily cutthroat. Continue Reading »

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Jan 17 2012

Supporting the SOPA/PIPA strike

Published by under website

This site has opted not to be among those striking in protest over the SOPA and PIPA measures in Congress; we chose to explain our view here instead. But we do strongly support the effort, and agree that those two measures – billed as anti-piracy but carrying a prospective reach much broader and much more dangerous – must be stopped.

Some of the leading figures in working to stop these measures do come from the Northwest, including Senators Ron Wyden – one of the first to stand up on it, bring national visibility to it, and the prime backer of a filibuster-if-necessary – and Maria Cantwell. Most members of the Northwest delegation haven’t yet made a clear statement of support or opposition to the bills. A request from here: Urge them to oppose the bills, and soon.

A good but simple introduction to the problems involved is available. The strike’s page is online (at last check).

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Jan 17 2012

WA Bill of the day: House Bill 3563

Published by under Washington

So far 26 Washington House members (all Democrats to date) have signed on with House Bill 2463, which would impose a capital gains tax – but with a twist: Just capital gains over $10,000, amounts below that being exempted.

Washington doesn’t have a capital gains tax at all, which sets it out from the other Northwest states – Oregon has an upper bracket at 11% (high nationally) and Idaho at 7.8%. It’s generally tied (as in those states) to income taxes, and since Washington has no income tax, there’s no capital gains tax.

Except that this bill would add one specifically. The Washington Budget and Policy Center, which supports the bill, offers this case for it:

Capital gains are the profits people accrue from selling stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets. The proposal would create a new 5 percent excise tax on capital gains above $10,000 per year ($5,000 for single filers).
The proposal does not tax all capital gains. The first $10,000 of anyone’s yearly capital gains would be exempt from the tax. The profit from the sale of anyone’s primary residence also would be exempt.
Under the proposal, for 97 percent of Washington households there would be no tax increase at all. In fact, the richest one percent get three-quarters of all capital gains generated in the United States (see graph below).
This tax on profits from high-end financial transactions wouldn’t affect retirement savings, the sale of farmland, charitable giving, or assets left to family members as part of a will.
The idea of taxing capital gains is not new: 42 states have already figured out that capital gains are a revenue resource that makes sense. Oregon taxes capital gains at 11 percent and in Idaho the rate is 7.8 percent.

There will be a big fight, and the odds are against it. But since the day of taxes-are-off-the-table seems to be ending, it may get more of a hearing than usual.

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Jan 17 2012

ID Bill of the Day: House Bill 370

Published by under Uncategorized

Trail
Tom Trail

The Idaho medical marijuana bill has been introduced, by Representative Tom Trail, as he had said last year he would do. House Bill 370 does not have much chance of passage, or of clearing its first committee vote – if it gets one. (If it does, we’ll be curious to see who else votes for it.)

Proposals along these lines, or further down them, have either become law in Washington and Oregon or have been strongly discussed for years. Outright state legalization (which still wouldn’t mean federal legalization) is likely on the Washington ballot this year. But the subject has gotten no traction in Idaho.

How little traction? For some years, Trail has proposed (last year, along with Representative Brian Cronin, D-Boise) resolutions backing legalization of industrial hemp. Though biologically related to marijuana, it cannot be used to get high: Its uses are industrial, and many. It could be a major crop in Idaho, as Trail has noted. Many of the founding fathers, including George Washington, grew it. But last year it failed in the House Agriculture Committee.

Still, the rationale language in the new medical marijuana bill is strong: “Compassion dictates that a distinction be made between medical and nonmedical uses of marijuana. Hence, the purpose of this chapter is to protect from arrest, prosecution, property forfeiture, and criminal and other penalties those patients who use marijuana to alleviate suffering from debilitating medical conditions, as well as their physicians, primary caregivers and those who are authorized to produce marijuana for medical purposes.”

We’ll see how far compassion gets this bill.

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Jan 16 2012

WA Bill of the Day: Senate Memorial 8013

Published by under Washington

Among the more obscure enthusiasms of much of the Tea Party and some of its acolytes (including freshman Idaho Representative Raul Labrador) is the repeal of the 17th amendment: The one providing that U.S. senators be elected directly by the voters of each state, rather than by state legislatures, as had been the scandal-ridden procedure until about a century ago. Various Republican Party organizations have signed on to the idea as well.

Not a lot of attempt has been made to offer a public justification for taking away popular votes on senators. When the question was raised, the main response was along the lines of: It’s not really a major priority; it’ll never happen; move along, nothing to see here.

Cut to the Washington Senate today, where Senate Joint Memorial 8013 has been introduced by Senator Val Stevens, R-Arlington. The memorial proposes amending the U.S. constitution the subject of choosing and removing senators:

Section 1. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, selected by the legislature of each State. Each Senator shall serve a six-year term and may be reappointed. Each Senator shall have one vote.
Section 2. Senators are subject to removal by the State Legislature. Removal of a Senator requires a majority of each House of the State Legislature.

So there it is: A formal proposal in a state legislature asking that the people no longer be allowed to vote for their senators. By all means read through this, affording as it does a fuller explication for the change. Among the bedrock thoughts underlying it: that “peculiar care and judgment” would be given to selection of senators by state legislators, as opposed to the voters; that “A Senator’s general responsibility is to represent state government and the State Legislature” as opposed to the people of the state; and that “The Legislature of the State of Washington finds and declares to be defective the current process of electing United States Senators” – in other words, the voters – the same people who selected the state legislators – are defective.

With such rationale, the measure isn’t likely to go far. And Stevens is well to the right even within the Senate Republican caucus – she’d probably have trouble getting most of them to go along. (A notable line from one of her fundraising letters: “Are the homosexuals finally going to take control of our culture and push their depraved lifestyle on our children and families?”)

But is the 17th repealer just a chimera? Not any more it isn’t.

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Jan 16 2012

This household has voted

Published by under Oregon

Our household, which is located in the Oregon 1st congressional district, has voted in that race – the first general election congressional race this year in the country.

It was a fast process. The ballot area only occupied a small part of one sheet of paper, since there was only one contest on it. Ten seconds to make sure the rectangle was blacked in, and that was it.

Deadline: The 31st.

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Jan 15 2012

Stance, Citizens United, and other things

Published by under Rainey,website

Thanks to John Runft, for offering in a comment the opportunity to address a few items – widely various, but still – worth noting all at once.

His comment, first, came in response to a post by blogger Barrett Rainey, “American democracy is drowning in a sea of money,” critical of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and its effects on politics. Runft, who is a Boise attorney long active in Idaho politics, took issue with Rainey:

In re Barrett Rainey’s “American Democracy is Drowning in a Sea of Money, let me suggest that the solution is not to blame SCOTUS’s decision Citzens United and call for more repressive regulations. The decision is sound and complies with your above “Our Stance” # 7 regarding freedom. As you imply in # 7, the corollary to freedom is responsibility. The rationale of the decision is correct, as the Court explained, on grounds of individual freedom. Now, the next step which appertains to individual responsibility needs to take place to create the balance reflected in # 7. That next step could possibly be accomplished by bringing suit against one of the PACs on the ground that it cannot qualify for immunity, because of its inherent anonymity, as a “public persona” under the N.Y. Times v,. Sullivan doctrine. Subjecting the PACs and their contributors liability for their slanders will solve much of the problem (similar to Great Britain where there is no N.Y. Times v,. Sullivan doctrine – although there are other problems in the reverse in G.B). Regrets for the foregoing ” 30 sec. shorthand.” John L. Runft

Three points here. Continue Reading »

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Jan 14 2012

WA Bill of the day: House Bill 2500

Published by under Washington

initiative

I-502 co-sponsor Salvador Mungia addresses the media while pro-502 campaign director Alison Holcomb (left) and Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (middle) listen. I-502 opponents hold signs in the background. (Photo/Washington Secretary of State)

Here’s a hot procedural fight in the making: House Bill 2500, introduced by 10 House Democrats, is intended to put a leash on the initiative process. It’s as in-your-face as anything likely to hit big in the session.

The rationale is laid out in section one: “The legislature recognizes and supports the constitutional right of the people to pass laws through the initiative and referendum process. However in recent years, corporations have hijacked the initiative process to advance their special interests. The total dollar amount raised for initiatives between 2001 and 2010 averaged nine million eight hundred thousand dollars per year. In 2010, the total amount of money raised for initiatives was sixty million dollars, and in 2011 that total was forty-one million dollars. A single corporation contributed over twenty-two million dollars to support Initiative Measure No. 1183. Less than one thousand dollars for that same initiative was received from individuals. Therefore, the legislature intends to return the initiative process to the people by setting a contribution limit for ballot measure committees.”

And how? In section two:

“No person may make a contribution to a political committee formed to support or oppose a ballot proposition in excess of one thousand six hundred dollars in the aggregate in a calendar year. No political committee formed to support or oppose a ballot proposition may accept a contribution from any person in excess of one thousand six hundred dollars in the aggregate in a calendar year.”

They must not have enough Tim Eyman down at the statehouse; they’ll certainly have enough when this hits the road. But it may provide the opportunity for a useful question for him: How well would he fare getting his initiatives on ballot and passed without sugar daddy help, relying entirely on the network of supporters he does have around the state? No automatic answer to that question offered here.

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Jan 14 2012

ID Bill of the day: House Bill 362

Published by under Idaho

Presumably a cost-saving measure, House Bill 362 is apt to be something reviewed again in a year’s time, given the trajectory of the U.S. Post Office.

The bill concerns the sending of certain legal notices – “notices of deficiency determination and notices of levy and distraints” – which traditionally have been sent by certified mail; the bill would allow for use of first-class mail instead. The bill sunsets after a year, so it would have to be revisited in any case.

But especially because of what’s happening to first-class mail as we have known it.

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Jan 13 2012

The Koch ratings

Americans for Prosperity – a group founded (inter-shell) by the hard-right Koch brothers, and highly active in support of Tea Party activities – has released its list of approval and disdain of members of Congress.

Whatever your view, it can be considered indicative: You may consider an A or an F from these guys a badge of honor, but it does give you a realistic idea of who the new hard right really likes and really doesn’t, and in relative terms. There are no low-graded Republicans, or high-graded Democrats.

Here’s the Northwest results (from their results page):

A+ – Representative Raul Labrador, R-Idaho (the only Northwesterner with a “lifetime” A+, though the fact that he’s in his first term helps some); Senator Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

A – Senator Jim Risch, R-Idaho

B – Representative Doc Hastings, R-Washington; Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington; Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington.

C – Representative Mike Simpson, R-Idaho; Representative Greg Walden, R-Oregon; Representative Dave Reichert, R-Washington.

D – Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon; Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington; Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington; Representative Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon; Representative Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon; Representative Rick Larsen, D-Washington.

F – Representative Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Representative Norm Dicks, D-Washington; Representative Jim McDermott, D-Washington; Representative Adam Smith, D-Washington; Former Oregon Representative David Wu.

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Jan 12 2012

ID Bill of the Day: House Bill 359

Published by under Idaho

If you’re moving to Idaho, put this on your to-do list: If you’re planning to buy a car pre-move, do it more than 90 days before you hit the state line. Explanation in a moment.

House Bill 359 is, in itself, not especially noteworthy. It comes from the state Tax Commission – ordinarily the source of a number of bills during the legislative session. This one, its statement of purpose says, would “allow non-resident students, temporarily residing in Idaho, an exemption from use tax for vehicles registered in their home state.”

Noted here not because there’s anything wrong with that, but because few such out of state students probably would have thought of owing the use tax on their car to begin with. The use tax, which most sales tax states have on their books, is an obscure cousin tax meant to levy taxes on things the sales tax doesn’t get. Live in Nampa and troop over the state line to Ontario to buy a household appliance or even a magazine in hopes of avoiding the sales tax in Idaho? Sorry, you’re now on the hook (legally at least) for the use tax. Not that the number of honest use tax payees in Idaho (or elsewhere) is necessarily all that large. (As former Idahoans, we’ll take the 5th.)

If you bring a car into the state, though, there’s another consideration. Presuming you’re going to stay in the state long enough to establish residency, you have to register your car. Suppose you bought it in another state? That fact will be placed in front of registration officials as soon as you produce the title. Do you owe the state a 6% ding?

The answer is, maybe. The Tax Commission points to state law (it’s in Idaho Code 63-3621) in drawing the bright line. If you bought the car more than 90 days before moving to Idaho, it’s presumed to be personal property, not purchased basically for use in Idaho, and exempt from the use tax. If you bought it within 90 days before coming to Idaho, you probably owe the tax.

A point maybe specially relevant to incoming college students.

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Jan 12 2012

WA Bill of the Day: HB 2382

Published by under Washington

gun

In case of crisis, in case of emergency, who’s in charge?

That could be the debatable question inherent in House Bill 2382, introduced by Washington Representatives Jim McCune, R-Graham, Jason Overstreet, R-Blaine, Matt Shea, R-Mead, Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, John Ahern, R-Spokane, and Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick.

The bill concerns state authority in times of emergency, and its main section amends the section of state law concerning the governor’s emergency authority. Specifically, it strikes the governor’s ability to prohibit “The possession of firearms or any other deadly weapon by a person (other than a law enforcement officer) in a place other than that person’s place of residence or business.”

And it says that “During the continuance of any state of emergency, neither the governor nor any governmental entity or political subdivision of the state shall impose any restriction on the possession, transfer, sale, transport, storage, display, or use of firearms or ammunition that is otherwise authorized or guaranteed by law.”

Quite a limitation on emergency authority here (and remember, we’re talking here about emergency situations). Let’s say some major natural disaster has occurred, and the governor calls out the national guard to help deal with it. And the guard proceeds to the hard hit area, and encounters roving groups of armed people, all of whom have their own ideas about who and what is in charge … And they are without authority (since the governor is) to tell them to put their weapons down …

You craft a nifty dystopian novel out of this one.

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Jan 11 2012

WA bill of the day: SB 6061

Published by under Washington

People who do lawmaking know after a while how important process is. You can do the same thing in different ways, and it can have drastically different effects.

In Washington, where the sales tax is relatively high statewide (with some local add-ons as well), there is a limited exemption on the sales tax to non-residents. Only residents of certain areas qualify: Oregonians do but Idahoans do not, because it applies only to jurisdictions that do not themselves impose sales taxes. At their discretion, retailers can make exempt sales, but do not have to. (A lot of Vancouver residents make them to Oregonians, for example.)

That exemption has been a matter of just not paying when you buy. But that may change if Senate Bill 6061, introduced today by Senators Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, and Ed Murray, R-Seattle, is passed. Technically, it keeps the exemption in place, but requires that it be imposed at the time of sale. The buyer would then write to the state and ask for a refund.

Think in terms of that $50 rebate you can send for when you buy a electronic item. Maybe you forget about it, or lose the paper – generally what the manufacturer hopes will happen. Now, the state of Washington will be hoping for the same thing.

The exemption, of course, was sought by border retailers who didn’t want to be too severely disadvantaged (especially by Oregon). Wonder how they’ll react to this?

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Jan 11 2012

ID bill of the day: HB 354

Published by under Idaho

Bill of the day is regular short highlight of a new legislative measure – some good, some bad, others just interesting.

The first new substantive bill of the Idaho 2012 session, HB 354, by Representative Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, is not likely to go far. You might think it would if you focus on the part of the sales tax reduction. But then you realize the negative pile-on when that is paid for by extending the sales tax to a bunch of goods and services currently exempted.

What’s notable is the list of goods and services exempted – and this is just the list needed to make up for the tax reduction by a penny or so: “eliminates ten exemptions (broadcast equipment, commercial aircraft, railroad rolling stock and remanufacturing, driver’s education automobiles, trade in value, ski lifts and snow grooming equipment, heating materials, utility sales, precious metal bullion, and telecommunications equipment), and extends sales tax to nine categories of services (professional, personal, business, construction, transportation, repairs, lottery and pari-mutual betting, media measurement, and miscellaneous).”

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Jan 11 2012

Carlson: Behind the Kroc Center

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The first invitation to tour the Kroc Center was tendered by long-time friend Sandy Patano. I have worked with her on a number of issues for more years than either would want to acknowledge. The former state director for Senator Larry Craig, Ms. Patano was the one indispensable aide and a key reason why he served as long as he did.

She made sure the state offices diligently worked to solve constituent problems, regardless of one’s political affiliation, while also keeping a sharp eye on Republican political machinations. Always a class act guided by a keen mind, common sense, solid character and an infectious laugh, many felt the First District congressional seat could have been hers for the asking when Butch Otter vacated the post to run for governor in 2006.

Since the Senator’s retirement she has kept busy in local and state affairs serving on boards and engaging in some consulting. One of her pet projects was bringing her considerable talents to help secure the Kroc Center for Coeur d’Alene. She rightly feels that the almost $1 million pledge by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe was the critical component to the community winning the facility. I have no argument with her view.

She, like the Salvation Army’s Major John Chamness (who tendered an invite to tour in a response column in the Coeur d’Alene Press) felt that my column cast an inappropriate and unfair cloud on the Kroc Center. I implied it was not a qualifying recipient for the 5 percent “give back” funds gaming tribes committed to provide as a quid pro quo for Idaho approving Indian gaming by initiative in 1992.

The tour on January 10th was indeed interesting and informative. The Salvation Army clearly does conduct a variety of educational offerings, as Major Chamness said, “from health education to swim instruction, and the Kroc Center also provides more traditional educational programs in line with more traditional instruction.” Continue Reading »

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