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Posts published in July 2012

“Personhood” misses Oregon ballot

Maybe not so many years ago, Initiative Petitions 22 and 25 might have made the Oregon ballot. But not now, and it evidently wasn't close.

The effort to put these measures - both anti-abortion, one declaring "personhood" for unfertilized eggs and the other sharply limited abortion coverage - on the November 2012 ballot started more than a year ago. A lot of petition signatures (116,284) were needed by July 6 (tomorrow) to achieve ballot status, but then they would have needed many more than that to pass.

A description from a draft ballot title: "Measure guarantees right to life for persons, embryos and fetuses, beginning at fertilization, excluding any person sentenced to death for aggravated murder. Measure prohibits abortion without exception for the woman's health or safety, and certain birth control methods; restricts withdrawal of life support, stem cell research." It would have amended the state constitution, if passed. A description from Planned Parenthood of 22: "This extreme measure could have resulted in outlawing birth control, in vitro fertilization and abortion even in the case of rape and incest.")

This is part of the same national Personhood effort that lost in Mississippi, and has had trouble gaining traction elsewhere.

The curiosity is why the attempt in Oregon. Several other nearby states might yet be more fertile ground.

Rainey: For us, the election’s over

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Sitting here in the shady Southwest Oregon forest, something has recently been pushing its way into my consciousness that seemed implausible at first – if not downright impossible. It’s this: for Oregon, the Northwest and about 40 of the 50 states – the presidential election of 2012 is over. Finished. Kaput.

Many factors point to that conclusion. Presidential candidate polling in our multi-state neighborhood is one indicator. The numbers haven’t changed much in recent months. Not since Romney became the Republican nominee-apparent. Things move a point or two depending on who had a good week – or a bad one. But overall, pretty static.

Another factor has been all those fancy computer projections showing where the races will be won or lost nationally. Oregon and its neighbors have been put into the “red” group or the “blue” group, meaning statistical sampling has shown each state is in the column where polling and past voter trends have put us and the “experts” don’t expect enough of us to change our minds between now and November to be reassigned. I hate that! Though it’s often pretty accurate.

Then there’s the fact the whole shebang will be decided in about eight states where none of us live. And where it’s still up for grabs. That makes us supporting players. We’re irrelevant. So, again, the election is really over for us. Nobody will care when our fat lady sings.

Fourth, seems to me last week’s U.S. Supreme Court upholding the new federal health care law sort of put a cap on it. For those who think that law is a good thing, they’ll line up behind B. Obama ‘cause they don’t want to take a chance of anyone screwing with it. For those opposed, they’ll likely go with M. Romney who has promised to repeal it. He can’t. But that’s what he’s promising.

Finally – and most distressing personally – most Republicans and Democrats seem “locked in” regardless of the real issues beyond health care or, like a lot of Independents, they’re mad at one or the other of the major candidates and seem destined to vote against one by voting for the other. Useless and a poor way to run a democracy. But I’m picking up a lot of that.
Now, you may disagree with all this. After all, that’s your right under the Ridenbaugh Press Reader Contract Agreement. Says it clearly, right there in digital black and white. But, before exercising that option, let’s take this theory of mine one step further. (more…)

Original intent

What did the founders intend for the Constitution to do - what did they intend for it to accomplish?

We don't have to guess. They told us, right at the beginning, in words that should trump any narrow or extreme interpretation of the specific provisions in what followed:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

That's what they had in mind. That's what they intended our government do.

As we move on from Independence Day, ask: How are we doing?

Substitutions

Residents of a good many other states (Washington and Oregon among them) may find startling the way Idaho elected officials can be temporarily replaced - with those temporary unelected replacements holding all the authority of the person actually chosen by the voters to the job. Permanent replacements, on occasion for instance of death or resignation, is standard in most elective settings (Congress too), but temporary fill-ins are unusual.

They could be subject to abuse: Want to give a prominent (or wealthy) supporter a thrill, and let them cast some votes on legislation? It could be arranged, through nomination by the legislator (and a typical rubber stamp by the governor) ...

No accusations here that it has happened, at least not in that way. Usually when substitutes are brought in, they're for legislators during part of a three-month legislative session, most often in case of an elected official's illness - though sometimes other reasons for absence crop up. And sometimes they've come into question. There's been at least one instance, some years back, of an elected legislator who fell ill shortly after election, and his unelected brother served nearly his entire term for him.

This comes up because the legislature is almost always where substitutes are named, but it actually happened this week (for the first time in decades) in the case of a statewide office.

It's a clear-cut instance, and all the elements seem reasonable enough. Donna Jones is the state controller. On May 25 she was in a motor vehicle rollover near Rupert, and seriously injured. She's recovering, but it's taking substantial time and therapy, and it may be a while before she can get back to the office on a regular basis. So she asked Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter to name her chief deputy, Brandon Woolf, as substitute controller, which would give him authority to keep the wheels turning at the office and provide a vote on the land board, until she's well enough to get back to work. And Otter did that this week.

This approach seems, at least done in this way, a reasonable method of keeping operations afloat. Is it something other states might consider - and if so, under what conditions?

Carlson: Guns and the 4th

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The election earlier this month of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s former aide, Ron Barber, (who was also wounded in the tragic shooting) to her seat in Congress undoubtedly spawned another round of editorials calling for tougher gun control laws. Most, one suspects, will draw the incorrect conclusion about her tragic shooting during a town hall listening session outside a Tucson supermarket in which six people died.

Some no doubt will cite recent FBI generated data which purports to show approximately 1.5 million Americans (This number seems high.) acquired handguns in December 2011.

Then will come the litany of senseless gun deaths this past year. No one can or should ignore recent gun crimes throughout the region - from the park ranger’s death in Mt. Rainier National Park, to the University of Idaho professor’s shooting of a student, to police officer shootings in Utah and Spokane.

Too many editorialists insinuate, though, that increased gun ownership statistics indicate a failing of the system here in America. They wrongly conclude more guns in the hands of more people is a given “bad thing” in light of the acts of a few obviously mentally unstable individuals. It is a classic false syllogism.

It is also disingenuous to imply increased handgun ownership correlates with an increase annually in gun violence. Such pundits ignore the overwhelmingly positive statistic that can also be extrapolated from that FBI data - there are 1.5 million new handguns acquired by responsible individuals who did not use them for violence or mayhem.

Personal responsibility and the right to defend oneself aren’t sexy stories, however. In the wake of violent crime in which a firearm is used, it is easier for some to bemoan gun violence and call for increased gun control. The media’s group think attack on the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law has been sad to watch given how unbalanced the reporting has been.

Others also complain about the National Rifle Association’s influence at the legislative level while ignoring the fact that the NRA and its legislative arm, the NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action), are hugely well-funded primarily because responsible gun-owners feel this organization is their only hope for the strict legislative defense of the individual’s right to keep and bear arms. (more…)

In Idaho, the health fight begins

idahocolumnn

Probably no state in the union than Idaho has been more officially aligned against the Affordable Care Act. Now it is going to have to decide what it will do about its terms.

The court challenge, turned aside (in general) by the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, likely means the law’s provisions mostly will stand. The one major unpopular part of the law, the insurance mandate, will be defended to the death by the insurance lobby. And most of the the other pieces, such as such as the ban on pre-existing condition denials, payments in the donut hole and extensions of parental policies to twenty-something children, among others, separately will be be politically hard to reverse.

Thursday’s decision, widely unexpected (the online inTrade site ran at 73% predicting a mandate overturn minutes before the decision was announced), is a real head-snapper in Idaho, where officials like Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, the congressional delegation and legislative leaders have routinely described it and the whole law as unconstitutional. Otter’s official website even has a whole page with numerous links headlined “Fighting Obamacare,” wherein labeled “unconstitutional.” (Will that be edited?) Idaho is in a category distinct from many other states, including Washington and Oregon, where officials have moved to establish health insurance exchanges and take other actions.

Idaho may even lead its pack. In 2010 the Idaho Legislature was first in the nation to vote for a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Soon after, legislators gave serious consideration to what amounted to nullification (Idaho was among about a dozen states where that idea was pursued seriously) – an effort blocked by a narrow vote of a Senate committee (one of whose opposition Republicans, John McGee, won’t be back). Legislators held off partly on the theory that the law would be thrown out by the Supreme Court. In April 2010 Otter issued an executive order which, his news release said, “directs State agencies not to establish new programs, promulgate rules or accept federal funding to implement Obamacare. It also bars State agencies from assisting federal agencies in implementing the law.”

And now?

Get ready for battle. The two top state Senate Republican leaders, President pro tem Brent Hill and Majority Leader Bart Davis, were among the critics of the nullification legislation; don’t be surprised if both are challenged. Nullification legislation will be back, whoever is in the White House next January.

While the Supreme Court said that states can opt out of the law’s Medicaid expansion without costing them all Medicaid payments, it still allowed substantial penalty in new funds. Will the Idaho Legislature write it off?

There is an aspect to the law Otter did support (in a different fashion) putting in place: The exchange of private health insurance plans. That was derailed by the legislature; now, budget committee Co-Chair Dean Cameron said after the decision, “Unfortunately, if (Republicans) do not win the presidential election or are able to take over Congress – both the House and Senate – it leaves Idaho completely behind the eight-ball.”
One of the biggest questions remaining: Will the 19 percent of Idahoans, about 294,000 of the state’s citizens, along with the many hundreds of thousands of others left behind in the health care system America has had, be forgotten in the battle over ideology?