Some highly hedged predictions (observations anyway) about Idaho 2013 …
1. As legislators hit the Statehouse, the health insurance exchange urged by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter looks like Topic A. Best guess now is that they pass something that Otter would approve - but make that a highly hedged bet. There'll be plenty of pressure as well to re-up nullification efforts from sessions past; there's a strong never-say-die element. Topic B: A partial Luna Law resurrection.
2. No gun-related legislation this year, other than reaffirming more guns in more places.
3. The 2014 governor's race should take on clearer contours by the end of 2013. By then, incumbent C.L. “Butch” Otter ought to – fellow Republicans will insist - clarify whether he's on the ballot once again. He has said he plans to run, but there are reasons for saying that (political strength, fundraising, etc.) that may not translate to ballot status. A year from now, we should know who the major candidates are and aren't. Note: An Otter candidacy doesn't necessarily preclude a primary challenge.
4. Don't expect other major non-incumbent candidates to surface during the year (unlike most recent off-years). Apart from the governor's race, 2014 isn't looking very exciting in Idaho.
5. But: Better than even odds another fairly high profile ballot issue, on some topic, arises for 2014. Non-conservatives had their biggest statewide win in many a moon in 2012 with the ouster of the three legislative “Luna laws.” There'd be a lot of political sense in going back to the electorate to challenge other things the Idaho Legislature may do next session, whatever those might be.
6. There are no partisan general elections in Idaho in 2013, but cities will be electing. One of the most interesting contests could be in Pocatello, where in 2009 Brian Blad came out of nowhere to defeat incumbent Roger Chase. What kind of opposition will he draw this time? Watch too the city races in Coeur d'Alene, where an emotional ideological battle in 2012led to a (failed) recall effort, and is likely to yield hard-fought, even bitter, races for some of those same offices in 2013.
7. A correspondent points out that in the coming year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals likely will decide whether the Idaho Roadless Rule stands or falls. He suggests: “If it stays it becomes a success story in collaboration with the support of some conservation groups like Trout Unlimited and the Idaho Conservation League. ... If the 9th Circuit strikes it down the victory goes to the Wilderness Society and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition who were hold outs and did not want to work with the state on a state-based rule.” Real poliltical implications could emerge from all that.
8. Looks like a pretty good water year. As 2012 ended, every one of Idaho's water basins had above-average snowpack (the Little Wood River was at 172 percent of normal accumulation). As 2011 ended, most of Idaho's river basins were below-average; the Weiser River area, for example, was at 72 percent.
9. Chances are good that the Snake River Basin Adjudication may actually wrap up this year: As 2012 ends, it's getting close. In the context of big water adjudications, that would be a speedy success.
10. Overall in the change department: Don't expect a lot to shatter the earth. Idaho is not likely to be a great deal different as it approaches 2014.