"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)
rainey BARRETT


A number of my Republican friends – in their cups and glasses since the November drubbing at the hands Democrats and the right wing of their own party – are sobering up nicely and beginning to talk of better days ahead – in 2014. Given what’s been happening – and not happening – inside the GOP since those losses at the polls, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Things don’t look any better for 2014. Or 2016.

In fact, a fine op-ed piece from NPR the other day declared “Forget 2016. Soonest to look for improvements might be 2020!” Given the irrefutable evidence thus far, that might send my GOP friends back to their glasses.
Look at this from two angles. The first is what to expect our national ethnicity will look like by 2020. Director Paul Taylor of Pew Research says today’s white 63% majority will have shrunk to 60%. “Not a loose prediction, he says, “because it’s the statistical future we already know.” Further, according to Taylor, our voting patterns are highly aligned by race. Have been for many years and many elections.

Fact: the white voter pool is draining. Quickly. In 2012, white voters accounted for 220 fewer electoral college votes than just 14 years ago. President Obama took 80% of the non-white vote.

As Hispanics age and parent future generations, fortunes for Democrats look much brighter than the GOP. A 15-year-old Hispanic sophomore high school student today will be a 24-year-old adult in 2020, will have gone through our public school system and, by that time, have either college or work experience. Just look at “red state” Texas where, in two more national elections, Hispanics will be the majority population. Which party would be favored by heritage and education then? Those numbers clearly put Republicans everywhere on the wrong side of what’s coming. What we KNOW is coming.

Ironically, George Bush was on the right track to gain Hispanic support for Republicans in 2005 with prominent Hispanic appointments and outreach programs to reach Hispanic voters. But the Republican party operators – glad to see Bush go and to bury his memory – failed to follow up after he left office and Democrats have been actively making connections.

Now, look at the second angle: what today’s Republicans are doing to catch up. Basically – nothing. Oh, there’s that new bi-partisan immigration bill in the U.S. Senate. But, even if it gets to the floor for a vote – no sure thing – it likely will die there. Or, whatever’s left after House Teapublicans get through with it will be unrecognizable.

Then there are these facts. The National Republican Party this month re-elected a chairman who presided over 2012 losses from coast to coast and a reduction of seats in both Senate and House. Nearly all national GOP officers were re-elected as well. A day or two later, Speaker Boehner pledged ending abortion “is one of our most fundamental goals this year.” Several dozen anti-abortion bills are sitting in Boehner’s own House committees. More than 100 others are in Republican-dominated state legislature’s. Of interest to Hispanic and other immigrants? You bet!

House Budget Chief Paul Ryan has a new impossible federal budget to pay the national debt off in 10 years by – among other draconian measures – savaging Medicaid and Medicare, many of whose clients are Hispanic. In GOP dominated Texas, funding for Planned Parenthood was eliminated in a state where access to women’s health care is most used by – Hispanics. The same Hispanics who will soon be the majority there. Republican-dominated legislatures in six states are trying to change election laws to reduce minority voting and re-jigger electoral college votes to do the same.

Columnist Paul Krugman looking at all this – and much more – summed it up “Their proposals for a (party) makeover all involve changing the sales pitch rather than the product.” I’d add, “Changing deck chairs on the old Titanic again.”

So, here are just two factors working against the Ol’ GOP for upcoming elections. On one hand, they’re actively pursuing a diminishing supply of white voters while ignoring – in every substantive way – irreversible ethnic changes of epic national proportions. And not just Hispanics. On the other, they’re sponsoring whitewash, “feel good” ideas while continuing direct legislative assaults to limit minority voter access to the ballot box and feverishly trying to change historic national campaign rules to undermine the entire electoral process.

If you’re not Black or Hispanic, but words such as “deceitful,” “dishonest,” double-dealing,” “lying,” “cheating,” “uncaring” and more come to your mind because of all this, imagine if you were actually a member of a minority. Imagine the magnification of your feelings if these were your rights under the Republican knife.

Bottom line. If the National Republican Party really hopes to win at the polls anytime soon – anytime in the next 20 years or so – leaders are ignoring the one word of serious change absolutely required to do the job: CULTURE. If the current CULTURE of in-party extremism, playing to a diminishing white voter source while trying to placate a declining membership base of ignorance and confused ideology goes unchanged, perhaps 2020 is too soon to think of GOP gains. Trumped up, feel good legislation is NOT going to buy minority votes. Not while the Party continues efforts to block minority access to voting and other rights of citizenship.

It takes a long time to change an entire culture. It takes even longer to re-establish trust once broken. Where the fortunes of the National Republican Party are concerned, it may be a generation. Or two. Depends on when they stop changing curtains in the window and get around to fixing the problems in the foundation.

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Godwin’s law says that “given enough time, in any online discussion — regardless of topic or scope — someone inevitably makes a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis.” It’s intended as a perjorative: Godwin (an attorney and author) himself said that in structuring the “law” as a mathematical proposition, “I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the Holocaust.”

Case in point today: Idaho state Senator Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, who disagrees with the proposed state health insurance exchange. Her point seems to be that the exchange would be an early step toward elimination of the health insurance companies (which, in truth, many people think might not be a bad idea). There is at least a real policy argument to be had here, but consider the way she put it in a post (expanded) on Twitter:

“Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange. Based on legislation and the general process that is written toward this legislation, the federal government will want nothing to do with private insurance companies. The feds will have a national system of health insurance and they will eliminate the insurance companies.”

Yep: Creating a means, currently unavailable, for customers to be able to compare health insurance policies, is just exactly like torturing and killing millions of Jews in concentration camps.

Think a bit harder. – Randy Stapilus

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Menzel TOM

My Home

Welcoming today a new writer here: Tom Menzel, a veteran editor and a close-eyed observer of the Puget Sound. From his bio: “Tom Menzel has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin and spent 14 years in the newspaper business, including a variety of editing positions at the Idaho Statesman in Boise. He founded Menzel-Higgins Communications in 1986 and has provided communications counsel for many government and private-sector clients, including high-profile public involvement projects and political campaigns. Tom has also been involved in community activities ranging from education and health care to community trails. He lives in the Puget Sound village of Hansville on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula.”

Greetings from the great state of recreational weed, marriage for all and surprise majority coalitions!

It’s a high honor to be invited by my longtime friend and colleague, Randy Stapilus, to contribute occasional commentary, analysis and random observations about the ever-dynamic, Everblue state of Washington.

With Randy’s blessing, we’re calling my little corner of the virtual world “Washington, My Home,” which is the title of our awe-inspiring state song that begins with these words: “This is my country; God gave it to me; I will protect it, ever keep it free.” OK, maybe “Louie, Louie” would have been a better choice after all.

Keep in mind that I’m pretty much a regular guy, with a talented wife, a couple of above-average grown kids and one very cool 20-month-old granddaughter. No gigs with the nation’s formerly influential newspapers or magazines. Never won a Pulitzer. Sorry, no books. But this just makes me try harder to dazzle you.

Briefly, this is who I am: I was born a cheesehead (what the hell’s up with the Packers lately? Sorry, I digress), stole my journalism degree from UW-Madtown and spent 14 years in the newspaper biz, mostly as a nasty editor at The Idaho Statesman in Boise long before it was renamed The Bronco Gazette. After declaring independence from the newspaper bubble in 1986, I quickly hooked up with a few political campaigns and played communications consultant for some high-profile public projects ranging from urban renewal to infrastructure funding.

I also did some community organizing (is that a dirty word?) and worked with many local leaders representing a wide spectrum of thought. It was very rewarding to actually do things in my community rather than simply report on what everyone else was doing. Just for fun, I also learned to flyfish, backpack and pilot a little Cessna without killing myself or anyone else. I’m proud to have survived my years in Idaho – just barely.

After 26 years of the good life in Boise’s North End liberal hideout, we moved everything we owned in 2003 to a place known – only to real smart people like me – as the Salish Sea. We couldn’t resist the siren call of the Northwest’s largest metropolitan conclave, Amazonia (formerly Seattle), known for its sky-high demographic rankings in categories like burnable dollars per condo, muzzled conservatives, worried Microsofties, pampered Googleites, hourly latte consumption, scarcity of children and religion, and mysterious, beer-swigging, basketball-addicted, billionaire San Francisco hedge-funders.

And how about that Koolhaas central library! Could we possibly tell the world we love books in a more spectacular fashion? (We take visitors to the library before we go to the Pike Market.) Tour it at http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=2140.

Of course, we didn’t actually land our overstuffed U-Haul in the Emerald City itself back in 2003. We found affordable housing on the left side the Puget Sound … er, Salish Sea, in a faraway outpost called Kitsap County, famous for Chief Sealth’s final resting place, scenic aircraft carriers, jaw-dropping Bainbridge Island infinity pools and endless experimental foot-ferry programs. We’re as far north as you can possibly go on the Kitsap Peninsula in a lovely village called Hansville, also known as Greater Hansville. Except for the speed bumps, this is a happy place with a long history of salmon fishing until we chased most of them away. Come visit sometime. Please, no stupid parties allowed here.

OK, I’ve introduced myself and I might never see you again. But I’ll try to win you back in the coming months with essential information that you can’t live without and irresistible prose that you can forward to unenlightened friends and family. We have a lot to discuss about my adopted Everblue state, from park fees to ferries, education to Amazon, wind turbines to weed. Occasionally I’ll venture outside urban boundaries into the realm of beaches, mountains, rivers and hiking trails, where I’ve spent a great deal of quality time. We’ll see what develops.

I look forward to parking a few words on the Ridenbaugh site as events continue to unfold in this wondrous corner of the globe called Washington – which we all must swear to protect and ever keep free, or at least learn the chords in “Louie, Louie.”

Tom Menzel, of Hansville, Washington, is a communications consultant, community volunteer and former newspaper editor.

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carlson CHRIS


What are Roman Catholics to do these days? It certainly is not to “pray, pay and obey.” Every time one looks there is a news story about vulnerable children having been sexually abused by priests. These perversions are compounded by the pathetic efforts of cardinals and bishops to cover-up the crimes.

The latest manifestation is the release of extensive documents exposing and damning the role of former Los Angeles archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahoney.

As a former public affairs advisor (paid by a church benefactor) to Spokane’s previous bishop, William E. Skylstad, during the period he was vice-chair and then chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I became familiar with abuse issues as well as the growing chasm between liberals and conservatives within the conference that reflects society’s increasing polarization.

Unlike most bishops, Skylstad recognized the inadequacy of the church’s feeble, self-serving response, which 40 years ago was to send offending priests to a re-education monastery in New Mexico or have them undergo psychiatric counseling.

Skylstad acknowledged that as a young bishop in the Yakima (Washington) diocese, he moved one priest suspected of pedophilia to another parish, one closer to Seattle so the offending priest could more easily attend counseling. When the sessions did not work, he was removed from parish duties. Skylstad volunteered this information and expressed regrets in a heartfelt column he wrote for the diocesan newspaper years before other bishops assumed responsibility.

Skylstad’s openness increased his stature among colleagues as he led the charge for new protocols to protect the vulnerable including prompt reporting of any charge to the authorities. He was one of the first to go to each parish and publicly apologize for priestly misconduct. Ultimately, in order for the Spokane diocese to meet claims for compensation of past abuses, he led the diocese through a painful bankruptcy.

Until recently, I thought Cardinal Mahoney was, like Skylstad, a prelate who “got it,” who understood how badly the credibility of church authorities had been hit. He supported protocols put in place to protect the vulnerable going forward, grasped the importance of reporting allegations immediately and knew how deadly the inevitable exposure of cover-up and conspiracy could be.

I was terribly mistaken. Some say dioceses where abuse occurred are the exception, not the rule. I disagree.

News of the cardinal’s cover-up, coupled with previous news from Germany regarding systematic abuse and cover-up efforts there cause me to believe the problem is systemic and no diocese anywhere is untouched. I want to cry out in disgust about an institution once capable of delivering so much good to society, an institution now collapsing before my eyes in a paroxysm of self-serving deceit, outright lies, and betrayals of sacred trust.

Cardinal Mahoney fought for years to seal the records of his efforts to cover-up abuse that the court now has ordered released, exposing his tawdry secrets. Does he truly believe the perfunctory mea culpa he issued serves as accountability? He should if he has any sense of shame surrender his cardinal’s red cap, shuffle off to a monastery and do penance for his failures.

If there is one element missing in this moral tragedy it is no one has walked the plank. No bishop or cardinal has been fired. With one exception not one has suffered the expected consequences for criminal activities and lapses in moral judgment.

Until the faithful see more than meager contrition’s and witness guilty bishops suffering significant consequences, the Catholic Church will continue to flounder in the slew of despondency and increasing irrelevancy.

The primary mission of winning and saving souls, of witnessing the love of Christ by walking the talk of the Gospels, of standing for Truth, Justice and Peace is rapidly being overshadowed. Today’s Catholic hierarchy, aided and abetted by a calcified Vatican bureaucracy, is more concerned about the corporation than the mission, more interested in protecting tattered reputations and status than re-establishing a modicum of credibility.

How sad.

Equally sad is how a bishop who has acted correctly can still be made to suffer. Bishop Skylstad’s successor, Bishop Blasé Cupich, was convinced by new attorneys that in order to meet abuse claims not covered by the bankruptcy and settlement, he should sue for malpractice the Spokane law firm Skylstad had retained. The firm is said by the new legal team to have been more interested in protecting Skylstad than the diocesan corporation. In Spokane, some see it as a cynical attack on Skylstad and his compassionate, progressive consultative approach to the abuse issue.

The suit will go to trial, reliving all the suffering once more.

Something is terribly wrong when one of the good bishops is tarnished by a business-oriented bishop who tosses his predecessor under the bus while a cardinal like Mahoney, culpable and complicit in a cover-up, probably escapes even censure.

And the Vatican wonders why the culture of hedonism and secular alienation is winning.

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Remember that planned community – of sorts – that a group of survivalist gun enthusiasts have in mind to locate in rural Benewah County, Idaho?

More details are surfacing, including a sketch of the intended grounds.

Not that it stands a realistic chance of materializing, but it’s … quite a fantasy.

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trahant MARK


The Indian Health Service faces, what IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux calls, a “new reality” requiring a business model to match this era.

For example the 2012 budget was $4.3 billion. But when third party collections and the Special Diabetes Program is added to that base, the funding totals $5.38 billion. Third party collections, mainly Medicaid, Medicare and insurance, are important because that money is “generated and kept” at each service unit.

And, better yet, that’s one line on the budget can continue to grow. Even as Congress threatens sequester or other budget cuts.

“We also must work on customer service – if more of our patients have insurance or other health coverage, we do not want them to go to other providers,” Dr. Roubideaux wrote on her blog. “Even though IHS is a ‘service,’ it is also a healthcare system, and we need to think like a business. We are encouraging every one of our employees to contribute towards ensuring that we provide the best quality of care and to maximize the resources we have to provide that care. No one in the IHS system can afford to ignore the bottom line. If our goal is to provide the best care possible, we need to ensure that we can survive in the changing health care marketplace in which our facilities must thrive.”

One key element in that third party collections is Medicaid. Medicaid is a state-federal partnership, an insurance program for low-income families. However the Affordable Care Act expands access to Medicaid, an idea that’s supposed to make sure that more people can afford basic health insurance. But the rules of Medicaid, because it’s a partnership are up to state governments. Moreover not every state is choosing to participate.

A recent study from the Harvard Law School says: “There is strong empirical evidence that ‘opting out’ of expansion will have many negative implications by any measure, not only for individual and public health outcomes, but also for state fiscal stability. In other words, expanding Medicaid to residents with income up to 133% federal poverty level is in every state’s interest. While political battles loom large in the coming months, states will benefit from analyzing the actual costs and benefits of the Medicaid expansion and making an informed decision that best serves states’ residents at large.”

American Indians and Alaska Natives are a big part of that equation, a benefit for state governments as well as a source of revenue for the Indian health system. (The Indian health system includes the IHS as well as tribal, nonprofit and urban Indian programs).

A study in by the Montana Budget and Policy Center said “Medicaid expansion is a bargain for Montana. From 2014-2017, the federal government will pay 100% of the cost to expand Medicaid to low-income adults earning less than 138% of the federal poverty level, which is $26,344 for a family of three. Beginning in 2017, Montana will pick up a small portion of the costs, paying no more than 10% from 2020 forward. In addition, any services billed by Indian Health Service to Medicaid for care of American Indians will continue to be reimbursed 100% by the federal government, eliminating any fiscal obligation by the state.”

A Medicaid expansion in Montana would add up to 19,547 American Indians into that funding pool, money that would stay at local service units, clinics.

The Montana report concludes: “The influx of new federal dollars created by Medicaid expansion will provide an economic boost throughout Montana.”

This is a key point and one that’s much broader than a state-issue in Montana. The data suggests that it’s in states’ interests to expand Medicaid and to use that mechanism as a vehicle to improve funding for the Indian health system. Even in an era of austerity, this is a potential boost in funding across Indian Country. It also represents the new reality.

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bill BILL

Periodic testing (which can include things like pop quizzes) with the idea of finding out if the students are learning is a sound idea. Revolving public education around a series of high-stakes tests is simply madness.

Pushback against that approach (which had the intent of providing “accountability” but instead perverts the system) seems to have been growing, and in Washington it’s gotten visible – to the point that the revolt has generated legislation which has the support of the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The measure is House Bill 1450, proposed by Representatives Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, and Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, which “Declares an intent to: (1) Begin administering the college-ready and career-ready assessments that are being developed to measure the common core state standards in the
2014-2015 school year; (2) Combine the current reading and writing assessments into English language arts assessments; (3) Reduce the number of different assessments that will be required for students to graduate beginning with the class of 2015; and (4) Decentralize the scoring of the collections of evidence.”

The five-into-three reduction is what will get attention out that (those other parts do have some interest too).

And what does the state’s top elected education official think?

A news release just out from Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has this to say:

“I would like to thank Representative Sam Hunt for sponsoring HB 1450. I support testing. But I don’t support overtesting. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, 11th graders will have to take two additional tests, as well as pass five tests for graduation. The two tests will satisfy the “career and college ready” goals of the new Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts. So beginning with the Class of 2016, students will be required to pass five tests and take two additional tests. Giving seven state-required tests during high school takes too much time away from real classroom learning. I urge the Legislature to pass House Bill 1450.”

We seem to be moving on.

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rainey BARRETT


No question. I owe everyone who regularly follows these wandering thoughts an apology. And I offer such. Now. I apologize. I screwed up.
One of my frequent rants has been how I seriously believe far too many Americans go to the polls with little knowledge of the issues – of how government operates – of worthiness (or lack thereof) of candidates. Now, after a lifetime of media and civic participation, I’ve stumbled. Badly.

I’m a law and order kind of guy. Proud to say I’ve had some excellent experiences with outstanding people in law enforcement for decades with a number of friends in the business whom I deeply respect and admire. In our last local unopposed election for sheriff, I listened to the incumbent and cast what I thought was a knowledgeable vote. But it wasn’t. I didn’t know the real candidate and I didn’t know what he intended to do. Or not do. He didn’t come clean. I didn’t do my homework.

With a four-year renewal of his contract in hand, our local fella announced he’s not going to enforce all the laws. Oh, some he agrees with and you can expect he’ll do his duty on those. But there are others he won’t touch. A few days back, he even fired off a letter to Vice President Biden telling him the same thing. He went on quite a bit about what he’d decided was “constitutional” and what wasn’t. And he said he wouldn’t enforce laws he said were “unconstitutional.” No, Sir. If some gun laws come his way, he’s gonna pick and choose. He’ll decide what’s legitimate – “constitutional” he said – and act only on the ones he agrees with. Forget the others.

A week or two passed after his heated missive to Washington and I thought he might feel better now that he got it off his chest – that he’d simmer down and do his duty after all. But, no! Not our sheriff! He subsequently told the crew at our little almost-daily, almost-newspaper the other day he still meant it. No backing down there.

What’s really got his knickers knotted is if he’s told to “disarm” our county citizenry. If the feds tell him that. Of if the feds try to do that, he would “not tolerate” them doing so in his jurisdiction. To allow it, he said, “would mean violating (my) constitutional oath.” The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t tell him that. He decided on his own. Sorta from the hip.

Now, I’ve read the vice president’s recommendations. All of ‘em. Pretty reasonable stuff. I can’t find that part about “disarming” citizens – who would recommend it – under what conditions – who would authorize it -who would carry it out. Or that anyone would even think about it. The only voices I’ve heard even coming close to such conspiratorial crap have been on Faux “news” and we all know how they’re crazy as hell. Maybe that’s where our local sheriff got it. He might be a “Faux guy.”

He carefully pointed out “more than 4,000 people in Douglas County are “concealed carry” gun owners,” making it “one of the safest parts of the country.” Well, maybe. But figure 4,000 citizens in a county population of about 110,000 is less than four-percent. They’d all have to do a lot of shootin’ and killin’ to make it “one of the safest parts of the country.”
Suppose 40% or so in our county owned guns and were inclined to use them on other people. I doubt they would – but suppose. That means about 60% are unarmed with no intention of shooting anyone. So, in both cases, he’s concerned about a minority rather than the majority. Interesting that it was the majority of us who put him in his job – not the minority. And it was the protection of ALL of us he swore would be his job.

None of this “I’ll decide what to enforce and what to ignore” was part of his campaign for office. No, he presented a very positive law and order image. Not one word of choosiness about constitutional issues. Or his unique “knowledge” to decide what is and what isn’t.

Another sheriff – two counties over from us – looked at that same list Biden’s committee presented and said he found nothing wrong – nothing “unconstitutional.” “Nothing new – nothing that’s not already happening,” said Sheriff Bishop. Of the nearly three-dozen sheriff’s in Oregon, only about half-a-dozen have set themselves up as “constitutional deciders.” The other 25 or so looked at the list and went on with their duties. Same thing happened across the country. Sheriffs by the thousands took a look at the proposals and went back to work. No thousands of angry letters. No huge outpouring of declarations of what was – and was not – “constitutional.” In their unscholarly opinions.

Elected officials – yes, sheriffs, too – often have to find a dictionary to look up the word “malfeasance” during their careers. It gets used a lot when people in elected office become contrary or decide which of their duties they’ll carry out. There’s a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo when defining “malfeasance,” but it’s really just “improper professional conduct.”

Our reluctant sheriff is playing to the paranoid fears of a goofy minority of a minority while telling the majority of gun and non-gun owners – under his lawful protection – he won’t uphold laws he “thinks” are wrong. He’ll gamble with their safety – their lives. Is that proper professional conduct?

Law enforcement – like the military – is not a career in which each individual can decide which orders he’ll obey and which he’ll ignore. There are courts for that. There are other people hired to decide what is – and what is not – lawful. That’s their job. With proper procedures to involve them if necessary.

Peace officers – like the military – are given an order and expected to say “Yes, Sir” and get it done. The lives of each person in the military – and law enforcement – depend on the absolute willingness of all others given similar orders to carry them out. The successful can do that and do it well. Others chose a new career.

So, I apologize for not doing the same electoral due diligence I’ve long castigated others for ignoring. I let a candidate for office have my vote before I found out how unwilling he was to do his job. All of his job.

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SINKING BOATS: The Department of Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard worked with Ballard Diving and Salvage to contain a small amount of oil released in Hylebos Waterway after two vessels moored at Mason Marine  near Tacoma. (photo/Department of Ecology)


The Washington and Idaho legislative sessions moved a little gingerly last week, as Washington legislators introduced (but in most cases have yet to much consider) a mass of bills, while Idaho’s were focused more on administrative rules and education budgets.

Oregon’s lawmakers convene next week, but they’re already floating a bunch of ideas likely to stir things up in Salem.

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idaho RANDY
The Idaho

It’s not true, as many people (outside the state no less than in) probably suspect, that Idaho has no laws controlling guns – which is to say, gun control.

Idaho surely is one of the most easy-going states on gun regulation, as the state was reminded this week after news reports (though it isn’t really news) that elected officials, including legislators, have an automatic right under state law to carry concealed weapons.

But check out online the Idaho Code Title 18 Chapter 33 (the main but not exclusive set of statutes on guns), which is titled “firearms, explosives and other deadly weapons,” for a starter. It covers a range of subjects that might surprise many Idahoans. First on the list: “Every person having upon him any deadly weapon with intent to assault another is guilty of a misdemeanor.” In words, with intent to use it for any purpose other than sporting or, presumably, clear self-defense.

There’s the ban on selling guns to minors (without parental consent), on carrying a concealed weapon “when intoxicated or under the influence of an intoxicating drink or drug,” on carrying firearms onto school property (though the legislature may reconsider that this year).

Best be careful parading around with a gun in view, too: “Every person who, not in necessary self-defense, in the presence of two (2) or more persons, draws or exhibits any deadly weapon in a rude, angry and threatening manner, or who, in any manner, unlawfully uses the same, in any fight or quarrel, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” “Rude” and “angry,” after all, are seen in a beholder’s eye.

The Idaho laws define “firearm” and “weapon” in various places, but they don’t match up with the Second Amendment, which refers to “arms”: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (The premise before those words – “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” – having seemed largely to have escaped much discussion.)

What are “arms” taken to be? In Revolutionary days, they mostly meant muskets and cannon, but a quarter-millennium later “arms” means other things. We speak of nuclear arms, of chemical weapons, of drones and surface to air rockets, of IEDs, as well as Uzis and on down to the modest hunting rifle.

So which of these arms do Americans have a constitutional right to “keep and bear”?

The answers will vary from person to person. I’ve posed it to several second amendment enthusiasts, and the answers have varied. Nuclear weapons seem pretty commonly beyond the pale, but after that answers differ. Few addressed the question of non-firearms arms. Some went along with the idea of excluding really high-capacity firearms, others didn’t.

But this may be the point at which the gun rights, and gun control, discussion needs some focus. Relatively few people have any interest in limiting (more than now) ownership or use of firearms intended for sport, hunting or defense. The debate really kicks in beyond that.

In the details.

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Idaho Idaho column

ridenbaugh Northwest

From a report in the IdahoEdNews site.

It’s the big chunk of new money in 2013-14’s K-12 budget proposal.
It’s also an open-ended line item. No one knows exactly where the money might go — which is the whole idea.

Gov. Butch Otter and state schools superintendent Tom Luna want to earmark $33.9 million for the governor’s education task force. This money would give the 31-member group working capital to enact education reform – that is, if elected legislators agree to cede the money to a board made up predominately of unelected education and business leaders.

On Thursday, Luna made clear that the stakes are high.

In his presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Luna said his proposed 2013-14 budget is flat, save for the task force money. And that’s essentially true: While the Luna budget earmarks dollars for everything from classroom technology to added math and science teachers to increased starting pay for teachers, its 3 percent general fund increase totals $38 million — not much more than the $33.9 million in question.

In a news conference after his JFAC presentation, Luna was blunt about the budgeting prospects. If legislators take that task force money out of the K-12 budget, “It’s not coming back any time soon.”

That decision starts with JFAC. And one of the budget-writing committee’s co-chairs has mixed feelings about the proposal.
Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, says she understands the logic of funding the task force efforts, but she doesn’t like seeing the $33.9 million parked in the K-12 budget. The money inflates the appearance of the budget — and, if Otter’s and Luna’s wishes are to be honored, it’s money legislators would leave untouched.
“It’s just sitting there, like a wart,” she said Thursday. “It’s troubling to me.”

Another potential trouble spot: What, if anything, will the task force agree to do with the money?

The task force has just barely begun its work. Its second meeting will be held today. In order to come up with reforms in time for the 2013 Legislature, the task force would have to coalesce behind ideas within a matter of weeks, not months.

Sen. Dean Cameron, a Rupert Republican and JFAC co-chairman, said he’d be “shocked” if the task force came up with anything substantive for the 2013 Legislature. “In fact, I would almost discourage them from doing so.”

Otter assembled the task force to take a second look at school reform, after voters rejected Luna’s Students Come First laws.

Luna sits on the task force, but on Thursday, he said he has no plan to go into a meeting with a specific plan for the money. Luna instead says his goal is simply to make sure these dollars wind up in education.

Could they end up elsewhere? Asked about this possibility Thursday, Luna dismissed the idea, since it means lawmakers would essentially vote to cut K-12 spending. “I just can’t go there.”

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Idaho Gov. Butch Otter converses with Ross Eggett, Allstate human resources manager, at the company’s Chubbuck customer call center where a major expansion was announced.


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Allstate Insurance Company’s announcement Thursday, Jan. 17, that it would expand its Pocatello/Chubbuck operations by opening a roadside services center and hiring 225 additional employees was welcomed by Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and a host of elected and business officials.

Opened 14 months ago directly west of the Pine Ridge Mall and south of Home Depot, the 75,000-square-foot Allstate customer contact center now employs 250 and is in the process of training 120 additional employees during 2013’s first quarter. Those 370 employees, coupled with the 225 in roadside service, would bring Allstate’s total local employment to nearly 600.

Like Otter, Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad and Chubbuck Mayor Steven England praised Allstate’s expansion. Blad said he expects Allstate’s employment in Bannock County to ultimately reach 800, making it one of the area’s largest employers.

Allstate’s new center will handle roadside emergency calls for customers across the United States, requiring center representatives, managers and instructors. The existing customer care center is undergoing construction to accommodate the roadside services center.

“Allstate could have gone anywhere else,” Otter told a large crowd inside the company’s dining area. He was flanked by local employees with 225 blue balloons. “This adds a lot of luster to a project started a short time ago. … This is a great day for us all.”

Otter said he commends Allstate when he meets with other governors. He mentioned that he recently met with the premiers of four western Canadian provinces to proceed with the Keystone pipeline project.

Paul Huber, Allstate roadside services chief operations officer, said the new center will increase the company’s flexibility to serve all customers, handle existing volumes and prepare for future strategic growth. The company serves 175,000 households in Idaho.

After conducting an extensive nationwide search, Allstate concluded that “Chubbuck/Pocatello is the perfect location for expansion,” Huber said, mentioning the new center’s first training class for employees will be Jan. 28 with the first live calls set for Feb. 12.

Jody Lewis, Allstate contact center site leader, and Diane Love, temporary roadside services site leader, also addressed the crowd.

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