Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in January 2013

What to do with $30 million?

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

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.” (more…)

An expansion

XXXXX
 
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.

 

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

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. (more…)

Murray’s contrast

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

It’s hard to see the U.S. Senate as a democratic institution in the 21st century. A voter from Wyoming has nearly seventy times the representation as a citizen from California. And that understates the case significantly because on top of that lop-sided balance, the Senate also has rules that call for super-majorities, giving those small states even more power.

Alan Durning from the Sightline Institute made this point a couple of years ago when he wrote: “The Senate doesn’t just magnify small-states’ influence a little. It magnifies their power massively. Consider the Cascadia region, which covers all of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, plus parts of Alaska, California, Montana, and Wyoming (along with the Canadian province of British Columbia). Each of these states, of course, has equal representation in the US Senate. This chart shows the number of people per US Senator in these states. There are 18 million Californians for each of the state’s two Senators. In Wyoming, the equivalent number is 272,000. If every US Senator represented the same number of people as do Wyoming’s two Senators, Oregon would have 14 Senators.That’s right, Oregon would have 14 Senators! Washington, for its part, would have 24, far outnumbering its current 9 Representatives in the House.California? California would have 136.”

Now calculate those numbers for Indian Country. The Census says there are 5.1 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S. So, using the same formula of 272,00, there would be at least 18 Native American representatives in the Senate.

Don’t like that formula? Well, the collective land mass of tribal nations, villages, and communities, tops 87,000 square miles. That’s a larger land base than most states (the average for the 50 states is only 75,881.66 square miles).

Later today we’ll find out if the Senate is going to take even baby steps to limit filibuster (now at the point where a Senator only has to threaten a filibuster to stop legislation unless there are 60 votes).

But on the issue of austerity, the irony is that the Senate represents the best hope going forward for a balanced approach to how budgets are cut.

Congressional budgets are a relatively modern enterprise. Before the 1970s, the federal budget was presented by the President and then Congress passed appropriation bills for each agency. (more…)

Whose God?

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Politics and religion. I can think of no better definition of eternal incompatibility. Dive into our history at any point – world history, for that matter – and you’ll find the friction of one against the other. So, for your contemporary reading, let’s dive into the shallow end of the history pool – current events – to find more examples. Ah, and classic they are.

The first is a recent sampling of Americans and their feelings about religion in today’s culture – findings which resulted in a complete contradiction. Especially in the evangelical community.
The study was conducted by the Barna Group, a respected California think tank known for studies of American religion and culture.

When 1,008 people in the general population were asked if our religious liberties are threatened, 29% of said “yes.” But – faced with the same question – 71% of evangelicals said “yes.” Asked what they see as the threat, 97% of that group said others are trying to move society away from “traditional Christian values.” 97%! Groups they identified most? Gays and lesbians were named by more than 72%.for trying to remove “traditional Christian values” from the country.

“Where’s the conflict,” you ask? Well, the same responders said their Judeo-Christian beliefs should dominate our culture. They live in a multi-faith nation but want their beliefs supreme to all others. And the others are the ones they blame for attacks on their values. “The belief system is under attack.” “Our belief system should be the standard.” Harder to find a more direct conflict in a single group espousing religion than that.

For the second political-religious conundrum, we turn to our Catholic brothers and sisters. Specifically Lori and Jeremy Stodghill of Canon City, Colorado. This one’s a doozy!

Lori, pregnant with seven-month-old twins, was rushed to a Catholic hospital on New Year’s Day, 2006. Massive heart attack. Ironically, her obstetrician was on-call that night but didn’t answer his page. Hospital staff wanted him to save the fetuses by caesarian even as Lori was dying. He didn’t come. All died. In a Catholic hospital. Jeremy sued for wrongful death of all three. The born and the unborn, so to speak.

Responding, hospital lawyers literally turned Catholic church directives upside down in defense – directives for all Catholics but especially Catholic hospitals – that claim the unborn are “persons.” They argued Colorado law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds those fetuses are NOT persons with legal rights. Attorney Jason Langley argued Colorado courts define “person” under its Wrongful Death Act to include “only those born alive.” Therefore, Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses. “Not alive,” the Catholic defenders claimed. (more…)

Selling out, maybe

bill BILL
OF THE
DAY
 

This bill is getting a good deal of blasting in Washington, and it's not hard to see why - though it's positioned as (and could be in fact) a way to raise money for public services without raising taxes.

House Bill 2051 (as its digest describes) "Authorizes the sale of naming rights of the state's transportation facilities to pay for the ongoing operations and maintenance of the facilities and, when appropriate, to fund future capital needs of these facilities. Requires the transportation commission, as an alternative to the naming or renaming process and for requesting entities or persons willing to pay for such naming or renaming rights, to develop, set, and approve by rule the applicable fees and guidelines governing the naming and renaming of state transportation facilities."

A hearing on it was held Tuesday.

Backed by State Representative Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, the measure has already drawn a lot of sarcastic response. Representative Sam Hunt, D-Olympia: “I think of perhaps the CenturyLink Capitol Building or something like that. How far does this go?” Representative Jake Fey, D-Tacoma: “Would you contemplate that the part that says Tacoma Narrows bridge or Deception Pass Bridge would be gone, and it might be the ‘Chuck E. Cheese Bridge?’ Are you concerned about the loss of that history?” (And they, maybe, weren't even being sarcastic.)

The Tacomans might have had a little extra sensitivity there. A few years ago a run was made at selling corporate naming rights to the Tacoma Dome. It was a serious proposal and got close to passage, but community activists rose up and beat down the proposal. It's Tacoma's dome, they said, not the dome of some deep pocket.

Will be interesting to see how far this goes.

Snow and ice

Meridian snow
From the cover of this week's Idaho Weekly Briefing: Snowfall has been steady in Idaho in midwinter. This was the scene one morning last week in Meridian, even as the sky had turned (possibly temporarily) blue. (image/Joel Kennedy)

 

With word of shutdown of a large segment of Interstate 84 in southern Idaho (earlier everything between Boise and Bliss, now a partial reopening between Boise and Mountain Home), time seemed right to run this picture from Meridian again, as it appeared on the cover of this week's Idaho Weekly Briefing.

Thanks and kudos to Joel Kennedy, who shot it.

Judiciary tech, and more

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

From the annual state of the judiciary address (to the legislature) in Idaho delivered today, by Chief Justice Roger Burdick. Quite a few revealing items scatter through the address.

Our vision includes real-time data from every court in the state immediately available to every other court and to all individuals who require access to court information. This real-time data transfer allows enforcement of court orders for the protection of victims and communities. This capability will extend to every courthouse in Idaho. We are now working diligently on getting that infrastructure in place.

We also envision an expanded statewide telepresence for litigants, attorneys, judges and the public. Our magistrate and district judges travelled over 309,000 miles last year to preside over hearings in courthouses across the state. By the use of advanced technology, mileage costs and travel time will be significantly reduced and attendant cost savings to law enforcement will be realized. Just as private enterprise relies on telepresence to conduct business in the new economy, we will embrace this new technology and look for the efficiencies it will provide. As part of our technology analysis, we are examining how better to collect those fines, fees and other obligations on a coordinated statewide basis. We know there will be significant efficiencies achieved if that can be done.

Our technology plans were started by an in-depth analysis and assessment of our existing systems by three of the nation’s foremost experts on court technology. That assessment is available on our website for all of you to examine and read. Following that assessment, a committee was formed to chart dynamic and broad policy decisions for the coming years concerning our use of technology for Idaho’s citizens. When I use the word “dynamic,” it is
actually an understatement. In the thirty-one years that I have been a judge in the Idaho court system, I can’t remember a time when the Idaho courts have been as responsive to our citizens’ needs and accountable for our performance. Efforts are underway which will affect Idaho’s judiciary for decades. We anticipate coming to you next session with a more complete analysis of revenue options as our plans evolve for the electronic filing of all court papers. As we move to “paperless courthouses,” we anticipate some of these improvements can be funded by court users, and significant savings realized by counties and courts.

As I reported last year, we have continued with our recruitment efforts to make sure that we are attracting the most qualified judges available. We now hold open discussion groups in those counties where district judges are being replaced concerning the benefits of starting a career in the judiciary and to answer any and all questions concerning that career and application process. During judicial council interviews, we have heard numerous times from applicants who were encouraged by this opportunity to step forward and consider applying for a district judge position. (more…)

Hypocrisy

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

The governor-elect handed me a letter as we were dining one December 1986 evening in Boise. Cecil Andrus had narrowly been returned to the governorship the previous month after an absence of ten years. The letter was from the regional representative of the National Rifle Association requesting a meeting at the governor’s earliest convenience.

Presumably, the NRA, recognized then as now as one of the most influential lobbying organization in the nation’s capital and in many state capitals, wanted a “kiss and make up” meeting with Andrus. Despite the incontestable fact that Andrus was a true sportsman, a fisherman and a hunter who went after his elk and his deer every fall, and filled the rest of the freezer with ducks, geese and pheasant, the NRA had endorsed Andrus’ opponent, the non-hunter, Lt. Governor David Leroy.

In responding to their endorsement questionnaire, Leroy had apparently gone right down the line endorsing every NRA position. Andrus, on the other hand, took exception and would not endorse the sale of “cop-killer” bullets or the elimination of waiting periods for background checks. Things he thought were just common-sense positions turned out to be litmus tests for purity. Leroy, despite not owning any firearms, therefore received the endorsement.

It was more than just an endorsement. My former business associate and the 1986 campaign press secretary detailed in his The Johnson Post blog this week the attempt by the NRA in the waning days of the campaign to tilt the election towards Leroy. Direct mail pieces as well as print and radio ads touting their endorsement of Leroy over Andrus suddenly mushroomed across the state. (more…)

The mysterious federal reaction

To judge from the reactions on the conference call/press conference this afternoon from Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the main emotion must be relief.

That, when they conversed with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, their heads weren't bitten off in a rage at Washington's voters deciding that marijuana should be legal.

The conversation was pleasant, and - from their description - Holder seemed to be more in listening than in talking mode.

They have a number of things to talk about. There was nothing "dispositive," Inslee said, on the big one: Whether the feds plan to go after Washingtonians who start doing what Washington law (though not federal law) now says is legal. What about people who sink money into businesses that the new state law contemplates will be basic parts of the process needed to make the law work? No one knows.

Two points Inslee did mention about subjects of under discussion, however, are of interest.

One is what Washington will do to "contain" state-legal marijuana, to keep it from being exported across state lines. (He said that the Washington State Patrol, among other organizations, are considering the question.) The other was the possibility of a federal lawsuit aimed at Washington (and presumably Colorado as well), though what it would seek, exactly, isn't clear. That a judge order a state to throw out a state law because the feds don't like it? Seemingly improbable, but Ferguson indicated that a team of attorneys are looking into defenses for the state if a lawsuit should materialize.

Inslee said he expects to chat again with Holder: "This is the first of what I think will be a continuing series of discussions," he said. That may be the most clearly predictable point right now. - Randy Stapilus

Lies, NRA lies and Fox lies

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I’m going to tell you a lie. You’ve heard it before. You’ve heard it many times before. You’ve heard it on Faux “News. The NRA has told you this lie many times and crazy Wayne LaP. even lied to you in his book. The nuttier gun loons have repeated it – sober or drunk – in many a saloon.

Here it is as closely as I can recall: When Hitler took guns away from the German people, they were powerless to defend themselves. Ol’ Wayne LaP. tells that one a lot. And here’s another. If the Jews had guns, they could’ve defended themselves and millions wouldn’t have been killed. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and many gun liars often publish a poster with a picture of Hitler giving the Nazi salute and the text “All in favor of gun control, raise your right hand.”

Problem is they’re all lies – top to bottom! University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt, for one, put the lie to all that in the Harvard Law Review in 2004. Before Hitler, Harcourt wrote, there was the Weimar Republic – the German government that immediately preceded him. Under surrender terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature created a 1919 law banning all firearms. That law led to confiscation. In 1928, the law was relaxed a little but citizens still had to get government permits to own, sell or carry.

The Nazi Weapon Law of 1938 did just the opposite of what LaPierre repeatedly has claimed it did. Under Hitler, that law totally deregulated bans on buying rifles, shotguns and ammunition. Opened the market, as it were. It also extended permits from one to three years and lowered the age of gun ownership from 21 to 18. Crazy Wayne lied big time. Because it suited his twisted purpose. And he keeps doing it.

But because that law did keep Jews from buying guns legally, you’ll hear another untruth - “Jews with guns would have lived and maybe won the Warsaw Ghetto battle in which many died.”

Historian Omer Bartov at Brown University says “not true.” In his words, “Just imagine the Jews of Germany exercising the right to bear arms while fighting the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht. The entire Russian Red Army lost seven-million men fighting just the Wehrmacht despite tanks, artillery and planes. Jews with pistols and shotguns would have done better?” Professor Bartov was an officer in the Israeli Defense Force before becoming an academic. He knows his guns and his Jewish history.

Then there’s Faux “News” and Judge Napolitano who repeatedly has claimed Jews would’ve been much better off if they had guns in Warsaw.

Oh, yes? Consider – in reality, only about 20 Germans were killed in the Warsaw Ghetto battles while 13,000 Jews died. Another 50,000 Jews who survived were sent off to the camps. Rifles, shotguns and a few pistols would have changed all that? Like LaPierre, Napolitano sees fit to make up history as it suits him. (more…)