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Posts published in January 2013

Labrador v. Otter?

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

Now that we're properly into 2013, time has come – yes, it has – to start looking at the political races of 2014. In Idaho, that starts with governor.

The most day-glo prospect, as we sit in January, is that of a Republican primary pitting incumbent Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter against Representative Raul Labrador. It's a prospect too that allows for a real choice for Idaho Republicans.

There's absolutely no certainty it'll play out that way. Otter has said he plans to run, but he may have been saying that for purposes of fundraising or avoiding lame duck status. Labrador has expressed some interest in running for governor, but the pull of Washington is often heady stuff. Neither may wind up filing for the office next year.

There are reasons it could happen, though. The guess here is that a big reason Otter ran for re-election in 2010 was that enough people (Republicans among them) had challenged his handling of the job, and Otter responds to challenges. He has one now. Otter is on the side of the Republican party that is more establishment-oriented and concerned with economic growth; while ideology is important to him, he has shown himself willing to bend on a variety of items. He, like the state's senators and Representative Mike Simpson, could be put in the “realist/pragmatist” camp. You can put on the relevant bill of goods for Otter establishing a state health insurance exchange, dumping immediate reconsideration of the Luna school laws, and improving the state's transportation system.

Those stands have put him distinctly and fiercely at odds with the part of the party that's more ideology-driven. Otter's recent intense lobbying of the state Republican organization for the insurance exchange, and party leaders' repudiation of it, was but one recent example.

And Labrador (along with Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, who seems to have been almost cast off by Otter) is very much a central figure in that more insurgent ideology group, one overlapping with the Tea Party but extending beyond it. He and Otter were in opposition (over gas tax policy) even back when Labrador was in the Idaho, not the U.S. House. In the Labrador-Simpson dustup in the last few weeks, Otter would clearly be placed closer to Simpson. (more…)

Can’t afford institutional ignorance

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

“Ignorance breeds anger.”

That’s my iconic shorthand for the outrageous behavior causing so many raised and uninformed voices in today’s national “discussion” of gun ownership responsibility. Not gun control. Gun ownership responsibility. How they’re used. Which ones should be generally available. Who should not have them. Who should not. The national responsibility we have to each other to see that guns are used properly for the safety of all concerned.

State legislatures – especially in the West – are being deluged by constituents who’re scared. Scared someone is going to take their guns away.

Who? Many will say “President Obama” or “the feds” or “Congress” or some other “they.” Angry? Yes. Ignorance In spades.

No one has – and no one will – take away anyone’s guns. No one. No time. No how. No one in the recent – very preliminary – federal examination of what can be done to stop shooting massacres and improve public safety is talking “gun control.” No one that is except those who aren’t paying attention. They’re angry. And the anger comes from what? Ignorance.

No one’s talking “control,” that is, except the NRA and others who have large economic interests in assuring guns are more available than ice cream.

Fear of the unknown is driving much of the public clamor. Fear because many causing the most noise and disruption have not looked carefully at what’s been done in recent weeks. And what’s NOT been done. For that, I blame the bloody NRA and the right wing nuts in public office. And – in many respects – a media carelessly dealing with the issue of guns and throwing around the words “gun control” where no such words – and no federal legislation – exist in today’s dialogue. Institutional ignorance causing public anger.

Case in point. In an attempt to be oh, so very clever – Idaho largest fish wrap “newspaper” topped it’s Jan. 18th editorial page with this headline: “SHOOTING FROM THE HIP CLIPS DEBATE.” Needless to say, the subsequent editorial below that journalistic crap didn’t measure up. How could it?

But what it did do was make an absolutely false claim – in black and white – in the first sentence. “Vice President Joe Biden … slapped together one of the most sweeping gun-control bills in American history.” Direct quote. Absolutely false. After meeting with more than 250 groups involved in any way with guns and public safety, Biden produced a report with some 27 recommendations. Not a “sweeping gun-control bill.” A list of recommendations. In it were two which would require legislation if – IF – the President wants to go forward. So far, no bills have been written.

Small point? No, it’s not small. Not when you add CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC and all the rest. All of whom are tossing around words like “gun control” and “pending legislation.” Words that distort. Words that are wrong. Words that inflame. Words that add to the ignorance. Words that anger and scare. (more…)

Not seen, not heard

stapilus RANDY
STAPILUS

 
The View
from Here

The 2012 Idaho legislative session was not a wonderland of greatness, but it did make one significant structural improvement over every session that had gone before: The budget panel, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, held hearings at which the public could testify.

Never before had the panel which sets the state budget taken the opinion of the general public, only of analysts and department leaders and spokesmen. The opportunity did not go ignored by the public. Two hearings pulled in about 1,500 people, astonishing turnout for a public hearing about numbers.

JFAC Co-Chair Senator Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, who was instrumental in launching the hearings, said in an Idaho Statesman article out today (paywalled), "I guess I'm in favor of openness and transparency."

Even more to the point: "It's important for them to see the face of the father with a handicapped child or the parent concerned about their child's education." In other words, to see the practical, real-world human effects of pushing those numbers around.

This year, no more public budget hearings. (Other committees do allow for public testimony, but not on the budget.)

That was the decision, evidently, of Senate President pro tem Brent Hill and new House Speaker Scott Bedke. They spoke partly of just wanting to return to the "old way" of doing things, and also of making sure that other committees set the policy - that JFAC not be driving it.

Whatever the (highly) limited merits of that, I'm going to be - at the admitted risk of doing some mind-reading - less generous.

I think they (and/or whatever caucus members pressed for the change) didn't want that "face of the father with a handicapped child or the parent concerned about their child's education" to show up, to be in front of the cameras, when the budget numbers are discussed. Idaho lowballs on its social service spending, and while that sounds good from a low-taxes and hold-the-line perspective, it sounds less good when matched against the faces of the people whose lives may be damaged by those decisions.

I don't think they want that other side of the equation to be especially visible. This session, they won't be.

The Greek yogurt lobby

You can put this under constituent service, or something less lofty, but consider ...

Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Congressman Mike Simpson are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to recognize Greek yogurt under their MyPlate nutrition guidelines. In a letter to Secretary Vilsack, they point out that Greek yogurt has twice the protein and more calcium than regular yogurt, and is low in fat.

Besides recognizing Greek yogurt in MyPlate nutrition guides, which is part of the USDA food guidance system, the group also requested a pilot program be set up within the Children Nutrition programs to allow schools to receive credit for protein content when serving Greek yogurt.

“We urge the USDA to update the agency’s nutrition guides to reflect the many benefits of Greek yogurt. Not only is it a great source of calcium, a serving of Greek yogurt has more protein than the same amount of beans. By allowing schools in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs to get credit for serving Greek yogurt, kids receive a healthy product and it is a positive economic impact for Idaho,” said the three members of Idaho’s congressional delegation.

No argument here with the idea of including the yogurt on a list of healthy foods; it may belong there. But this stands as an especially obvious case of members of Congress doing something solely because of local interest.

Putative fathers

bill BILL
OF THE
DAY
 

First in an occasional series of posts on legislation in the Northwest this season.

The rights of birth fathers sometimes have a way of getting overlooked, but they can come back to get in the middle of things post-birth. A new Idaho bill (SB 1015) suggested by the state Department of Health & Welfare points that out and suggests some ways to smooth the process.

From the bill's statement of purpose:

When an adoption is done correctly, all parties experience a sense of peace, including the birth mother, birth father, adoptee and adoptive parents. On the other hand, a failed adoption can cause serious problems for the adoption agency, the attorney, the biological parents, the adoptee and the adoptive parents. While rare, more and more problems in adoptions can be attributed to a lack of attention to birth fathers’ rights. For example, three adoptions were overturned in Utah last year, and adoptees were returned to their birth fathers because agencies or attorneys followed laws that favored the birth mother over the birth father.

This legislation is intended to clarify the statutes in Idaho governing paternity, the putative father registry, termination of parental rights and adoption. These changes are being proposed for the purpose of strengthening the adoption laws in Idaho thereby reducing the chances that an adoption will be overturned in Idaho as occurred in Utah last year. In particular, this legislation will do four things:

1. Further the best interests of the adoptee by reducing the risks of a custody tug-of-war and disruption/dissolution while, at the same time, increasing the odds of stability and permanency;
2. Clarify that putative fathers must strictly comply with statutory provisions in order to protect their inchoate interest;
3. Establish a date/time certain for putative fathers to take action to protect their inchoate interest with respect to a child born out-of-wedlock; and
4. Direct the Department of Health and Welfare to produce and distribute a pamphlet or publication, in English and Spanish, informing the public about the inchoate interest of putative fathers.

Sheriff, it’s the law

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

We’re experiencing an outbreak of ignorance by some elected officials coast-to-coast since this week’s debut of President Obama’s attempt to rein in mass murder and stop some of the killings on our streets and in our institutions. Sadly, some of these voices are in our own neighborhoods.

Here, in our little burg-in-the-woods, our fine sheriff has added his voice to others in similar offices across the country, threatening to ignore federal laws and court decisions. He and the others have so notified Vice President Biden – in writing – of their intent. If the subject of responsible gun ownership were not so important, some of those letters would be Exhibit “A” in a court test of competency in how our government works. They would not look good.

The form of these misbegotten writings is so similar it’s not hard to imagine their source is a national organization. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? NRA? Council of State Governments?

I’ve read several. Here’s the common theme: that the Vice President “NOT tamper with or attempt to amend the 2nd Amendment (to the Constitution)… any actions against, or in disregard for our U.S. Constitution and 2nd Amendment rights by the current administration would be irresponsible and an indisputable insult to the American people…we must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws.”

Then there is the direct threat from our sheriff, though it is essentially the same in all these ranting epistles. “…federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the Constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Douglas County. I will refuse to participate in, nor tolerate enforcement actions against citizens that are deemed unconstitutional.”

There’s so much wrong with these legally-illiterate threats it’s hard to know where to start. But, for our purposes, let’s go to Article XV of the Oregon Constitution: “Any person elected or appointed to any office under this Constitution, shall, before entering on the duties thereof, take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of the United States and of this State.”

Seems pretty clear. If it’s in the federal or state constitutions – or in law – you enforce it. I read nothing about a sheriff “interpreting” – nothing about “agreeing” – nothing about “ignoring” – no option to “refuse to participate” – and no authority granted to interfere with “federal officers” in the performance of their federal duties. Can’t find any of that. (more…)

California has to stem the tide of dogs

XXXXX
Dogs packed for shipment. (photo/source unknown)

 

linda LINDA
WATKINS
 

Dear Governor Brown,

I'm writing to you on behalf of the dogs and cats of Oregon, and the dogs and cats of California.

On January 13, in Brooks, Oregon - just a few miles north of our capital city of Salem - the Marion County Sheriff's Office and staff from the Willamette and Oregon humane societies seized over 130 dogs that were stashed in crates in a 7500 sq. ft. warehouse. The dogs were without adequate space, water, or food; and they were in need of medical care.

Why I'm telling you about this? Well, because the majority of those dogs came from the Porterville, California animal shelter.

Why were they found in a warehouse in Oregon? Because California's shelters are so overfull of dogs that your shelters are sending them by the truckloads up to Oregon and Washington - to rescues they know nothing about.

On behalf of the reputable, responsible rescues in Oregon and Washington, I am embarrassed and ashamed that this situation developed. Rescues and shelters up here are stepping up to help these dogs; and we'll make it right. We don't like that this happened and I'm pretty sure that the fallout from this will contribute to making some changes in how rescues in this state operate.

But, more to the point, over the last several years we have become increasingly concerned about the numbers of dogs that your shelters are shipping out of state. We're concerned because your counties appear to be doing nothing to stem the flow of dog production that is causing this situation. We're concerned because the dogs are being dumped all over the country with little to no review or evaluation of the shelters and rescues to which they're being sent. We're concerned because they are leaving your state in poor health: full of ticks and fleas, intestinal parasites such as giardia and coccidia, and infected with heartworm, parvo, and distemper; they are dogs who have sat in shelters for weeks with untreated injuries ranging from severe scrapes and abrasions to broken legs. We're concerned because nobody is monitoring the transports as dogs are packed in crates and stuffed into unheated, unventilated vans and driven 16 to 20 hours with no water or potty breaks or food, by uncertified drivers. We're concerned because the dogs (and cats) arrive dehydrated, ill, un-spayed or -neutered, and carrying new strains of diseases that weren't previously present up here. And we're concerned because as small, local rescues and shelters we know that we barely have enough space and resources to help Oregon and Washington dogs let alone the thousands you send out of state each year.

What we don't understand is why the folks in California are doing virtually nothing to clean up your problem - instead you seem to be perfectly content to continue shipping dogs to every part of the country: New England, the Mid-West, Canada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington; you name the state or the province, and they've likely had several shipments of dogs from California's major Central and San Joaquin valley shelters: Merced, Modesto, Salinas, Devore, Bakersfield/Kern County, Porterville/Tulare County, Orange County, and Los Angeles (including Lancaster). The word is out that these are now some of the highest "kill" shelters in the country. And the dogs don't die easy: Often they're finally killed only after they've developed pneumonia, or any one of several other respiratory diseases constantly present in the shelters. Being born in or put into these and a number of other California shelters is a certain death sentence - and that's why other states are ending up with California's unwanted dogs and cats. (more…)

Growth ahead?

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

Calling the recent “fiscal cliff” negotiations in Washington a lost opportunity, Bank of Idaho President and Chief Executive Officer Park Price says if Congress and the White House can successfully resolve the looming debt ceiling and sequestration budget controversies, he expects robust economic growth in Idaho and the United States during 2013.

If agreement is not reached, America will teeter and lurch back into recession, he anticipates, noting the federal sector accounts for 20 percent of the economy.

Noting that six million jobs have been lost since the nation’s economic meltdown of 2008, Price says he hopes 2013 will see business start to hire more people, which is a must for the nation to pull out of its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

But uncertainty over whether the U.S. will default on its national debt or whether massive automatic federal budget cuts will be imposed by sequestration on March 1 has companies reluctant to resume hiring. When they are forced to lay off quickly, they tend to hire slowly, says Price, who earned an economics degree from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

“Businesses hate uncertainty,” Price says. “The longer this goes on, the harder it is on the economy.”

For 13 years, Price specialized in capital investments for General Motors. From 1979 to 2003, he owned and operated Park Price Motor Co. in Pocatello, which was founded by his father in 1947. In July 2003, Price became president of the Bank of Idaho, which has seven branches in eastern Idaho and real estate offices specializing in mortgage originations in Twin Falls, Pocatello and Idaho Falls. He became the bank’s CEO in 2010.

The recent disappointing fiscal cliff debate resulted in some tax increases with no spending cuts. A more comprehensive package was needed on a grander scale, Price says, adding that deficit spending cannot be sustained at its torrid pace.

“It’s clear that the path we’re on is unsustainable. We continue to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren. It is morally unacceptable to tolerate this,” the former Pocatellan says.

On the other hand, if spending is cut too aggressively, it could be a shock to the economy, tax revenues could fall and the federal deficit worsen, he cautions, urging that cuts be done gradually, not drastically. Congress won’t agree to raise the federal debt ceiling as President Obama wants without significant spending cuts, he observes.

Because of the fiscal cliff outcome, taxes are now off the table, Price notes, stressing he hopes cooler heads prevail as the new Congress gets organized. “Unfortunately, we don’t have much time,” he says. (more…)

Packin’ nuclear? Why not?

stapilus RANDY
STAPILUS

 
The View
from Here

Boise attorney John Runft has addressed a point that ought to be put to gun advocates coast to coast. But did he address it as they would - and has he thought through the implications?

Interviewed on KIVI-TV in Nampa, he was enthusiastic in his discussion of the Second Amendment, saying there was even an "anti-government" aspect built into it. (I'd love to find the specific validation for that argument.)

But he also acknowledged something that some gun advocates seem not to, that there are limits even to the Second Amendment: “Do you have the right to bear a bazooka? The right to bear an atomic bomb? Absolutely not.”

No argument on that here. But I would argue this: Bazookas (defined in Wikipedia: "a man-portable recoilless rocket antitank weapon, widely fielded by the US Army") and nuclear weapons clear are "arms". (Remember the nuclear arms race.) Not much question about that either.

So: By Runft, it is okay to ban some arms. Next question: If we can ban bazookas from private use, why not semi-automatic weapons? From where comes the private constitutional right to possess one but not the other?

A question, then, posed to any and all gun advocates: Should weaponry such as nuclear weapons and bazookas be allowed for private ownership in the United States? If not, why not, if your argument that a right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed?

A heavyweight bout that wasn’t

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

For years, the conventional wisdom among Idaho political insiders has been the state’s two best campaigners were Cecil Andrus, the Democrat, and George Hansen, the Republican. Each had the rare ability to walk into a room of strangers and leave a half hour later with everyone feeling they had personally connected with the candidate and liking him, regardless of party affiliation.

Each had charisma and command presence, in part because each was more than six feet tall. Each had a keen intellect that could reduce complex issues to digestible parts. Each used humor effectively, though Andrus was better at self-deprecation. Neither were great orators but each could speak in lay-man’s language with passion and listen with compassion.

Each had a great memory. They rarely forgot a name or the face. Both had the stamina to begin a day greeting Idaho National Lab bus riders at 4 a.m. and give a stem winder speech that night. They had intensely loyal followers for many years, and some are still around. Hansen and Andrus worked their way up in politics, Andrus starting as the state senator from Clearwater County in 1960 and Hansen as Mayor of Alameda, a suburb of Pocatello in 1960.

Hansen was the first to achieve higher office, knocking off then Democratic incumbent Second District Congressman Ralph Harding from Blackfoot in 1964 in spite of the landslide presidential election of Lyndon Baines Johnson (the last time a Democrat president took Idaho). Hansen quickly turned his sights on Frank Church’s Senate seat, but lost a hard fought race in 1968.

Andrus lost both the 1966 primary race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and then the general election to Republican Don Samuelson. Andrus defeated Samuelson in a rematch in 1970 and went on to win the governorship three more times.

The Second District seat was taken by Orval Hansen (no relation to George), an attorney and state senator from Idaho Falls who served in the House until 1974 when George Hansen decided to reclaim his old seat. He easily dispatched the other Hansen in the Republican primary. George Hansen served 10 controversy-filled years before narrowly losing the 1984 election to Richard Stallings, a history professor at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho).

Before returning to the House, though, George Hansen took one more run at the U.S. Senate seeking the seat being vacated by Len Jordan in 1972. Hansen lost the August primary in a four-way race to First District Congressman Jim McClure, who also defeated former three-term governor Robert E. Smylie and Glen Wegner, a young lawyer and doctor from Kendrick. (more…)

Sculpture in Corvallis

Corvallis
A Willamette River waterfront sculpture in downtown Corvallis, looking out toward the old Benton County building. (photo/Randy Stapilus)

 

Outspoken advice that will likely be ignored

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

A few days after the 2012 general election, we opined in this space the President had become stronger and Congress weaker - that the election had altered the balance of power in favor of the White House. A couple of correspondents said we were wrong - that the President had received no “mandate” and Republicans still controlled the House of Representatives.

In the weeks since, the President’s approval rating has gone up while Congress is now down to unprecedented polling levels - falling in favorability below colonoscopies and root canals. Obama has - with full assistance of that Republican “majority” - secured a stronger bargaining position while Congress - especially the House - has become a swamp.

To the aforementioned skeptics, we now safely advise - it’s gonna get worse for the GOP. And it will be at their own hand.

Several Republican 2016 presidential wannabee’s are already flitting about the country, doing dozens of media interviews, popping more antacid pills because of all the rubber chicken dinners attended and proposing all sorts of new legislation to make the party more “open and welcoming” They’re demonstrating - in spades - they haven’t a clue how to improve the standing or acceptance of the GOP. It’s just so much verbal flatulence.

In weeks since the election, there’s been a single, lifelong Republican voice worth the hearing. After accurately quoting the ignorance of former Republican governors Palin and Sununu, he said this:

“Let me be candid. My party is full of racists and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president and everything to do with the color of his skin. And that’s despicable.”

Colin Powell also accused his own party of ignorance - of intolerance of different views - of demanding ideological purity rather that proposing solutions to the nation’s many problems - of failing to offer an acceptable and viable alternative to the Democrat Party - of failing to understand the fundamental changes of ethnicity taking place in this country today.

To the minorities the GOP is trying to attract - to the independents with whom the GOP must connect - to disaffected Republican moderates who have been exiled from the GOP table - Colin Powells may be the most respected Republican voice in the country today. If other Republicans of similar stature don’t follow his lead - if the Party continues to ignore such right-thinking - there will be Democrats living uninterruptedly in the White House for the next 30 years or more. And controlling Congress.

To the Rubios, the Santorums, the Bachmans, ol’ Newt and the other rabbits out there, all that’s needed are some speeches, some new immigration legislation - some talk of a “big tent” - some new curtains in the windows. So, that’s what they’re proposing. And they’re dead wrong. (more…)