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Posts published in February 2013

Sequester impacts, by state

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

From the White House, state breakdowns were released Sunday on local impacts of the prospective federal budget sequester.

Reports for all the states were released; these are the links for Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Interesting reading, and they do tend to bring the airy national numbers down to more specific results.

Closer to home

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

Here's an idea to get your mind around: A legislature in which you're represented by two rather than three state lawmakers, with legislators elected from 105 rather than 35 districts. In which the number of legislators overall is the same as it is right now.

Welcome to the way Oregon apportions its legislature, and the way a group of legislators in Washington state – a liberal and a moderate Democrat and a conservative Republican – are proposing it be done there. A way that could be done, too, in Idaho.

It's less complicated than I made it sound a couple of paragraphs back, and barely more complicated than what Idaho does now. Idaho has (and has had since 1966, with a six-year interruption) 35 districts, roughly equal in population, each represented by one senator and two representatives. Washington state does the same with 49 districts.

Oregon has 90 legislators, and like the other two has twice as many representatives as senators. But its districts are different. It has 30 Senate districts; on the House level each of those Senate districts is split in half, those halves each electing one representative, 60 in all. For a total of 90. That gives each representative a smaller group of constituents to worry about, and theoretically at least gives the voters better access to and more influence with their representative. You could argue that it makes the House “closer to the people” without increasing the number of legislators.

A bill proposed by three Washington House members, liberal Democrat Hans Dunshee, moderate Democrat Dawn Morrell and conservative Republican Hans Zeiger (inevitably, the “Hans and Hans bill”) has been introduced there instructing the next redistricting commission (which Washington, like Idaho but unlike Oregon, has) to split up the legislature in the separate-House-district way.

In Washington, that would mean House districts of about 70,000 people instead of the current 140,000. In Idaho, that would mean House districts of about 22,500 people each rather than 45,000 or so. (more…)

First take: Tuition, tax agencies

news

TUITION EQUITY The Oregon House on Friday cast what probably was the key vote on "tuition equity" - allowing in-state college tuition rates to students who aren't in Oregon legally but have lived there for a long time and meet certain standards. Similar measures have failed in the House before, though they have passed the Senate (where this one goes next, and is expected to clear). All House Democrats voted in favor; a scattering of House Republicans did too, but most of the Republican caucus (including most from the Willamette Valley) voted against. It was called a bipartisan issue, but ... not really.

ANTI-TAX AGENCY It's not often Idaho legislators give a better review to a federal agency than to its state counterpart, but a bunch of senators did on Friday, during a floor discussion of tax auditing. The Internal Revenue Service, so often disparaged among Idaho elected officials, was described as relatively decent compared to the state Tax Commission employees. Senator Monty Pearce: "We have that image with the surrounding states. They know that's how we are. There's just a mentality - we're going to collect money, come hell or high water." But not just Republicans took that stance; it was heard across the aisle as well. Tax officials took exception.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/02/22/2462308/senate-bashes-idaho-tax-agency.html#storylink=cpy

Special funds for charters?

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

From a February 20 Idaho Education News post by Kevin Richert.

Members of the House Education Committee voted unanimously Thursday to introduce a groundbreaking — and potentially controversial — charter school funding bill.

The bill would provide $1.4 million to offset charter schools facility costs.

Because Thursday’s hearing was only an introductory print hearing, legislators did not allow testimony from education stakeholders or the public. Now that the legislation has been introduced, a full public hearing one the charter school proposal will likely occur in the coming days or weeks.

Jason Hancock, deputy chief of staff for the Idaho State Department of Education, said a committee including representatives from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, school district administrators, the Idaho School Boards Association and Idaho Charter School Network crafted the plan after studying charter school rules and laws since June.

Unlike school districts, charter schools are unable to go to voters to seek bonds or levies to pay for facilities. Instead, Hancock said, charter schools often have to spend 15 and 30 percent of their operations money on facilities.

“During the coruse of their existence, (charter schools) have had to scrimp and save and steal in order to pay for facilities,” Hancock told lawmakers will introducing the bill.”

Ken Burgess, a lobbyist representing charter schools, concedes that the bill sets up an “interesting battle” in the Statehouse. (more…)

Read ’em and weep

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

From time to time, I’m sternly criticized by a reader or three – and an occasional friend – that the musings usually found within these digital pages are too anti-Republican. I’m accused, not necessarily of being a Democrat in journalist’s clothing, but of just not giving support to things GOP. Not finding the good, as it were.

Well, there’s some truth to that last criticism. Trouble is, my critical GOP friends, there’s not much Republican “good” tidings where most of us Americans are these days. We’re just not supporting things Republican. By large numbers.

A new Pew Research poll out this week is the best scientific evidence to date that the “Grand Old Party” is in disfavor on every single issue of national importance. All of ‘em! The statistics are overwhelming.

Taxes and the deficit. The Democrat proposal of a combination of spending cuts and tax increases is supported by 76% across the board. Republicans want only cuts and that gets the support of just 19%.

Raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour? Support is 71% by all but only 50% by Republicans.

Climate change. More than 54% say the most important step to take is developing alternative energy sources (what Democrats want) versus 34% expanding production and drilling more (what Republicans want.)

Gun control. Americans favor new gun legislation 67%-29%. Specifically, expanded background checks 83%-15% – assault weapons ban 56%-41%. Those numbers find Republican and NRA oriented Democrat members of Congress on the losing end on all counts.

Pew sampled immigration. Border security and a path to citizenship – Democrat positions – favored by 47%. The GOP’s stand of prioritizing only enforcement got 25% and on citizenship opportunities 25%. And today’s Republican official position on eventual citizenship consists only of some sort of ill-defined second-class status.

But we’re not done yet. If you re-read these numbers, you’ll find one very startling fact: majorities favor federal government/legislative action on every issue. Every one! That concept – borne out by the numbers – is completely contrary to Republican positions. On all issues, most of us want federal government action. Now!

But, if I were a Republican campaign pro, here’s a result that would really send me straight to the bar. A new Bloomberg sampling this week gives the President a 55% job approval rating – highest in three years! Also, Bloomberg found 49% believe the President’s ideas to increase government spending in key areas are more likely to create jobs. (more…)

First take: Reardon out, Albertsons in

news

REARDON OUT Not so many years ago, Aaron Reardon seemed to be one of the rising stars in Washington Democratic politics, maybe a prospect for governor or some other higher office, after his move from the legislature to becoming executive of the state's third-largest, and one of its key political swings, Snohomish. How the tides turn ... He has been in recent months, as the headlines say, "embattled," and this morning he said he will resign as executive at the end of May. As the Everett Herald summed, "He was investigated last year by the Washington State Patrol, and never charged, for allegations of misusing county money during an extramarital affair. He is the focus of a state Public Disclosure Commission investigation into using county resources on political campaigns, and he has been subject to repeated efforts by a Gold Bar blogger to recall him from office." Not pretty, and maybe not recoverable (politically) at this point. And Snohomish politics, often shaky, looks about to rumble and roll again.

ALBERTSONS REDUX Looks as if the people who will be running the New Albertsons supermarket operations (evidently being spun from SuperValu) may be the people who were running Albertsons long ago, when it was an independent operation. That may be helpful for the operation, if these executives learn from recent history.

The desire to simplify

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

What is it about human nature that leads intelligent, usually sensible folks to fall into the trap of the “either/or?” Why do we have a horrible tendency to want to simplify the complex matters we face as individuals and a society? Will we ever learn that the false promises of simple solutions always ignore the law of unintended consequences?

These questions emerge as we witness the latest folly of Congress abdicating its responsibility to produce a preferably balanced budget which does not mortgage our children and grandchildren’s futures.

Unable to come to grips with our potentially crippling trillion -dollar debt by adopting a sensible program of reform, as advocated by the Simpson/Bowles Commission, Congress set a date in which mandatory, across-the-board spending cuts would be imposed if no agreement for fiscal responsibility was reached.

In effect, it is akin to placing a pistol to one’s head and saying if I haven’t quit drinking the toxic Kool-Aid of unbalanced spending by March 1,, I’m going to pull the trigger. It is fiscal insanity, but then so is the penchant to spend what we don’t have by continued borrowing.

The March 1 deadline is nearly here, yet Congress and the White House appear paralyzed, each pointing the finger at the other. Truth is, each share the blame, and each is playing high- stakes poker with the economy.

An $85 billion cut in a trillion dollar budget doesn’t seem catastrophic. Entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) are sacrosanct so the $85 billion comes from the Defense Department budget and from the rest of domestic spending. It equates to an 8 percent cut in the already existing Defense budget and a 5 percent reduction in the budgets of existing domestic spending. And it is across the board.

Its impact will be felt across Idaho, especially because we are one of the “net gainer” states. We receive $1.23 in federal spending for every $1 we hand over to Uncle Sam in fees and taxes. Just a few of the national impacts will be: 77,000 already enrolled children living in homes below the poverty line will be dropped from the valuable Head Start program that helps improve their educational opportunities; commodity food purchases for Aid for Dependent Children and hot lunch programs will be curtailed; and, contract employees of the Defense Department, half of whom are veterans, will be furloughed. (more…)

First take: Oracle, Washington’s sequester

news

ORACLE AT HILLSBORO Oracle Corporation has been at Hillsboro, Oregon, for several years, but also for some time its future there has been uncertain. Now it appears to be off the fence, with the announcement of 130 new server-building jobs and more besides that, as well as retention of the scattered current facilities. Taken together with the recent Intel expansions, it's an indicator that high tech in the Hillsboro area is growing again rapidly.

SEQUESTER CUTS If the budget-cutting sequester happens, who gets hurt? Apparently, Washington state for one, because of the large amount of (usually exempt) military activity there. The Tacoma News Tribune estimates "About 9,500 Army civilian employees would be compelled to take furloughs if the budget cuts take place. Another 2,000 contractors would lose work because of decreased construction or reduced operations on Army sites."

Pope’s retirement or confinement?

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Like most of us, I was surprised when Benedict XVI decided to give up the big chair at the head of the Catholic table for – when compared to most others who’ve held the job – “early” retirement. Over the centuries, many Popes held on long past their abilities to fulfill the demanding duties.
Benedict said factors of deteriorating physical and mental health helped make his decision at this time. I believe that was part of it – especially since I’m a fellow senior – a few years younger – who’s already noted slower reaction times, aching joints and bouts of forgetfulness.

Beneath the cloak of secrecy that surrounds top officialdom of the Catholic Church, much of what goes on there is hidden from the rest of us mortals. When elected, Benedict said he wanted more transparency in Vatican affairs. Based on how little public access to Vatican affairs has changed in eight years, my guess is he found that goal more difficult to achieve than he’d imagined. Though a long-time participant in top-level matters of the Church – certainly experienced in its operation – he likely had a similar reaction American politicians have after being elected President. To really know the job, you have to be one.

But now it seems there may be more to the retirement of Cardinal Ratzinger than the infirmities of old age. Serving in many offices of Catholic leadership, he achieved some things. But he’ll fade into retirement and into the history of Catholicism a flawed personality. For him, the afterglow will be tainted because of something he didn’t do. When he should have.

The job he held when elected Pope was head of the Office of Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. Since the Inquisition centuries ago, that office has existed solely to be the doctrinal watchdog of the Catholic Church. As the name implies, all matters of doctrinal enforcement reside there. And the word “enforcement” is not too strong when referring to centuries of presiding over – and enforcing – the laws of Catholicism.

When Cardinal Ratzinger had the job, he faced many difficult situations – most of which were handled with authority. Most. Not all. During his tenure, the Church faced the outbreak of hundreds and hundreds of cases of sexual abuse within the priesthood. It had been rumored for years. Many, many years. But Ratzinger was appointed to the post at a time when the desk was stacked high with evidence. Proof abounded from America, Ireland, England, France, Germany and elsewhere. Even his own home diocese in Bavaria. Sexual abuse was no longer just “talk” – it was widespread, proven, horrible – and fact.

Also well-documented fact: Ratzinger not only personally knew of such cases, he actually participated in moving guilty priests from one church – or one diocese – or even one county – to another. And he signed off on transfers made by other Cardinals dealing with pedophile priests. He had the files. He had testimony. He had court findings. He knew. He could’ve undertaken major investigations to root out perpetrators and punish. But acting on sexual abuse issues to any extent? There’s no evidence he did. In fact, evidence exists that he knew and did not act forcefully. (more…)