Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Today’s word is “SEQUESTER.” The two most popular definitions are “to hide away” and “to take by authority.” I would propose a third: “a nationally crippling action – totally self-inflicted – taken by the most incompetent Congress to ever sit in Washington, D.C.”

We’re entering our second month of this sequester madness. Little by little, “we, the people” are feeling the pressures. Each day brings word of new restrictions or ending a government service or program. Each day, millions more citizens who can’t afford the loss are forced to do so. Each day, the collective members of Congress sit on their collective asses and do nothing.

Here we are – two months in – and the only time you hear the word “sequester” is when it’s attached to some news story describing another loss of the government services we’ve already paid for. That’s the ONLY time!

Think about it. In the last two weeks, for example, have you heard the word “sequester” used positively in a story describing how concerned our members of Congress are about the load they’ve thrown on the electorate? Us? Have you read a single story – just one – saying Democrats and Republicans are working feverishly to end the moronic fiscal madness their infighting has caused? I mean, of course, aside from elimination of public tours of the White House which has angered traveling GOP constituents.

I have not. From beltway media, we’ve heard about immigration, gun safety, phony budgets passed in one house that won’t even get to a vote in the other. We’ve heard blame, name-calling, descriptions of new Republican-backed abortion bills and the 35th attempt to kill Obamacare. We’ve witnessed spineless filibusters to block presidential appointees and legislation that should’ve been placed for an up-or-down vote. We’ve heard tea party-types and their ignorant rants and even heard Hispanics called “wetbacks.” All in the last three weeks.

But honest work to solve real problems their intransigence and bickering have cost millions of Americans? None! Action to end this madness that threatens our national security? None! And it’s getting worse. Each day.

Here’s a tiny example in our northwest neighborhood. In Idaho, four small airports are losing FAA controller staff. Sequester. Accompanied by yet another government lie. “Closing the tower (and 148 others) should have no effect on safety,” according to an FAA spokesman. Take it from a former pilot, that’s not true. When existing traffic control was instituted at those airports, the FAA justified it by saying new services would “improve safety.” Well, if it did that then, how would removal not affect safety now? Which is it?
Some airlines won’t fly into airports without traffic control. Stop flights and how many lodging, restaurant, rental car companies and others will soon feel it? How many minimum wage employees will be let go? How many will turn to state and county governments for assistance? And who pays those bills?

Huffington Post has published 100 examples of indiscriminate cuts caused by sequester. Closed food pantries and health services – military readiness cutbacks – reduced food safety inspections – customs & immigration office closures – companies laying off workers and leaving openings unfilled – schools on military bases cut to four days – closed cancer treatment centers – medical research halted – some EMT services ended – closed job training schools – head start ended – and on and on and on.

Let’s throw another log on this pile of congressional failure. Two years ago this month, Congress cost us a reduction in our national bond rating. Another economic body blow. Totally self-inflicted. In turn, that directly meant higher interest rates for borrowed money to pay the national debt. Debt they ran up. The unnecessary additional costs? Billions! Who pays?

So, it’s been two years. What have you heard lately about congressional labors to improve our debtor standing – regain the top bond rating they lost – and stop paying billions more on the national debt? Is there a “gang of eight” or a “gaggle of four” or a “herd of three” or even a single soul working to reverse this national embarrassment? Even one?

Despite our best private efforts, our economy is being sabotaged by our own government. Rather than working for the national good, it’s being held back and even thwarted by elected partisans who never should’ve held office in the first place.

The failures and many costly failures we’re experiencing have been directly caused by one ineffective congress after another. As this needless, damaging and hurtful sequester and the continued partisan wrangling continue to eat up limited resources and create hardships on millions, there appear to be no honest efforts underway to end the problems. Those who could do what’s necessary to heal our crippled government seem content to let all this go where it will with the hope that – somehow – it will all sort itself out.

What’s our $174,500 per head buying us? Not very damned much!

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Rainey

news

VANCOUVER DEVELOPMENT This was in the Briefing last week but certainly merits another highlight: What might be the single most transformative building project now up in the Northwest. It is a waterfront building effort in Vancouver on the shore of the Columbia River, where old mill property once was. A region once cut off from downtown by road and rail ways, it’s now poised to become a major adjunct to downtown, and maybe over time even the center of it. A very big deal, highlighted on the front page of the Oregonian today.

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First Take

Watts
 
Greater Pocatello Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Matt Hunter (left) chats with lobbyist John Watts at an Idaho Falls luncheon. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

John Watts, a partner at Veritas Advisors, has been lobbying Idaho legislators since 1983 on behalf of a wide range of clients.

When he addressed an Idaho Falls Mayor’s Business Day luncheon on April 2, two days before the Legislature adjourned, he said its 2013 session has been “truly uniquely different,” setting new precedents and breaking traditions.

The Boisean said 24-hour cable news, cell phones and social media like Facebook and Twitter were not in existence 30 years ago when he started his career as a lobbyist, but they have dramatically changed the way business is now conducted at the State Capitol.

Everyone at the Statehouse also is worrying about issues at the federal level that directly impact Idaho, Watts said. “Then, along comes redistricting,” which brought about a whole new set of legislative districts and a crop of 32 brand new legislators.

And, for the first time in his memory, a sitting speaker of the House was defeated for re-election, Watts said, referring to Scott Bedke’s defeat of fellow Republican Lawrence Denney for the top post, which Denney has held since 2006.

A Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee education bill was defeated on the floor of the Senate. Watts said he does not remember in 30 years a JFAC bill dying such a death. Usually, JFAC legislation is considered a given because representatives of both houses work together to draft it.

Six of 10 Senate chairmanships and seven of 14 House chairmanships are
held by new legislators, Watts noted. There also is a new minority leader in the Senate. “Sophomores are sitting as chairs,” he said.

Watts likened the Idaho Legislature to a business where one third of the work force is replaced and told to start work the next day with up to 60 percent of the managers brand new. This session also marked the first time it was mandatory for all legislators to undergo ethics training.

One of the longest debates in the Legislature’s history also happened this session, pertaining to establishing a state health insurance exchange in response to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” taking effect.

The controversial issue was debated for nine hours on the House floor and for seven hours in the Senate, ranking for length of time with when abortion was debated in the Legislature during the early 1990s, Watts said. Full hearings regarding the health care issue took nearly two full months, too.

Despite the high number of freshmen legislators, 542 pieces of legislation were introduced this years as opposed to 546 in 2011 and 450 in 2009. “They were still introducing bills late Friday.”

Nine of the new legislators are from eastern Idaho. Only two of the 14 House chairmen and one of the 10 Senate chairmen come from north of the Salmon River. The rest are from the Treasure Valley, Magic Valley and Southeast Idaho.

“Some of the chairs in the northern part of the state are wishing they lived in the southern part,” Watts said.

This year’s bills seemed to be “more complicated, a little grayer and more
compromised than in the past.” Fourteen of the new legislators emphasized they were determined to vote in the best interest of the state even if it meant going against their leadership.

A measure that would phase out the state’s personal property tax over years now sits on Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s desk for his signature. Lawmakers also tackled a bill pushed by Commerce Director Jeff Sayer that would enable Idaho to better compete against other states by providing $3 million to entice new business to the state.

Some bills, however, failed this session, including one that would create transportation economic development zones, the “Hire One More Employee” (HOME) bill, an Internet sales tax bill and a Medicaid expansion bill.

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Idaho Mendiola