Archive for January, 2014

Jan 31 2014

Homophobic trash

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

“No one should watch sausage or laws being made.”
That old joke has been around for many, many years. It was probably funny when first used. But time and wide-spread law making incompetence have proven at least the second part of the phrase too often very unfunny. The latest example of that has cropped up in the Idaho Legislature.

Idaho is often called the nation’s “most red state.” It’s probably not. I’d call it a “mooshy crimson.” But the current, right wing edition of the Republican Party has been in nearly complete control for a long, LONG time and shows no signs of fading. Want to get your collie into Idaho politics? Call it a Republican and it’ll get elected to something.

Comes now proof that not all the players in the political game of Idaho legislative politics have 52 cards in their personal decks. This week’s award to someone a few cards short – who’s managed to wrap homophobia, paranoia and irrational thought into legislative sausage – is one Rep. Lynn Luker. Republican? Certainly. By today’s standard. Responsible and wise? Not by any measurement known to rational people.

In what he calls a “pre-emptive strike” for God-knows-what, Mr. Luker has scraped two bills off the sludge at the bottom of the legislative barrel – HB426-HB427 – deciding citizens of Idaho should stand squarely behind new laws codifying homophobia and discrimination. Absolutely. Put ‘em on the books.

One would keep the state from revoking any professional license if the licensee withholds services – or refuses services – on the basis of a “personally held religious belief.” So, if a cab driver cited “personal religious belief” for not transporting a gay couple in sub-freezing temperatures, said driver could just say “My religion keeps me from taking these people in out of the cold.” And that would be that. They might freeze to death by the side of the road, but the cabbie would – in his head – be square with God. And – in Mr. Lukerls world – the State of Idaho.

Luker’s other badly tarnished gem of ridiculousness is in a similar vein. It would amend the Idaho Religious Freedom Act to allow an employer to fire someone for being gay, then hide behind a claim of “religious belief.” “I can’t abide those people,” he/she could say. And that would be that.

Luker – who somehow has his own license as a lawyer – says he’s worried about the future and wants his legislation adopted now because “this is pre-emptive – the issue is coming.” He cited a Gresham, Oregon, baker sued because he wouldn’t bake a wedding care for a gay couple. And the New Mexico photographer who wouldn’t take pictures of a gay wedding, arguing “free speech” and some sort and “artistic freedom” – whatever that is in this instance.

Rep. Luker’s backup in this trashy effort is something called “Cornerstone Family Council Advocacy Group.” A spokesman for the “council” claims governments are increasingly passing or interpreting laws to “keep people from living their faith” – a double standard against people of “traditional religious faiths.” Continue Reading »

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Jan 31 2014

Running from different sides

Published by under Mansfield

mansfield DENNIS
MANSFIELD
 

In the many years that I’ve worked in politics, I’ve never quite seen a more curious start to a race for Governor than this year – in Idaho.

Both candidates appear to be running against Barrack Obama – from two different sides. Both want to be more pro-life than the other, as well.

One candidate is an incumbent who joined a small group of three Republican governors embracing Obamacare by developing/supporting a state run health exchange.

All other GOP governors in the US refused to do this.

Another candidate is wrapping his opponent in Obamacare, preparing – as it were – for a political burial at sea.

The sea is an apt description – for we may be about to observe a major sea-change regarding the incumbent’s tenure.

Yesterday’s exchange on abortion between Butch Otter and Russ Fulcher is a telling case in point. With Obama’s partial-birth aborting of his own political “signature-law offspring”, Butch Otter unwanted-ly could become an accessory to his own politi-cide – and Russ Fulcher knows it.

Senator Fulcher has regularly attacked Governor Otter, over these past few months, for the incumbent’s role in failing to stand with the other Republican Governors in direct opposition top Obamacare. Governor Otter sided with the insurance industry lobbyists in developing the state health exchange. The pro-life community asked him not to do it. He chose a different course.

Yesterday, the Governor attacked Senator Fulcher, attempting to wrap the most pro-life senator in the state Capitol as someone who would be inviting Planned Parenthood into the state to determine policy within a federal health exchange.

Hmmm, what?

Something is happening within the Otter camp – something is unnerving its handlers.

Otter doesn’t bother with political slap-fests. In many ways he’s always been above it. So this response by his camp is somewhat awkward to watch.

Having run against him, myself, for US Congress, I can tell you that he’s cool, calm and collected – always in control of events, causing things to happen without himself appearing to be struggling. He also makes things happen without it looking like he did anything to his opponents – in a sense, above the fray.

But Idaho’s demographics are changing – younger people who don’t think of Governor Otter as their friend are shying away from elected officials who were against Obamacare before they were for it – and they may see their new premiums as too huge to pay. My guess is they just may vote with their past-due premium notices, tucked inside their depleted checkbooks.

And it won’t be for Obamacare’s state exchange champion in Idaho. Continue Reading »

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Jan 31 2014

On the front page

Published by under First Take

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Boise conference space proposal (Boise Statesman)
Charges of fraud in Meridian firm’s trial (Boise Statesman)
Federal broadband funds withheld till legal issues resolved (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune)
Snow getting plowerd (Moscow News)
Search on for new Nampa school leader (Nampa Press Tribune)
Thick inversion clearing (Nampa Press Tribune)
Marsing school lockdown procedure questioned (Nampa Press Tribune)
Cassia costs for Gateway West (TF Times News)
Mental health program issues (TF Times News)

Evictions at Corvalla apartments (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
Georgia trailer maker starts in Coburg (Eugene Register Guard)
Kitzhaber: Misled on cover Oregon (Portland Oregonian, KF Herald & News, Pendleton East Oregonian)
Klamath looks at expanding jail (KF Herald & News)
Pot boom predicted (Ashland Tidings)
Teacher negotiations continue (Medford Tribune)
Umatilla goes after junky property (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Business offers new Salem school (Salem Statesman Journal)
Legislative preview (Salem Statesman Journal)

Family of rape victim sies state (Everett Herald)
Jail to cap population (Everett Herald)
Post Office scales back in Everett (Everett Herald)
Prescription med deaths continue (Longview News)
Business groups still organizing (Port Angeles News)
Sea stars turning ill (Port Angeles News)
Senate Republicans back Dream act (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Microsoft about to choose new CEO (Seattle Times)
Comcast opposes rate changes (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma gets 1st charter school in state (Tacoma News Tribune)
Teacher evaluation considered (Tacoma News Tribune)
Oregon wrestles with CRC (Vancouver Columbian)
Dispute over high school artwork (Vancouver Columbian)

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Jan 30 2014

A part of the state of the union

Published by under Trahant

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

The thing I like about state of unions — the national kind, the NCAI kind, and the tribal kind — is that it’s a to do list. Leaders see this is a list of “action items” while I see this as a list of fascinating issues that are worth exploring in future columns.

I want to start with an idea raised by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union message: “Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.”

What would a “year of action” look like in Indian Country? And, more important, how do we get there?

National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby began this year’s State of Indian Nations by talking about so many of the success stories from Indian Country. “Tribal leaders and advocates have never been more optimistic about the future of native people,” he said. But that sense of possibility is “threatened by the federal government’s ability to deliver its promises.”

President Cladoosby released NCAI’s budget request for the coming fiscal year. That document calls for funding treaty obligations with the “fundamental goal” of parity for Indian Country with “similarly situated governments.” As a moral case, and cause, this is exactly right. This is an aspirational document, as it should be.

But in a year of action there needs to be another route forward. This Congress is incapable of honoring treaties. Even in a more friendly era, members of Congress proudly called Indian health a “treaty right” only to appropriate less than what was required. This year’s federal budget essentially is flat (which means less program dollars because Indian Country’s population is growing). NCAI puts it this way: “However, the trend in funding for Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior does not reflect Indian self-determination as a priority in the federal budget.”

But it’s not the Interior Department. It’s all of government and especially the Congress. Continue Reading »

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Jan 30 2014

On the front page

Published by under First Take

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Restaurant cycling in Boise (Boise Statesman)
Texting hard to enforce (Lewiston Tribune)
Ringo fundraising, legislating (Lewiston Tribune)
Pullman draft marijuana rules (Moscow News)
Moscow schools may change schedules (Moscow News)
NNU getting new library (Nampa Press Tribune)
Winmill opens full St. Luke’s case (TF Times News, Nampa Press Tribune)
Clash over ‘Add the words’, service denial (Nampa Press Tribune)
Low snowpack may augur drought (Pocatello Journal)
Otter’s wolf program advances (Pocatello Journal)
Dover Mayor Curless quits (Sandpoint Bee)
More security at schools (Sandpoint Bee)
PILT funds ease county (TF Times News)

Witham Oaks plan adjusted (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Local impacts of farm bill (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Aviation program at Klamath College (KF Herald & News)
Local irrigation leaders meet (KF Herald & News)
School district sued in abuse issue (KF Herald & News)
Medford school strike emergency? (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Whoville for homeless can stay 30 days (Eugene Register Guard)
Culture battles expected at legislture (Medford Tribune)
Oregon will start hemp studies (Medford Tribune)
Some Republicans backing same-sex marriage (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
PERS unfunded liability halves (Portland Oregonian)

Boeing stock dropping (Everett Herald)
Luxury movie outlet at Mill Creek (Everett Herald)
PacNW laboratory plans new $10m stucture (Kennewick Herald)
Judge says sex offender data isn’t public (Kennewick Herald)
Sun Downs racing delayed (Kennewick Herald)
Flu on rampage locally (Longview News)
Pot issues discussed at Clallam (Port Angeles News)
Boeing chief says soothing ahead with workers (Seattle Times)
Tacomans preferring link to north (Tacoma News Tribune)
McMorris Rodgers insurance claim at issue (Spokane Spokesman)
CostCo praised in Obama speech (Spokane Spokesman, Vancouver Columbian)
Mabton reinventing itself (Yakima Herald Republic)

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Jan 29 2014

On the front page

Published by under First Take

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

St Luke’s financial plans revealed by judge (Boise Statesman)
Legislators may halt instant racing gambling machines (Boise Statesman)
No voter fraud in Lewis County (Lewiston Tribune)
Property owners may pay for overgrowths (Moscow News)
Personal income stagnant in north Idaho (Moscow News)
Nancolas medical issues block state of city (Nampa Press Tribune)
Logging in Elk Complex fire area (Nampa Press Tribune)
Bill set to allow professionals to deny service to gays (Nampa Press Tribune, Pocatello Journal)
Bingham shot dog case in uproar (Pocatello Journal)
Fee dispute over Hoku sale (Pocatello Journal)
Bonner County wants state ban on concealed weapons reporting (Sandpoint Bee)
Canyon jump conflict of interest (TN Times News)

Housing may delay for endangered flower (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Challenge dropped to redevelopment of G-T block (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
H&M clothing may open in Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Hermiston okays wastewater bonding (Hermiston Herald)
KF college board considers aviation (KF Herald & News)
Gap in learning among races, classes (KF Herald & News)
Hwy 99 may lose traffic lanes to bicycles (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Medford teachers still may strike (Medford Tribune)
Alternatives to expensive college books (Medford Tribune)
Financing the GMO issue (Medford Tribune)
Wind power firm seeks buyer (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Pendleton council reorganizes (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Planning underway on Columbia water use (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Audit takes issue with Trimet operations (Portland Oregonian)
Legislature will take on budget changes (Portland Oregonian)
Boise Cascade plant demolished (Salem Statesman Journal)
78% in poll approve of gun background checks (Salem Stateman Journal)

Marysville must rehire police officer (Everett Herald)
Pasco city manager retires (Kennewick Herald)
Cowlitz utility has legal trouble (Longview News)
Conservation groups oppose wild runs of fishery fish (Port Angeles News)
Shutdown of Pettit Oil reverberates (Port Angeles News)
Jet noise draws complaints (Port Angeles News)
More shakeup at Seattle Police (Seattle times)
McMorris Rodgers SOTU rebuttal (Spokane Spokesman)
Spokane police on downtown issues (Spokane Spokesman)
Constitution change to limit taxes (Vancouver Columbian)
Inslee: Close tax exemptions for schools (Vancouver Columbian)
tribe tobacco firm may owe taxes (Yakima Herald Republic)

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Jan 28 2014

Government by fiat

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Secrecy has its place. Often – as in the case of national defense – secrecy can save a nation. But in matters of our political affairs, secrecy can destroy our liberties and guaranteed freedoms like a cancer. Such a political disease now exists in our country. If not stopped, we’re soon going to be living in a very different nation.

An important request here. Put aside your personal political leanings for a few minutes and look at what’s happening in several states with as unbiased an eye as possible. Though only one political party is currently conducting this onslaught, it could easily be the reverse with a different outcome at the polls in recent elections. The issue of the moment is the dangerous, freedom-killing tactic – not the perpetrator.

In recent months, legislatures in half a dozen states passed major bills affecting millions of lives. They did so without public notice -without public hearings – in more than one instance without even participation of the other political party. Those bills were promptly signed into law by the respective governors – some such executions without advance notice of any kind.

Now, if you’ve been unable to put aside your political makeup – and if you’re a member of the state majority party that has used these treacherous tactics to put laws on the books you agree with – you may just say “Good for our side.” But suppose you were opposed to what happened and you’re now saddled with these new laws. Still feel good? Still happy? Suppose the roles were reversed.

In each instance, the major topics being legislated have been cutting voting access for minorities and direct threats to women’s health care – specifically availability of abortion services. But that’s just today. And maybe you agree with the outcome. But what about tomorrow? What about the next topic? Substitute such things as new taxes, gun controls, discriminating against YOUR ethnic heritage or race, blocking YOUR ability to vote, creating challenges to YOUR private use – or even ownership – of real property. And dozens of other issues. What if new laws YOU vehemently oppose directly affecting YOUR life were being conceived, passed and executed without your participation or even knowledge? What then? Continue Reading »

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Jan 28 2014

Risch’s vulnerabilities

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Because Idaho is considered the most Republican state in the nation few political prognosticators, whether in Idaho or the nation’s capital, believe Boise attorney Nels Mitchell has a snowball’s chance of defeating the long-serving Republican officeholder.

There’s one big caveat, though, and that comes down to a question of money as in can Mitchell raise enough to pound away on three vulnerabilities for which Senator Jim Risch has no adequate response. If Mitchell can get the funding to saturate the major television markets with good ads exposing these “wounds,” at a minimum he can make what many expect to be a run away Risch victory into a much narrower race.

Here are three concepts for 60-second ads the Mitchell people ought to fine tune and run:

Ad #1: You pay more taxes, Risch pays less.

Recall folks 2006 when then Governor Jim Risch sold the legislature a bill of goods about switching the one quarter of public school funding that comes from property taxes to an increase in the sales tax.

He claimed public education would lose nothing. He was wrong—they lost $50 million and the evisceration of public school funding in Idaho accelerated significantly. Idaho now is 50th out of 51 states and the Federal District, behind even Mississippi in state per pupil support.

Risch claimed no personal benefit from the switch. In a one-day special legislative session in August, while most Idahoans were enjoying vacations, he rammed through the Legislature a bill he knew would lower his Idaho property taxes by at least $4,000. He remained silent about his break while the vast majority got the shaft.

He said if it could be proven he benefitted personally he would drop out of the race. The proof was submitted but he’s still sitting in the Senate.

You can’t afford Jim Risch and Idahoans can’t trust Jim Risch. I’m Nels Mitchell and I authorized this message.

Ad #2 Arrogance

There is only one word that describes it: arrogance. In a December 2012 interview with the Idaho Statesman, Senator Jim Risch said there was no sense working hard in Washington, D.C., because everything is so partisan only grid-lock thrives. Continue Reading »

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Jan 28 2014

On the front page

Published by under First Take

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Luna won’t run again; Smyser possible? (Boise Statesman, Idaho Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune, Pocatello Journal, Moscow News)
Gun on campus bill introduced (Nampa Press Tribune, Sandpoint Bee)
Asotin County considers pot rules (Lewiston Tribune)
Lewiston high school remodel considered (Lewiston Tribune)
West of border shopping center plans still alive (Lewiston Tribune)
No changes in farmers market (Moscow News)
New Idaho Womens Business Center leader (Nampa Press Tribune)
Bill on wolf kills progresses (TF Times News)
Gooding searches for new school leader (TF Times News)

Legislative budget adjustment needed (Corvallis Gazette-Times, Pendleton East Oregonian)
Corvallis bus rates drop (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
Philomath signs with new manager (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
New Eugene fireworks rules possible (Eugene Register Guard)
Looking ahead to legislature (KF Herald & News)
New head of Collier logging park, museum (KF Herald & News)
Shady Cover blaze contained (Ashland Tidings)
Ashland community radio increases wattage (Ashland Tidings)
Buckly on budget plans (Medford Tribune)
Teachers conflict draws mediator (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton’s Travelers Inn to be auctioned (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Hermiston OKs wastewater bond (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Courtney won’t go along with CRC (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
Federal law may ease hemp ban (Portland Oregonian)
Salem backs river front plan (Salem Statesman Journal)

History museum may close (Kennewick Herald)
McMorris Rodgers touted as on rise (Seattle Times, Kennewick Herald)
Bills would order DNA preservation (Kennwick Herald)
Cowlitz housing improving (Longview News)
Sewer firm owner jailed, fined (Longview News)
Crew demolish Glines Canyon dam (Port Angeles News)
Super Bowl Marijuana business (Port Angeles News)
Port has top administrator in hand (Port Angeles News)
Cost of $15/hour for Seattle city pay (Seattle Times)
Liberty Lake won’t allow pot shops (Spokane Spokesman)
City may set barista clothing rules (Spokane Spokesman)
Kitzhaber says CRC dead barring bill (Vancouver Columbian)
Former Selah administrator convicted (Yakima Herald Republic)
Lawsuit says eviction from airfield was wrong (Yakima Herald Republic)

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Jan 27 2014

On the front page

Published by under First Take

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Exports and Idaho (Boise Statesman)
Legislators irked as high court over school funding (Moscow News)
Blaine County favors Boulder-White Clouds (Nampa Press Tribune)
State Supreme Court on dairy feed liens (TF Times News)
Common Core backed by teachers (TF Times News)

Preview of legislature (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
Local ordinances oppose WA pot sales (Eugene Register Guard)
Medford parks kept busy (Medford Tribune)
New bank building on Lithia Way (Medford Tribune)
Former Commissioner Walker’s funeral (Medford Tribune)
Legislators review Cover Oregon options (Portland Oregonian)
Packy the elephant is ill (Portland Oregonian)
Native American students fall behind (Portland Oregonian)
Congressional pressure to renew PILT (Salem Statesman Journal)

Schools at Everett want $259 million (Everett Herald)
Merchants claim harm from Hwy 9 work (Everett Herald)
Small earthquakess near Longview (Longview News)
Legislators irked by court on school funds (Longview News)
Macklemore, Ryan Lewis win at Grammys (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Longview News)
UW Tacoma chancellor Friedman dies (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune)
Health insurance signups rise (Vancouver Columbian)
Planning for new Gorge hiking trails (Vancouver Columbian)
Limited natural gas supply (Takima Herald Republic)

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Jan 26 2014

Legislative tracking from home

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

When I started covering the Idaho Legislature in the mid-70s, there was literally no substitute for heading down to the Boise statehouse, picking up on the paperwork and watching the session unfold, not if you wanted to follow developments there at all closely.

No longer. You can track this 2014 session almost as well from your home as you could on the scene. (Well, not quite – there’s still something to be said for personal contact and interaction. But close.) Credit the legislature, over the years, with making it easy.

Back then, printed lists of committee agendas, bill status and bill copies didn’t emerge widely from the Statehouse. Now, that same material, and more, is on the legislature’s own website, at http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/. Go to that page and in the center, at the top of the list of links, is “Bill Center.” There you can find any piece of legislation by number (divided by House and Senate), if you happen to know it, or you can search by subject.

Click on the bill, and you get not only the bill text but the legislative history – where it is in the process, and how it got there – and the statement of purpose, which is a relatively plain-language brief description of what the bill is designed to do. Mostly, the SOPs are straightforward, though some are written as much to obscure as illuminate: So read them carefully. And there’s a fiscal note, if the legislation is expected to cost the state anything; sometimes the fiscal notes can become the subject of heated debate. Everyone with an interest in the legislature ought to prowl through the bill lists. And do read the bills of interest to you; they’re written in plain English (more or less), as either amendments or additions to the current law, or sometimes as repealers. Anything deleted has a strike-through on it, anything added is underlined. Sometimes the real intent is a little obscure, but that’s something legislators, lobbyists and reporters periodically struggle with too.

That alone is not a bad collection. The main thing missing, which some legislatures provide, is an alert letting you know when the next action on the measure is expected, if something has been scheduled. (Sometimes bills are sent to a committee and are, well, never heard from again.)

If you really want to bear down, you can look at the same thing legislators have been spending much of their time on these first few weeks of the session: Administrative rules. Legislators review them, and can kill them, during sessions, and there’s even a proposal to lock that role into the state constitution. (I think the state did just fine in the years before 1995 when legislators reviewed the rules simply when someone had an objection to one, but we’d be talking about the legislative giving up authority now.) Those rule books are all on line.

Reporters and everyone else used to rely on printed agendas for floor and committee action. They’re all posted online, and in the main reliably. And you can read the “progress report,” the number of bills and other measures introduced and passed this session compared to this point in the last five sessions. (This year, so far, they’re introducing more than last year but fewer than the years before.)

And then there’s watching the action. You can go to to the Idaho Public Television page www.idahoptv.org/insession/leg.cfm to watch the Senate or House floor action. Not all of the committee meetings are video streamed but many of them are, in the Lincoln Auditorium, the budget committee room and a House hearing room.

Read the legislative reports from journalists; you can get more and faster that way than by peering through the official reports. But those official reports can broaden and deepen your grasp of what’s going on.

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Jan 26 2014

On the front page

Published by under First Take

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

On law enforcement cooperation on drugs (Lewiston Tribune)
WA House Democrats back minority voting (Lewiston Tribune)
Efforts to raise minimum wage (Nampa Press Tribune)
Is Pocatello’s fired coach coming back? (Nampa Press Tribune)
Bill on concealed weapon on campus (Pocatello Journal)
Attorney sues former ISU prof on defamation (Pocatello Journal)
Prosecutor on why no charge in dog killing (Pocatello Journal)
Legislator seeks repeal of stumpage districts (Sandpoint Bee)
Private mental health provider criticized (Sandpoint Bee)
Classrooms go online as books fall apart (TF Times News)
Review of sage grouse debate (TF Times News)
TF man helped prompted legislature rule process (TF Times News)

Leaburg Dam ailing (Eugene Register Guard)
Driving/cell phone fine costs rise (KF Herald & News)
Medford teacher may strike February 6 (Medford Tribune)
Reviewing dog bites locally (Medford Tribune)
ATF gun sting not yielding a lot (Portland Oregonian)
Oregon clout in Senate growing (Portland Oregonian)
EPA slow in assessing Salem cancers (Salem Statesman Journal)
Salem may approve redevelopment of old BC property (Salem Statesman Journal)

Shohomish emergency dispatch still behind (Everett Herald)
Minority voting measure action planned (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald)
Wind farms killing birds of prey? (Longview News)
Methanol plants could boost region (Longview News)
Area economic development leader quits (Port Angeles News)
Marijuana businesses, banking (Port Angeles)
Red light cameras found working (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma pay benefits considered (Tacoma News Tribune)
Apartments growing fast at Tacoma (Tacoma News Tribune)
Proposal to add two Clark commissioners (Vancouver Columbian)
More questions arise on pot (Vancouver Columbian)
Changing Endangered Species Act (Yakima Herald Republic)

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Jan 26 2014

Scattershot initiative?

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Washington

The successful 2012 initiative legalizing marijuana also carried with it orders to both tax and regulate and set up a distribution system. This the state has been steadily working on doing, slower, admittedly, than similarly-situated Colorado has.

But it has been slowed by a number of factors, one a pre-existing condition and other a development in the aftermath.

The earlier condition was the lack of a distribution system for legal (under state law) marijuana for medical purposes. Dispensaries popped up, but there was no state provision for them, and so no system to build off when recreational legalization came around. The new regime had to start, to a greater degree, from scratch.

It also faced a different kind of obstacle, localized opposition.

The 55.7% initiative win carried in most of the larger counties but lost in 19 of them, primarily smaller and rural (Clark and Yakima were the largest). Quite a few people in those places do not want marijuana stores in their areas, and they’re busy at work passing ordinances designed to block them. A state attorney general’s opinion says they have considerable latitude in doing that.

As time goes on, some may change their minds. The stores will be moneymakers (if they are not, they go out of business), and will bring new (above-ground) money to communities that house them. Some may find the economic plus and the tax loss to be not worth the ban.

There’s also the real possibility of the legislature stepping in an limiting that authority. This would not be out of line, because initiatives passing in the state are intended to be in practical effect statewide; the local actions are meant as a nullification. How far can or should local nullification go?

That’s a larger question, of course, covering territory well beyond marijuana. But it could be that marijuana is the subject area turf where it is initially grappled with.

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Jan 25 2014

On the front pages

Published by under First Take

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Judge throws out St, Luke’s buy (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News)
People speak at legislative health care hearing (Lewiston Tribune)
Lewiston sawmill does major upgrade (Lewiston Tribune)
Housing costs rise at WSU (Moscow News)
WSU frat closed (Moscow News)
Add the words effort goes on (Nampa Press Tribune, Pocatello Journal)
Private mental health provider critcized (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News)
Pocatello fired coach status unclear (Pocatello Journal)
Labrador holds Sandpoint hown hall (Sandpoint Bee)
Conflict over Common Core (Sandpoint Bee)

Curry gold course delayed (Coos Bay World)
Coos County budget process begins (Coos Bay World)
Businesses complaint about parking lack (Corvallis Gazette Times)
State recalculates student poverty (Corvallis Gazette Times, KF Herald & News)
Rare winter wild fires in Oregon (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Engineer hired for area events center (Pendleton East Oregonian, Hermiston Herald)
Ashland watershed area burns (Ashland Tidings)
Organic Nation distillery shuts down (Ashland Tidings)
Medford teachers quit talks (Medford Tribune)
Reviewing Eastern Oregon economy (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Flu still active in Oregon (Portland Oregonian)
OLCC warns of probems if groceries sell liquor (Portland Oregonian)
Courtney wants Cover Oregon fixed (Salem Statesman Journal)
State defense of gay marriage ban (Salem Statesman Journal)

What’s the smell at Marysville? (Everett Herald)
Machinists face internal battle (Everett Herald)
Police brass was law to aid discipline (Kennewick Herald)
Oil train safety considered (Longview News)
Feds seek protection for captured orca (Seattle Times, Longview News)
Washington has major gender pay gap (Seattle Times)
Eastern Washington U president retires (Spokane Spokesman)
Baking for pot stores? (Tacoma News Tribune)
Tacoma port passes Seattle on containers shipped (Tacoma News Tribune)
Stuart explains quitting Clark board (Vancouver Columbian)

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Jan 24 2014

Unwinding anti-competition

Published by under Reading

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

Federal District Judge Lynn Winmill ruled today that a buyout by St. Luke’s Health System of the Saltzer Medical Group at Nampa violated anti-trust law.
The case had been brought by St. Alphonus Medical Center-Nampa. The decision followed a trial in October.

Winmill’s decision was led with a plain-language summary of analysis that runs through recent views of the economics of health care.

From that analysis:

For years, health care costs have exceeded the inflation rate. Americans spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined – a list that includes Japan, Germany, France and the U.K. – yet we lag behind many of them on quality and patient outcomes. In Idaho, the quality of our health care is outstanding, but we pay
substantially more than the national average for that quality.

Among the experts, there is a rough consensus on a solution to the cost and quality concerns nationwide. They advocate moving away from our present fee-for-service health insurance reimbursement system that rewards providers, not for keeping their patients healthy, but for billing high volumes of expensive medical procedures. A far better system would focus on maintaining a patient’s health and quality of life, rewarding successful patient outcomes and innovation, and encouraging less expensive means of providing critical medical care. Such a system would move the focus of health care back to the patient, where it belongs.

In fact, there is a broad if slow movement to such a system. It will require a major shift away from our fragmented delivery system and toward a more integrated system where primary care physicians supervise the work of a team of specialists, all committed to a common goal of improving a patient’s health.

St. Luke’s saw this major shift coming some time ago. And they are to be complimented on their foresight and vision. They started purchasing independent physician groups to assemble a team committed to practicing integrated medicine in a system where compensation depended on patient outcomes.

In Nampa, they acquired the Saltzer Medical Group. The
combined entity now includes 80% of the primary care physicians in Nampa. Its size, and the sterling reputations of Saltzer and St. Luke’s, make it the dominant provider in the Nampa area for primary care, and give it significant bargaining leverage over health insurance plans.

These circumstances prompted the Federal Trade Commission, and a group of other health care providers including St. Alphonsus and Treasure Valley Hospital, to file this lawsuit claiming that the Acquisition violated the antitrust laws. They ask the Court to unwind the deal.

The antitrust laws essentially require the Court to predict whether the deal under scrutiny will have anticompetitive effects. The Court predicts that it will. Although possibly not the intended goal of the Acquisition, it appears highly likely that health care costs will rise as the combined entity obtains a dominant market position that will enable it to (1) negotiate higher reimbursement rates from health insurance plans that will be passed on to the consumer, and (2) raise rates for ancillary services (like x-rays) to the higher hospital-billing rates.

The Acquisition was intended by St. Luke’s and Saltzer primarily to improve patient outcomes. The Court is convinced that it would have that effect if left intact, and St. Luke’s is to be applauded for its efforts to improve the delivery of health care in the Treasure Valley. But there are other ways to achieve the same effect that do not run afoul of the antitrust laws and do not run such a risk of increased costs. For all of these reasons, the Acquisition must be unwound.

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