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Posts published in February 2014

At the tele-town hall

mendiola MARK


Several Idahoans who phoned into Idaho U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s tele-town hall meeting Wednesday night, Feb. 12, expressed concerns that President Barack Obama is abusing executive orders, creating a constitutional crisis that might require impeachment proceedings to be brought against the nation’s chief executive.

They said they fear Obama is directly violating the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers between the government’s executive, legislative and judicial branches by arbitrarily circumventing Congress and ignoring or even contradicting enacted laws with his executive orders.

During the hour-long town hall session, Crapo’s constituents also asked about missing Idaho POW Bowe Bergdahl, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” the Keystone XL Pipeline, the U.S. Farm Bill, the minimum wage, environmental protection, broadening the tax base and reforming the tax code.

Crapo said at this point a majority of members in the U.S. House and Senate have not concluded that impeachment of the president would be a proper step.

The U.S. Constitution allows for presidents, vice presidents, federal judges and civil officers to be removed from office via impeachment if they have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” including criminal actions or serious misuse or abuse of office.

In American history, the U.S. House of Representatives initiated impeachment proceedings against only two U.S. presidents -- Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. The Senate acquitted Johnson by one vote and dismissed charges against Clinton.

Crapo said he is increasingly hearing the impeachment issue raised “as the president steps outside the law and whether that amounts to high crimes and misdemeanors.” While Congress now is unlikely to impeach Obama, the Idaho Republican said he will not say that will not happen.

Crapo was among 45 Senate Republicans to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court saying it was illegal for Obama to make “recess appointments” of three members to the National Labor Relations Board and Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) when the Senate was still in pro forma session and without its advice and consent.

Crapo said Obama was literally in violation of the Constitution by taking that action. “I don’t think he accidentally did this.”

Three federal appeals courts have ruled those appointments were improper. The Supreme Court heard the landmark case in mid-January. Its decision is expected in late June.

Last November, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pulled the trigger on the so-called “nuclear option,” making a controversial, historic Senate rule change that eliminates filibusters blocking presidential nominees and allows a simple majority vote, rather than 60 votes, to confirm nominees, limiting the power of minority Republicans. (more…)

Two Walshes

carlson CHRIS


Newly appointed Montana Senator John Walsh ought to build his campaign to be elected to finish the term of new U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus around the issues a famous namesake (Though not related), Montana Senator Thomas J. Walsh championed for the 20 years he held the seat (1913-1933).

John Walsh, a former Adjutant General of the Montana National Guard, is a true political novice. His prior political experience is slightly more than a year of service as Montana’s Lieutenant Governor. He ran and won in 2012 as the ticket mate for then Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock’s successful bid for the governorship.

Walsh worked well with Governor Bullock, and when the long-serving and never defeated Senator Max Baucus announced he was retiring, Walsh, with Bullock’s blessing, began campaigning for the Democratic nomination. Even if the popular and charismatic former Governor, Brian Schweitzer, had re-entered the Senate race he dropped out of before Baucus had announced his plans, Walsh indicated he was staying in the race.

Once another popular former Montana governor, Marc Racicot, made it clear he would not be a candidate for the Republican nomination, most pundits conceded the Senate seat to Schweitzer until the Billings Gazette ran a major feature article highlighting some questionable dealings by Schweitzer.

With Racicot and Schweitzer both taking a pass, Republicans, both in Montana and nationally, saw their hopes start to rise as they contemplated freshman Republican Congressman Steve Daines’ elevation to the Senate. With more name recognition and strong support from the Republican Senatorial Campaign committee who see this as a key “turn over” state in their desire to seize control of the Senate, Daines is favored.

Governor Bullock, though, by naming Walsh to the seat gives the Democrat a bit of an extra edge by making him the incumbent, and Walsh’s prospects should not be dismissed. For one, he not only has Bullock solidly behind him, he also has the likeable former teacher/farmer Senator Jon Tester working hard for his election.

Senator Walsh could do a lot worse than model his campaign around the issues that his famous namesake, Senator Thomas J. Walsh, so skillfully utilized to stay in office for 20 years.

The first Montana Senator Walsh was an Irish-Catholic native of Wisconsin who started out as a teacher but soon switched to law and graduated from the University of Wisconsin’s Law School. He migrated to Helena in 1890 where he set up a practice specializing in copper litigation and accidental injuries.

Politics drew him into a congressional race in 1906 which he lost but then was named a U.S. Senator by the Montana Legislature in 1913. With a sharp legal mind he quickly made a name for himself on the Senate Judiciary committee. He became a stalwart supporter of President Woodrow Wilson and was the Western Field Campaign manager for Wilson’s Re-Election campaign in 1916, which Wilson narrowly won over Justice Charles Evans Hughes. (more…)

On the front pages


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)

Mexican consul speaks to Idaho Senate (Boise Statesman)
Canyon real state market tightens (Nampa Press Tribune)
House advances bill for 10-year-old hunters (Pocatello Journal)
Decision ahead on Pocatello mosque (Pocatello Journal)
Filer dog-shooting copy gains backing (TF Times News)
Times News sues school board on records TF Times News)

Legislation on local pot store regulation (KF Herald & News)
Top Klamath fire chief named (KF Herald & News)
Walden wants Cover Oregon audiit (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, Pendleton East Oregonian, Ashland Tidings)
Post-storm, power still out for many (Eugene Register Guard)
Possible southern Oregon flooding (Ashland Tidings)
Medford teacher strike, still (Medford Tribune)
Massive truancy at Vernonia (Portland Oregonian)
Some bills live, some die (Portland Oregonian)
Legislature may adjust Metro growth lines (Portland Oregonian)

Hastings won't run again (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald)
Legislature considers transport package (Vancouver Columbian, Kennewick Herald)
Longview backs off zoning for pot (Longview News)
Cowlitz teens telling all on Twitter (Longview News)
Hurricane Ridge skiing may start (Port Angeles News)
Most Forks dogs adopted out (Port Angeles News)
SeaTac businesses moving to $15 wages (Seattle Times)
Gas tax may be raised (Spokane Spokesman)
New local app may help on heart attacks (Spokane Spokesman)
Snow levels still low (Yakima Herald Republic)
Local judge moves to appellate court (Yakima Herald Republic)

On the front pages


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)

Mail thefts in Idaho? (Boise Statesman)
Legislature considers online hospital cost posts (Boise Statesman)
Guns on campus bill clears House (Boise Statesman, TF Times News, Pocatello Journal, Sandpoint Bee)
Idaho Center costs in discussion (Nampa Press Tribune)
Alternative middle school gets high marks (Nampa Press Tribune)
Marley runs for lt gov (Pocatello Journal)
Mosque construction sought at Pocatello (Pocatello Journal)
Pocatello auditorium district may own events center (Pocatello Journal)
Payday lending bill runs aground (TF Times News)
Filer dog shooting became big cause (TF Times News)

Oregon flooding ahead? (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Schools respond to snow outages (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Flat revenue means budget cuts (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, Corvallis Gazette Times, Pendleton East Oregonian)
Library district plan coming to ballot (Ashland Tidings)
Richardson wants Cover Oregon audit (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Rain record set in area Wednesday (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Modoc sucker may escape endangered list (KF Herald & News)
Jail fee not headed for ballot (KF Herald & News)
Teacher's strike continues (Medford Tribune)
Megaload traffic sees legal challenge (Pendleton East Orgonian)
Tri-Met approval rates sinking (Portland Oregonian)
Bill sets limits on local pot regs (Portland Oregonian)

Big Hanford vault pulled out (Kennewick Herald)
Study planned for coal terminal (Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Monticello up for sale (Longview News)
Seqium school issue set for ballot (Port Angeles News)
Sewage shipments found cost effective (Port Angeles News)
Shellfish harvesting stopped by oil (Port Angeles News)
Avalanches reported around west (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Spokane blocks landmarks commission action (Spokane Spokesman)
Copper thieves go after power lines (Tacoma News Tribune)
State still mulling CRC (Vancouver Columbian)

The Seahawk and the media

carlson CHRIS


Football fans across the Pacific Northwest and western Canada are familiar with the on the field talents of Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch. His hard work and exceptional skills are incontestably one of several reasons the Seahawks today are the best team in professional football and deserving winners of the Lombardi Trophy.

Some fans may have picked up on a little item briefly referenced on the “media day” that is part and parcel of all the hype and build up to the Super Bowl. Lynch apparently has this arcane notion that one’s right to free speech includes one’s right to remain silent and he seldom speaks to the media. He is one of those rare players who let what he does on the field speak for itself.

One can guess that he quickly grows tired of the many banal and downright ignorant questions he hears, especially those that go along the line of “what were you thinking when. . . .” Gifted athletes perform in large part on instinct and muscle memory. What they do in a game speaks for itself.

Likewise, some actually have a zone of privacy that they like to maintain, especially about family and other personal matters. They rightly feel it’s nobody’s business but theirs if the kids attend a private school. Nor do they think their views on some political issue or cultural icon is relevant to their day job.

Team owners, though, know that the media writing about a team and building hype for a big game is an essential element in generating interest - especially the Super Bowl. Thus it was surprising to many fans to learn that if Marshawn did not appear at media day and subject himself to media queries he would be fined, and it would be substantial. The league has a clause in the player’s contract that mandates the players take media questions and respond.

So, Marshawn appeared for all of about six minutes, enough to meet the spirit of the rule, but also a clear indication to others that this was under duress and just a new form of indentured servitude.

When the subject is litigation, “contract” law carries great weight, but the constitutional guarantees carry even greater weight. Ironically, the media is quick to cite its free speech rights and tolerates no infringements on that right. (more…)

On the front pages


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)

College campus gun legislation reviewed (Boise Statesman)
Governor says news on gay laws not hurting business (Boise Statesman)
'Ag Gag" bill advances (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News)
Nampa schools consider contract on buses (Nampa Press Tribune)
Animal torture bill blocked (Pocatello Journal)
Idaho Supreme Court on gays adopting (Pocatello Journal, TF Times News)
Constitution amendment, legislature rules review (Sandpoint Bee)
Beef processing operation at Jerome (TF Times News)
Filer investigates cop dog shooting (TF Times News)

Legislators consider local control on pot shops (Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, KF Herald & News, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Two manufacturers closing at Springfield, Harrisbirg (Eugene Register Guard)
New bike options on Willamette St, Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Modoc Field rehab approved (KF Herald & News)
Settlement on Klamath water by Friday? (KF Herald & News)
New bill to legalize pot (Portland Oregonian, Ashland Tidings)
Medford teacher strike still on (Medford Tribune)
Latinos are 25% of 1st graders (Portland Oregonian)
Online health insurance exchange progresses (Portland Oregonian)
West Salem found not to have carcinogens (Salem Statesman Journal)

Inslee sets moratorium on death penalty (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Longview News, Port Angeles News)
Everett considers school bond plan (Everett Herald)
Benton considers Candy Mountain preserve (Kennewick Herald)
Cowlitz-area school bonds pass (Longview News)
PUD still puzzled over recall effort (Longview News)
PNW Ballet ending Nutcracker (Seattle Times)
Pierce districts approving bonds (Tacoma News Tribune)
Legislative per diem in dispute (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima area schools approve bonds (Yakima Herald Republic)

File or flee

rainey BARRETT


While nearly all of us have said - one time or another - we’re mad about something and want to move to another country, few of us have packed up for the trip. But, last year, not only did a record number of Americans flee the good ol’ U.S. of A., they also renounced their citizenship. Just quit!

The exact number - 2,999 - is 217% more than the year before.

It’s likely some left with hurt political feelings. But the Treasury Department blames three other things: increased awareness of an obligation to file U.S. tax returns by U.S. citizens and U.S. “tax residents” living outside this country; the ever-increasing burden of complying with our tax laws and fear generated by the potentially bankrupting penalties for failure to file tax returns when an individual holds substantial non-U.S. assets.

In other words - they reason - file or flee.

This country is one a very few requiring its citizens permanently living abroad to continue filing returns and paying taxes in the nation of citizenship. And the policy is very actively pursued. In 2009, UBS Bank of Switzerland was fined $700 million for providing services to more than 4,000 U.S. account holders on the tax evasion list. Department of Justice and other fed agencies regularly publicize names of banks and other sources who aid in hiding wealth of Americans as well as the names of the “hiders.”

Filing forms are quite complicated and there are lots of ‘em. Next year, the recently enacted Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act will require foreign financial institutions to report accounts and other holdings of American citizens to the I.R.S. Every year.

So, a lot of folks with a lot of assets decided to pack up and leave. For good. And a lot of ‘em paid a large “exit tax” on their way out the door. (more…)

On the front pages


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)

Complaint about gas exploration near house (Boise Statesman)
Sales tax on groceries ended under bill (Boise Statesman)
Peter Johnson, former BPA head, dies (Boise Statesman)
Supreme Court rules lesbian couple can adopt (Boise Statesman)
Minimum wage increase considered (Nampa Press Tribune, Sandpoint Bee)
$13.3 million federal funds may be repaid (Nampa Press Tribune)
Drought could impact dairies (Nampa Press Tribune)
Mosque might be built at Pocatello (Pocatello Journal)
Low water may await (Pocatello Journal)
Balukoff campaigning for governor (Sandpoint Bee)
TF Council blocks jump till 2015 (TF Times News)
Legislature considers online voter registration (TF Times News)

More after the snow storms (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Seized alpacas go to OSU vet school (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Water adjudication under re-review (KF Herald & News)
Klamath jail struggles for funding (KF Herald & News)
Storm and power outages (Eugene Register Guard)
Economy improves, but slowly (Eugene Register Guard)
Ashland ski gets near foot of snow (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Medford teacher strike, sixth day (Medford Tribune)
Storm hits east Oregon (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Lawsuit on prisoner death at Two Rivers (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Cleanup post-snow storms (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
Battering at state mental hospital (Portland Oregonian)

Marysville rail crossing could end delays (Everett Herald)
Debt jailings examined by ACLU (Kennewick Herald)
Airport landing errors (Kennewick Herald)
Unknown source behind recall of PUD commissioner (Longview News)
I-5 Columbia bridge deemed ok (Longview News)
Bertha stopped till summer (Seattle Times)
Boeing Machinists election hotly contested (Seattle Times)
Watch for flooding begins (Spokane Spokesman)
Spokane County takes over garbage pickup (Spokane Spokesman)
Metro Parks funding gets support (Tacoma News Tribune)
Pierce County considers school levies (Tacoma News Tribune)
Legislators consider oil transport (Vancouver Columbian)
Vancouver city involvement in permit at terminal (Vancouver Columbian)

On the front pages


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)

River park phase two opens (Boise Statesman)
Senator Risch profile (Boise Statesman)
TF Council will consider jump (TF Times News)
Avalanche concerns at Sun Valley (TF Times News)

Snowfall aftermath (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, Corvallis Gazette Times, Eugene Register Guard)
Land trust sets up hiking paths (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Eugene's new city hall design revealed (Eugene Register Guard)
Jacksonville may block pot dispensaries (Ashland Tidings)
Precipitation still not stopping drought (Ashland Tidings)
Medford teacher strike update (Medford Tribune)
Legislature looks at tax reform (Portland Oregonian)
Wyden set to take over at Finance (Salem Statesman Journal)

Mixed city rules on pot stores (Everett Herald)
Home impact fees won't be assessed (Everett Herald)
Snow storm aftermath (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Longview News)
Spokane Transit working on upgrades (Spokane Spokesman)
Gorge concert operator asked to pay med bills (Yakima Herald Republic)

Immediate and longer term intentions

idaho RANDY

There's the short-term and immediate, and the long-term and the eventual.

The political side of discussion within Idaho about the arrest last week of more than 40 protesters for gay rights at the Idaho Statehouse – wearing “Add the 4 Words” shirts and hands over their mouths – tended to focus on the first. That's understandable, because it's what's most immediately right in front of us.

The protesters did not settle for rallying on the sidewalk outside, or even in the Rotunda, where such events sometimes also happen. They stood in front of the main doors (there are others as well) to the Senate, shortly before the floor session started for the day, blocking the doorway from being closed. Since that ran afoul of Senate rules of procedure (as they surely knew, especially since their ranks included a former senator, Nicole LeFavour), they were removed by law enforcement, and (as they also expected) arrested. The Senate even passed a suspension of one of its rules to allow for arrest of LeFavour, who as a former senator was (by rules) allowed on the floor during sessions. Be it noted that the Senate Democrats voted for that rule suspension alongside the Republicans.

The incident ticked off quite a few legislators, including a few who might sympathize with the protesters' cause. Whatever miniscule chance they had of progressing their cause in this session, to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to anti-discrimination law in the state, was squashed.

That's the short term. But it's not the whole story, as some legislators realized. Senate Majority Bart Davis, for one, was quoted as saying, “Today, it hurt their cause. But as time goes by, I don’t think it does. She’s [LeFavour] not the only voice on the issue.”

To see what he meant, try Googling “Idaho gay arrest” - look for news stories – and see what comes up. KBOI-TV's website headlined, “Arrest of gay rights activists in Idaho gets national spotlight,” and they weren't kidding. On a quick try I pulled up 177 news article on the incident, many well illustrated (there were good photo ops), which guaranteed visible play. Large national blogs carried pieces. The news organizations ranged from the Guardian in England to the Province in Vancouver, British Columbia, from the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise to the Tribune in Seymour, Indiana. In USA Today: “Dozens of gay rights activist arrested in Idaho.” There was a lot of TV coverage as well.

The story had staying power because it reinforced something else: The controversy associated with progress through the legislature of Representative Lynn Luke's “religious freedom” bills. That has drawn no lack of attention either, from the Everett (Washington) Herald to the Danbury (Connecticut) News Times to the Houston (Texas) Chronicle. The Greenfield (Indiana) Reporter headlined, “House panel votes to keep religious freedom bill alive, dozens say it enshrines discrimination.”

Guess what Idaho is getting renowned for these days?

That reputational damage will have its effects. Idahoans do pay some attention to what people think about them, much as many would like to think otherwise, and the national attention will not go unnoticed, or un-responded to. The 44 protesters last week may have irritated and turned off legislators in the short run, but they got attention. If their intent is to play a longer game, they may have taken a step forward.