"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.
malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

This year’s Legislature should be remembered as the session of “Why,” as in “Why Bother?” Of course, nobody should be surprised.

My best preview of the “nothing to come” session was visiting with House Speaker Scott Bedke in his office. He took a call, and the conversation went something like this: “I don’t see the Chairman Wood (Health and Welfare Committee) moving away from the health exchange and I don’t see Chairman DeMordaunt (Education) moving away from Common Core. Next question.”

The next question should have been, “Why not bring up those issues?” It would be reasonable for the Legislature to discuss one year after the health exchange was created and to talk about some of the problems that have surfaced. On Common Core, it’s legitimate to ask, “Is this really where we want to go?” Common Core sounds good (like No Child Left Behind), but one of the worries is the execution of government standards for education.

Opposition to Common Core is one of the centerpieces of Russ Fulcher’s campaign for governor. It would have been interesting to hear more of his views on the subject.

Medicaid expansion certainly is a hot topic for discussion, but that horse died well before the session got under way. Proponents, including the Idaho Association of Counties and a leading business lobby, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, were pushing for Medicaid expansion as an idea that could save the state millions of dollars in the long run. But the issue apparently was too hot to handle in an election year.

The “going home” bill, for practical purposes, ended up being the one to allow guns on university campuses – with the premise being that universities would be safer places if retired law officers and those with enhanced permits were allowed to carry guns. Let’s pray that the legislators are smarter than the university presidents on that issue.
This session, to me, has created a great argument for biennial sessions. If the governor and legislative leaders are hell-bent on avoiding tough issues during an election year, then why have them at all? Or, maybe they could have 30-day budget sessions every other year.

I talked with former Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes about those ideas last week. As he reminded me, those ideas have been out there for a long times, and practiced many years ago. His view is that short sessions, or no sessions, would lead to more special sessions.

He’s probably right. But I can think of other reasons why the Legislature would want to avoid biennial, or short, sessions.

Boise is a great place to be during the winter, compared with some parts of the state. In most years, there is little snow and spring comes a little earlier than other places. When I worked as a political reporter for the Post Register in Idaho Falls many years ago, I looked forward to getting out of the snow and going to that tropical paradise (by comparison) in Boise.

Legislators receive per diem payments, which help drive up the cost to $30,000 a day. It’s nice work if you can find it, and it’s very easy money – especially in the opening weeks when everybody is getting organized. Legislators also are wined and dined and made to feel like very important people, which is soothing to the egos. For three months of the year, legislators are treated more like Donald Trump than people who make about $16,000 a year.
Serving in the Legislature, officially, is a part-time job. But the lawmakers receive the same health benefits as full-time state employees. It would be much tougher to justify that perk with biennial sessions.

So, don’t look for the Legislature to go for shortened sessions, and you can forget about something as radical as term limits. But it would be nice if the legislators would police themselves.

Caretaker sessions are OK, but they don’t have to run until late March. Wrap up the business in late February or early March. It might take some tweaking in the budget process, which is designed to run at least through mid-March. But if there’s a will, then there’s a way.

Don’t hold your breath for change. The thought is much too conservative by Idaho’s standards.

Share on Facebook

Idaho Malloy

rainey BARRETT


In a sort of bipartisan piling on, critics of federal support for auto makers or of that proposed oil pipeline from Canada or lost tax dollars in failed alternative energy company Solyndra have captured a lot of attention. Filled with political expediency, what all the critical voices have failed to articulate is any sort of long term view or alternatives dealing with each subject. And there are many.

Before dealing with them, here’s a basic fact: government – and government alone – is often the best (if not only) entity that can make major investments in very large undertakings. Despite our love of “independence” and those who cling to our lost system of “free” enterprise – which hasn’t existed for 150 years – sometimes government has to go first, pay the heavy bills for development and then step aside for private capital to take over at some point.

There are many examples but the best I can think of is our space program. If President Kennedy had not led us into it in 1961, we would likely be speaking Russian. No private company – no group of private companies – could raise the billions and billions of dollars to do what government did. As a nation – and as individuals – we are massively richer for that undertaking. And it’s almost impossible to count the ways we benefitted from computers to cell phones to – well – thousands of things.

And where are we now? Private companies are using that taxpayer-bought engineering, incalculable experience, hundreds of thousands of patents and thousands of highly-trained taxpayers to open space travel to all. We’ve got hundreds of private satellites and even private space shuttles flying around.

For those who say government had no business putting billions into the auto companies – that we should have let them sink – Road Apples! Anyone with any economic smarts knows it had to be done to avoid even more massive unemployment, disaster for thousands of small businesses and a financial mess that would have been incredibly costly.

And look what happened. GM has closed its most profitable year in history – reopened several plants – ramped up production – and has built more and better vehicles than ever. It’s paid back most of the taxpayer loan while GM stock many Americans own has gotten even more valuable. Chrysler basically avoided corporate death – threw out many bad models while developing new lines – reopened closed plants – rehired thousands – and has paid off the loan. And both companies are using new, cutting-edge technology to build the best cars in both their histories. A lot of that new technology the government pioneered in other programs.

No private companies were ready to do what government did. No investors or venture capitalists were willing to ride to the rescue. The results will be taught in business schools for decades to show how government and an entire industry can build huge successes in the face of certain disaster.

Some of this same logic applies to Solyndra, too. The alternative energy business is very much like other new technologies in their infancy. Just as computer and software pioneers, weapons system developers, aircraft builders and others needed government participation to get going, so have those firms trying to build us new energy systems. The much-touted Silicon Valley would have been Death Valley without direct government investment in the early days, favorable tax treatments, regulation relief and other federal and state support. Solyndra failed. So will others. But some won’t. Eventually, more will thrive. And we’ll be better for it.

As for that pipeline, there are many facets to that story. Will oil shale eventually be turned into petroleum? Yes. Would that Canada petroleum reduce our need for as much foreign oil? Probably not since even developers say most of it would be exported. Would it bring gas prices down? No, for the same reason. But, even without it, projections are we will still be our own largest supplier of oil within a decade.

Oil shale conversion to usable petroleum is an expensive and dirty process. It produces huge amounts of greenhouse gasses. Conoco-Phillips currently has a TV ad touting it can refine shale with “no more adverse effects on the environment than current production.” In other words, “It will be bad but no badder than we’re already doing.” Marvelous corporate double-speak.

Maybe that pipeline should be built. Someday. But it should be built for rational reasons using the best technology. At the moment, the whole project is a political football with a lot of demagoguery. Even the developers say there are environmental concerns not completely addressed. Nearly all the eventual output already has been designated for export. Not all the rights-of-way have been obtained. Those don’t sound like sufficient reasons to jump into this at the moment. Any decision on this project should be scientifically-based for the long-term and not as a political “fix.”

And that word “fix” is important. Producing more and more petroleum products should not be our only national energy goal. Developing other, non-petroleum energy sources should be equally important. Our dependency on the stuff – especially foreign – is foolish. And risky. South Sudan, Syria and Yemen are in turmoil with a lot of oil production offline. Canada and North Sea are having production problems for one reason or another. Iran is out – or may soon be – as a source. Market disruptions elsewhere – for many reasons – are adding to our pump pain.

As Kennedy did with the space program four decades ago, we should undertake a new national priority with the same zeal and commitment of all our resources. Large-scale, sweeping development of alternative energy sources. Top to bottom. All sources. We should dedicate ourselves as completely to that as to our previous commitment to send man to the moon.

Ironic, isn’t it? Those astronauts and their moon buggy? Damned thing ran on electricity. That was about 40 years ago.

Old Tom Edison had a saying. “I’ve not failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”

Well, Solyndra didn’t work. The auto industry investment of tax dollars did. And the oil shale pipeline might. Critics of all – and critics mad about government dollars being involved – need to look at the larger picture. Like Edison.

Share on Facebook



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)

Kuna school district may vote again on levy (Boise Statesman)
Report on death penalty costs released (Boise Statesman)
School budget of $1.35B approved (Lewiston Tribune)
WA legislators review session (Moscow News)
On tests, Latah schools beat average (Moscow News)
Fewer pot cases, more legal resources elsewhere (Moscow News)
Pioneer, Caldwell may settle water case (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho a leader in construction jobs (Nampa Press Tribune)
Romney at Idaho Falls for canddiates (Pocatello Journal)
Assessor explains politicos property value drop (Pocatello Journal)
FMC corporate changes won’t affect cleanup (Pocatello Journal)
Sandpoint debates 10 Commandments monument (Sandpoint Bee)
Rangen call hearings complete (TF Times News)
Filer will mandate dog training (TF Times News)
Wendell reconsiders after bond loss (TF Times News)

New online news for Lincoln County at Dispatch (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Corvallis gets fifth pot dispensary request (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Italian restaurant company opens at Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Ordinance would cover property seizures (KF Herald & News)
Ashland moves on gun rules (KF Herald & News)
Jackson County sets 120-day moratorium on pot (Ashland Tidings)
Drought disaster in Jackson County (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Medford loans money for Ashland welcome center (Ashland Tidings)
GMO ban impacts at Jackson considered (Medford Tribune)
Problems at diesel cleanup site (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Hearing awaits on same sex marriage case (Portland Oregonian)
In OR: a brewery for every 21K people (Portland Oregonian)
OR high in child bone cancer (Salem Statesman Journal)
Liquor revenue in OR expected stable (Salem Statesman Journal)

Drop in WA pot cases (Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic)
New machinist leader profiled (Everett Herald)
DOE closes a Hanford waste lab (Kennewock Herald)
Deadline for health insurance buys approaches (Kennewick Herald)
Lumber production rising (Longview News)
‘Smart’ traffic meters protested at PA (Port Angeles News)
Dungeness water rule reconsideration? (Port Angeles News)
Seattle bus ridership increases (Seattle Times)
News chopper aftermath (Seattle Times)
Debate over Spokane anti-sprawl ordinance (Spokane Spokesman)
Most of Vancouver council opposing oil facility (Vancouver Columbian)
Reviewing legislative session for Clark (Vancouver Columbian)
Fire season arriving (Yakima Herald Republic)

Share on Facebook

First Take