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.
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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. Continue Reading »
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. Continue Reading »
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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)
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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)