Writings and observations

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Idaho

A recent e-mailed press release from an Idaho state agency took my breath away with shock when I read it. It still stuns me – and, too, other people I’ve discussed it with, who have a history of working in state agencies and writing press releases.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare press release of April 10 (a copy is posted at www.ridenbaugh.com/dhw150410.html) belongs in some kind of hall of fame for useful press releases, with citation for bravery. It does something I’ve never seen a state agency (as opposed to some elected officials) do before: It explicitly calls out the state legislature for doing harm to people in Idaho.

State agencies hardly ever take on state legislators, especially in public, even in cautious weasel words. It’s dangerous: Legislators have endless ways to take revenge.

And in this release, DHW Director Richard Armstrong could not have been plainer or blunter, with his quote saying “this vote will make it nearly impossible for us to enforce child support like we should, so Idaho’s children are taken care of. The bottom line is that Idaho families may not receive their support money because we will not have the tools we need to make sure those payments are made.”

The reference, of course, was to the House Judiciary Committee vote rejecting a bill to let the state cooperate with national and international entities in collecting child support payments. The winner of that vote was the deadbeat, non-paying parents, and the losers children now at risk of going hungry.

The release went out in the few hours between the committee vote and the legislature’s middle-of-the-night adjournment, and it seemed aimed at convincing legislators to revive the bill (its last line was the unusual exhortation, “All families who rely on child support payments are encouraged to contact their legislators”). The bill died anyway. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter was left to consider whether to call a special session.

Did Otter know in advance about the release? He seems to have been in support of the bill, and has indicated something needs to be done in light of its rejection, but his response so far is vague and unclear. (That could change.)

I have a specific reason for focusing here on the press release, one worth considering by anyone unsure whether the key issue is hungry children or a loss of “Idaho sovereignty” to the federal government or Sharia law.

The bill was passed unanimously in the Idaho Senate after discussion of what it did. It failed in House Judiciary after warnings surfaced about governmental roles and subjugation came up – just the sort of thing smeared around in campaign season, or even year-round. It’s not hard to image a legislator gulping; in the face of it, the “safe” vote in today’s environment might have been one against the bill.

The press release from Health and Welfare, however, was highly impolitic in the sense that it’s just the kind of thing that can cost people their jobs – people like Armstrong, for one, for making look foolish elected officials who hold the purse strings of their agencies. (Agency executives do in fact lose their jobs under such conditions.) The people at DHW have no personal incentive at all for doing what they did other than in mounting a last-ditch attempt to protect the lives of Idaho children.

Who would you believe?

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Idaho Idaho column

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)

CWI campus in Boise west end could rejuvenate (Boise Statesman)
Nampa schools will reconsider opening so early (Nampa Press Tribune)
Big magma chamber underneath Yellowstone (Nampa Press Tribune)
TF commissioners decide to join PERSI (TF Times News)
Farmers in southern Idaho low on water (TF Times News)

Food company may locate factory at Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Lakeview location suggested for big pot grow (KF Herald & News)
New Bureau of Rec manager starts in June (KF Herald & News)
State rules against Sweet Case on prejudice (Medford Tribune)
Legislation covers copy body cam use (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Wolf-related legislation coming back (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Reviewing land use and Klamath water deal (Portland Oregonian)
Marshall quits as U.S. attorney (Portland Oregonian)

Teachers protest at Bellingham over budget (Bellingham Herald)
Lawmakers okay oil rail safety measure (Bellingham Herald)
Medical pot regulation bill signed (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Bellingham Herald, Olympian, Longview News)
Judge halts shooting at Port Orchard gun club (Bremerton Sun)
Longview school board studies older buildings (Longview News)
Legislature adjourns, will return (Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Kelley won’t be paid on leave of absence (Olympian)
UW regent dinners vilate open meeting law (Seattle Times)
Investigation into Idaho Panhandle quakes (Spokane Spokesman)
SeaTac growth triple expectations (Tacoma News Tribune)

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