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Idaho Weekly Briefing – August 20

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for August 20. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Smoke and fire continue on as Idaho’s wildfire season roars on. Meantime, schools start to reopen for the fall season, and candidates prepare for the onslaught of the fall campaign season.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on Augut 15 pardoned Ronald Steven Parker, who successfully completed his probation and jail sentence more than 30 years ago after his conviction for delivery of a controlled substance.

A federal court in Boise today ruled that the State of Idaho violated the U.S. Constitution when it forced homeowners to accept leases allowing an out-of-state gas company to drill for natural gas under their homes against their will. The ruling requires the state to vacate the leases, and hold a new hearing to determine the terms of any future leases.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 2.9 percent in July, continuing at or below 3 percent for the 11th consecutive month. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – continued to increase, gaining 1,086 people from June to July for a total of 852,714.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on August 15 named Eagle resident and small business owner C. Scott Grow to fill the unexpired term of former Meridian, District 14 State Senator Marv Hagedorn.

The State Board of Education voted today to terminate for convenience Athletic Director Dr. Rob Spear’s employment agreement with the University of Idaho. The action is a contractual right set forth in Spear’s employment agreement with the University.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan in August opened her Boise campaign office, Jordan garnered the endorsement of AJ Balukoff, an Idaho businessman who Jordan defeated in the state’s May 2018 primary.

After hundreds of Boiseans participated in the first series of Community Conversations on Growth in June, Boise residents are invited to come together for a second round later this month.

Idaho high school students who earn a three or higher on any Advanced Placement exam will earn college credit at all public Idaho institutions under a policy approved by the Idaho State Board of Education during this week’s Board meeting in Pocatello.

Last year’s Idaho steelhead run received a lot of attention for the wrong reason. It was a low run year, and Fish and Game biologists did not initially see as many fish back as they would have liked, but they were pleasantly surprised in the spring.

IMAGE The Rattlesnake Creek Fire, located on the west side of Highway 95 near Pollock on the Nez Perce-Clearwater and Payette National Forests, was reported at 12:02 p.m. on July 23, 2018. The fire is actively burning in timber and grass. (photo/Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – August 13

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for August 13. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Some notable education studies emerged this last week, one on the number of female versus male students going on from high school to college, and another showing flat development on reading around the state. Both could become a factor in an increasingly heated superintendent of public instruction contest.

Several Republican members of the Idaho Legislature on August 8 endorsed the ballot measure to expand Medicaid and provide healthcare for the 62,000 Idahoans who fall into the state’s healthcare coverage gap. The endorsement follows the release of the Milliman Inc. report, commissioned by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, which found a significant cost-savings potential for taxpayers through Medicaid expansion.

The Bureau of Land Management Idaho Falls District and the U.S. Forest Service Salmon-Challis National Forest signed the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness Plan and associated environmental assessment documents, marking the completion of a three-year planning effort.

Albertsons Companies, Inc. on August 8 said that it has mutually agreed with Rite Aid Corporation to terminate their previously announced merger agreement. Several prominent Rite Aid stockholders were reported to have opposed the idea and led to cancellation of a planned August 9 meeting.

Representatives from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and Idaho Power have concluded that the cause of a recent fish kill in the Snake River immediately below American Falls Dam was a lack of sufficient oxygen in the water.

Following Senate passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, applauded the bill for providing a significant boost to small businesses across America.

The JR Simplot Company Food Group is voluntarily recalling approximately 379 cases of its Simplot Good Grains™ Exotic Grains and Fire-Roasted Vegetable Blend due to the potential for wheat allergen which is not declared on the packaging.

The Boise City Council on August 7 approved an emergency ordinance prohibiting demolition, alteration or moving of any structures in an area of eastern downtown Boise because of an imminent threat to a historic 1897-vintage home. During a special meeting, council members also approved the pursuit of a local historic district that would encompass the threatened home and ten other historic structures in the immediate area.

Results from the spring Idaho Reading Indicator – the last time that early reading test will ever be given – are out, and they reinforce why educators are happy a new, online test will be rolled out statewide this fall, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said Friday.

IMAGE Energetic efforts are underway to renew Pocatello’s Old Town – or downtown – area, including the area around this old hotel near the city’s railroad station. (photo/Randy Stapilus)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – August 6

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for August 6. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

With the arrival of August, preliminaries begin in the fall general election campaign season. An early activity was a debate between the candidates for superintendents of public instruction; more faceoffs are expected soon. Menwhile, smoke gathered over the skies of southern Idaho as one wildfire after another popped up.

New projections from the Idaho Department of Labor forecast that the state will add just over 105,000 jobs by 2026, bringing total statewide employment to approximately 841,000. In 2016, statewide employment was 735,000. This new projection indicates expected growth of 14.4 percent for the 10-year period from 2016 to 2026, for an annual growth rate of 1.4 percent.

Senator Jim Risch, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the lead senate committee investigating Russia’s attempted interference in our 2016 elections, on August 1 participated in a hearing on foreign influence in our election process through social media.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced 22 new Energy Frontier Research Centers, including one that will be led by Idaho National Laboratory. This is the second time INL has won the opportunity to lead an EFRC.

The Idaho Department of Insurance has posted on its website, proposed health insurance premium rates and the requested increases for plans sold starting January 2019.

The state superintendent’s race kicked off Thursday as Republican incumbent Sherri Ybarra and Democratic challenger Cindy Wilson squared off in front of hundreds of educators in Boise.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has released the latest annual report from his office’s Consumer Protection Division. The summary represents a detailed look at the division’s work between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018.

Close the Gap Idaho, a health care network of over 300 organizations and individuals statewide, has released a health care questionnaire for candidates for elected office in Idaho. The questionnaire covers a multitude of subjects, ranging from Medicaid, the benefits of health care coverage and gaps in Idaho’s behavioral health care system. The questionnaire is being distributed to the media, organizations hosting candidate forums and the public.

IMAGE Giant propellers stand above a farm field west of Burley, generating increasingly substantial amounts of electric power in the region. (photo/Randy Stapilus)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – July 30

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 9. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

This was the week wildfires flared up in a big way around Idaho, from the Panhandle to the southeast, in many cases near substantial population areas. The list of wildfires in this issue is much longer than up to this point in this year. Elsewhere, political campaigns remained mostly relatively quiet, and several pieces of favorable economic news were reported.

The Board of Ada County Commissioners was made aware this morning that Ada County Treasurer Vicky McIntyre was charged with seven felony counts of Misuse of Public Funds.

The Bonneville Power Administration is preparing to meet increased electricity demand as the region braces for temperatures nearing the century mark over the next three days. Power use by BPA customers rose to record highs nearly a year ago, when temperatures climbed above 100 degrees on Aug. 2, 2017. At that time, Northwest energy consumers used 8,226 megawatts. For reference, just one MW can power an estimated 700 Northwest homes; 1,200 MW can power an entire city the size of Seattle.

Access to national laboratory research collaborations just got a little easier for three companies that won grants to work with Idaho National Laboratory experts. The three firms collaborating with INL have been slated to receive Phase I grants through the U.S. government’s Small Business Innovation Research program, which helps support promising new ideas that still might be too risky to attract investment from the private sector.

Idaho State Police applied for and has now received several federal grants that will be used to improve how sexual assault evidence is collected and processed throughout our state. We know that collection of sexual assault evidence is not performed in a standardized manner around Idaho.

Representative Mike Simpson joined a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress to introduce the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act.

State regulators have approved a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for Rocky Mountain Power to build three new wind projects and associated transmission facilities.

IMAGE This one started north of the Rainbow Bridge on the north fork of the Payette River. A number of agencies, and the Southern Idaho Timber Protective Association, have been at work on containing it. (photo/Idaho Department of Lands)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – July 23

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 9. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Wildfires have started to gain traction in the summer heat, as smoke from central Washington began to drift over parts of northern Idaho. Elsewhere, reports on Medicaid and schools may have potential to affect debates on those subjects; this was the week the Medicaid expansion proposal formally qualified (at the secretary of state’s office) for the November ballot.

During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on minerals in the United States that are critical to our economy and national security, Senator Jim Risch spoke about Idaho’s significant contributions to mining and the faults in our current permitting process that need reform. President and CEO of Midas Gold Idaho, Laurel Sayer, was a witness at the hearing and answered questions from the Senate panel on her experience with the Stibnite Gold Project in Valley County.

The office of Secretary of State Lawrence Denney on July 17 officially certified the petition signatures submitted by Idahoans for Healthcare to qualify Medicaid expansion as a ballot measure this November. If passed, expanding Medicaid will provide healthcare for the 62,000 Idahoans who fall into the state’s healthcare coverage gap.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 2.9 percent in June, continuing at or below 3 percent for the 10th consecutive month. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – continued to increase, gaining 971 people from May to June for a total of 851,599.

A federal grand jury indicted thirteen members and associates of the Aryan Knights and Severely Violent Criminals gangs for crimes including drug distribution, conspiracy, and unlawful possession of firearms, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis announced. The charges stem from an investigation by the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crimes Task Force.

The Idaho Department of Lands will be offering most of its remaining residential lake lots for auction in the next six years, along with some new unleased lots on Cougar Island and Pilgrim Cove at Payette Lake.

A technical hearing regarding the proposed merger of Avista and Hydro One has been postponed.

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill introduced by Senators Jim Risch and Gary Peters (D-MI) to help small businesses protect their intellectual property by improving education on obtaining and protecting patents.

IMAGE A string of fires erupted in south-central Idaho last week, much of it on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Here BLM workers are shutting down of the after effects of one of the burns in the Magic Valley. (photo/Bureau of Land Management)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – July 16

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 9. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The summer quiet continues. A few wildfires flare up from time to time, but they’re small; the state revenue and budget picture wound up on track; and wild animal stories proliferate.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and State Controller Brandon Woolf on July 13 said that continuing strong economic growth enabled the State of Idaho to end fiscal 2018 with $100.7 million more tax revenue than anticipated despite June collections that were $19.3 million less than forecast.

Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired the hearing for Ryan Nelson, an attorney from Idaho Falls and sixth-generation Idahoan, who has been nominated by President Trump to serve as a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In comments about Nelson, to his Senate colleagues, Crapo highlighted Nelson’s legal experience.

Lieutenant Governor Brad Little traveled to Washington D.C. on July 12 to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on the subject of grazing on federal lands.

The city of Twin Falls is seeking volunteers to fill seven at-large openings on a citizen advisory committee that will explore the feasibility of remodeling or building four fire stations in our community. Residents living within the city limits are encouraged to apply for the ad hoc committee.

Search warrants served on several businesses in the Coeur d'Alene area suspected of trafficking in unlawful alcohol beverages.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved the sale of Falls Water Company to NW Natural Water Company, LLC. Falls Water serves approximately 5,500 customers in Bonneville County.

IMAGE The Eli M. Oboler Library at Idaho State University is displaying an exhibit of photography by ISU biology Professor Chuck Peterson titled “Snakes of Idaho” that will be on display through Sept. 28 in the library’s first floor art exhibit area. Peterson's research interests include the ecology and conservation biology of amphibians and reptiles. Much of his work has focused on reptile populations on Idaho's Snake River Plain and on amphibian populations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Peterson received the Outstanding Herpetologist award from the Idaho Herpetological Society in 1997. This image is of a groundsnake. (photo/Idaho State University, by Peterson)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – July 9

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 9. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Following a weekend highlighted by biennual political party conventions at far ends of southern Idaho, Idaho politics – and much else – quieted considerably in the week following. A good deal of attention was paid, however, to a a Boise tragedy in which a man stabbed a number of refugees from Africa at a child’s birthday party. Six children and three adults were injured.

After working for months to put healthcare on the ballot, volunteers on July 6 caravaned into Boise from the far corners of the state, converging on the State Capitol to rally and deliver boxes of signatures to state officials from all 44 counties. The signatures come from more than 70,000 Idaho voters.

The City of Twin Falls and Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency will open the new Downtown Commons with a ribbon cutting and art unveiling at 4 p.m. on Friday, July 6. The community event will celebrate the opening of Twin Falls’ newest public area and the completion of the Downtown Redesign Project.

Micron Technology on July 5 announced that the Fuzhou Intermediate People's Court, Fujian Province, China today notified two Chinese subsidiaries of Micron that it has granted a preliminary injunction against those entities in patent infringement cases filed by United Microelectronics Corporation and Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co.

Members of the 428th Fighter Squadron came together and said their goodbyes to their former commander, Lt. Col. Donald Sandberg, and welcomed their new commander, Lt. Col. Andrew Gilbert, during a change of command ceremony June 29, at Mountain Home Air Force Base.

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests is closing campsites #30 - 34 of the Three Pines Campground located on Kalispell Island within the Priest Lake Ranger District to protect an active bald eagle nest located within the site. The nest was recently discovered during a bald eagle survey. This is the first year an active nest site has been confirmed since 2014.

IMAGE Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan campaigning in Idaho Falls last week. (photo/Jordan for Governor, Facebook)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – July 2

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 2. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The two political parties in Idaho held their conventions – the Republicans in Pocatello and Democrats at Caldwell – and both generated some headlines. The Republicans had Oliver North and protests, and Democrats had efforts at working toward clearer self-definition.

A sense of inequity and urgency dominated the testimony of witnesses at at June 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on expanding government compensation for victims of cancer known as “downwinders.” S. 197, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2017, was the subject of the hearing.

Idaho is on pace to have a carryover of more than $100 million when its budget year ends Saturday, according to the latest numbers presented to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Monday.

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Joel D. Horton said on June 29 he intends to retire at the end of 2018 from the Idaho Supreme Court.

On June 21, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a requirement that retailers must have a physical presence in a state to collect that state’s sales tax (South Dakota v. Wayfair). The Idaho State Tax Commission is still studying how the decision affects out-of-state retailers, such as online sellers. In a statement, the agency said, “We’re closely watching any actions by the U.S. Congress on this issue. We’ll also continue to follow developing legal issues arising from the decision.”

On June 27, the Department of the Interior announced fiscal year 2018 Payment in Lieu of Taxes payments, which compensate local governments for the inability to collect property taxes on federal land.

A court order calling for Meridian city to build a new magistrate court facility has been vacated. On June 27 the Ada County Fourth Judicial District Court issued a decision to vacate the 1994 and 2018 orders after a long-term solution, presented to Legislators during this past session, was approved.

Idaho ranks last in the nation for early childhood education participation. The early years of a child’s life lay the foundation for future success. Yet Idaho is one of only six states that does not invest in prekindergarten or school readiness programs.

Idaho’s Hispanic population grew 3.6 percent between mid-2016 and mid-2017, up from a 3.4 percent increase the prior year, according to recent estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The total number of Hispanic residents of 215,392 accounted for 12.5 percent of the state’s population of 1,716,943.

State regulators have denied an Intermountain Gas Co. proposal to implement an Infrastructure Integrity Management Mechanism, which would have allowed the company to recover from ratepayers the costs incurred on infrastructure improvements made during the previous calendar year.

IMAGE One of the Boise city library proposal design concepts, in this case the view from the Greenbelt and Anne Frank memorial. (photo/Boise city)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – June 25

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for June 25. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Traffic around Idaho drew a lot of attention last week, especially after a massive accident on Interstate 84 in western Ada County. A number of people said the fatal accident resulted in considerable part from lane closures during road construction, which has resulted in a review of construction protocols.

The State Board of Education approved a pilot program at its meeting on June 21, reducing tuition fees for American Indian tribal members from Idaho’s five federally recognized tribes to attend Idaho State University.

Boise Mayor David H. Bieter and members of the Boise City Council on June 19 called upon Idaho’s congressional delegation to end the Trump administration policy separating immigrant children from their parents at the nation’s southern border.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on June 21 said Netherlands-based NewCold is investing $90 million to build a 140-foot-high, 25 million cubic feet sub-zero cold storage warehouse in Burley. This will be one of the largest frozen storage facilities of its kind in the United States.

Idaho National Laboratory nuclear research will benefit from a $15 million pilot program secured by Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch, and Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to recycle spent naval fuel for use in advanced nuclear reactors.

Cristina McNeil, Democratic candidate for Idaho’s 1st congressional district, has made a statement on immigrant children being separated from their parents at the U.S. border. McNeil, who immigrated from Mexico to the United States in 1995, said our immigration system is antiquated, complex and broken. She said the crisis of families being separated at the border is a direct result of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy toward immigrants and is completely inhumane.

Senators Jim Risch and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act. The legislation would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to give state and tribal managers more flexibility in addressing predatory sea lions in the Columbia River system that are threatening both ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.

The Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a revision to sediment wasteload allocations in its plan to address elevated sediment and E. coli bacteria in the Salt River Subbasin in southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming.

PHOTO The fourth annual Bengal Roar is set for June 28 at Idaho State University. The event is designed to help students planning to attend classes in the fall to register for classes, meet with advisors and learn about campus resources that might otherwise be overlooked. This year, Idaho State University is giving more than $14 million in Idaho Resident four-year recruitment, Step Ahead and Honors Scholarships to more than 2,500 new, incoming Idaho students who are admitted for fall 2018. Other scholarships are also available through the Bengal Online Scholarship System. (photo/Idaho State University)