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Idaho Weekly Briefing – December 10

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 10. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The Idaho Legislature's organizational session last week ended with little change in floor leadership but lots of shifts in committee chairs, even among the legislators who had one last term and are returning. The preceding taxpayers association session included an unusually strong warning of the prospect of a recession coming at some point in the months ahead.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on December 7 approved an agreement to keep most steelhead seasons open, but steelhead fishing in two areas will close effective 11:59 p.m. December 7.

Bipartisan legislation led by Senators Jim Risch and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to protect Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed salmon and steelhead from extinction has passed the Senate without objection.

The Bonneville Power Administration on December 6 released its initial wholesale power and transmission rates proposal for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. The rates proposal includes significant program cost reductions and supports a multi-year grid modernization initiative to maximize the capacity of the federal power and transmission systems and improve grid efficiency.

The Idaho Department of Lands concluded a 21-month review of historic endowment trust land sales to determine whether sales exceeded constitutional provisions limiting how many acres may be sold to one individual, company or corporation.

The next phase of the Lewiston Orchards Water Exchange and Title Transfer project, construction of a second well (pictured), is underway with the purchase of land and city permitting complete. In July, the Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District procured land located just east of the first well site as the home for the second well and secured final city permits in October. With land purchase and permitting complete, contractor solicitation and selection can commence leading to construction.

Former Idaho Department of Correction correctional officer Richard McCollough, 37, of Boise, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis said on December 6.

State regulators will hold a telephonic public hearing on December 11 regarding the proposed transfer of eight customers from Rocky Mountain Power to Idaho Falls Power in eastern Idaho.

IMAGE An image of the fish that was the center of passive controversy during the last week. (photo/Bureau of Land Management)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – December 3

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 3. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Winter hit much of Idaho last week as the state moved into holiday mode, and governmental activity settled. The Idaho Supreme Court of Court of Appeals did get new jurists. And state legislators are however preparing for their organizational session next week.

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter announced the appointment today of a veteran Judge and a seasoned trial court attorney to serve on the Idaho Supreme Court and the Idaho Court of Appeals respectively. Seventh District Judge Gregory Moeller, of Rexburg was picked to fill the Idaho Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Joel Horton. Attorney Amanda Brailsford, of Garden City was appointed by Otter to the Idaho Court of Appeals to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Sergio Gutierrez.

Citing the importance of the Secure Rural Schools program, Senator Mike Crapo and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden on November 28 led a bipartisan call with 23 of their Senate colleagues calling for a one-year reauthorization of the program in any year-end funding measures.

Senator Jim Risch, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, joined his colleagues in advancing Dr. Rita Baranwal’s nomination for Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy to the Senate floor.

December 3 at 8:00 a.m., the Ada County Elections Office will begin recounting all ballots cast in Ada County during the 2018 General Election for Legislative District 15 State Senate race and the College of Western Idaho Plant Facilities Reserve Fund Levy.

Two years after launching, the Idaho Policy Institute in Boise State University’s School of Public Service has completed more than three dozen projects encompassing every geographic region of the state, and has grown its staff from three to eight full-time employees and two graduate students.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on the annual update to the Site Treatment Plan for the Idaho National Laboratory.

Beginning in 2019, Pickles Butte Sanitary Landfill will charge customers an additional $50 fee for vehicles or trailers that have uncovered/unsecured loads.

IMAGE Idaho State University researcher Chris Tennant researches snowpack levels around the western states. Here, he is engaged in field work. (image/Idaho State University)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – November 26

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for November 26. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

We're at work trying to make the Briefing a free-access publication through contributions. See our donation site at IndieGogo.

Idaho had a quiet Thanksgiving week as winter began to move in and drop white covering some higher-elevation areas, especially in eastern Idaho. Legislators were preparing for their organizational session coming up early in December.

Tamarack Resort Holdings, a partnership of investors and managers with decades of development and operations experience at premier resort properties across North America, has entered into an agreement to purchase all of the Tamarack Resort operations and key assets in Donnelly.

The Bureau of Reclamation is proposing to perform maintenance on and rehabilitation of components of the spillway at American Falls Dam, which is located in Power County in the town of American Falls.

The Bureau of Land Management Idaho Falls District and Caribou-Targhee National Forest released a draft environmental impact statement on November 23 analyzing different alternatives for the proposed Dairy Syncline Mine, east of Soda Springs.

Senators Mike Crapo, Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on November 19 urged federal officials to reauthorize citizen committees that provide key advice for important natural resources work in national forests.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden reported that an eastern Idaho woman was sentenced November 16, on a felony count of misusing public moneys.

Several State Board of Education officials have expressed concerns with a software company that appears poised to receive a statewide contract for teacher evaluations. An Idaho Education News review of more than 200 pages of emails and other state public records revealed a series of disagreements between the State Board of Education, the Department of Administration and Governor Butch Otter’s office over a $1 million state earmark to purchase software to assist school districts with teacher evaluations.

A research paper that uses data collected by lidar imaging to better measure snowpacks in Western U.S. mountains by former Idaho State University geosciences graduate student Chris Tennant has received a 2017 Editor’s Choice Award by the journal Water Resources Research.

The Idaho State University Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work Program recently achieved reaffirmation of accreditation from the Council of Social Work Education.

IMAGE Idaho State University researcher Chris Tennant researches snowpack levels around the western states. Here, he is engaged in field work. (image/Idaho State University)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – November 19

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for November 19. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

We're at work trying to make the Briefing a free-access publication through contributions. See our donation site at IndieGogo.

Work has started on developing a new Little gubernatorial administration, and the Otter Administration was caught up in discussion about a possible flawed education contract. Meanwhile, legislators met in North Idaho and pondered their leadership lineup for the coming legislative session. Just ahead this: A relative quiet, with Thanksgiving anchoring the week.

Governor-elect Brad Little has named Zach Hauge as his Chief of Staff. Hauge served as Little’s campaign manager during the 2018 primary and general elections. Before joining the campaign, Hauge was Vice President at the Idaho Association Commerce and Industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory continues to demonstrate its commitment to using small businesses by achieving all its small business goals for the sixth consecutive year.

Legislation to extend the Secure Rural Schools program by one year, through Fiscal Year 2019, has been introduced by Senators Mike Crapo and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) was first introduced in 2000 to assist counties containing tracts of federally-owned land that is tax-exempt.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stayed at 2.7 percent in October, unchanged from September and continuing at or below 3 percent for the 14th consecutive month. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – was essentially unchanged since July at 853,444.

Boise residents are invited to delve into the issue of housing affordability as part of the City of Boise’s third round of Community Conversations on Growth on November 29 and December 1.

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter said on Novmber 16 that he was granting a pardon to Aaron M. Bonney, a former Elmore County felon who was convicted in 1997 and served a 6-month rider for the statutory rape of his then, under-age girlfriend. At the time of the crime, Bonney was 18 years old and the victim was 15.

Micron Technology, Inc., an industry leader in innovative memory and storage solutions, today introduced the industry's first 1TB automotive and industrial grade PCIe NVMe™ solid state drive in BGA and 22x30mm M.2 form factors at Electronica 2018.

IMAGE The Idaho Association of Counties held its fall county officials institute at Idaho Falls on November 15. (image/Idaho Association of Counties)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – November 12

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for November 12. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

We're at work trying to make the Briefing a free-access publication through contributions. See our donation site at IndieGogo.

Election day is over, and in Idaho the big picture did not change greatly – major offices are in the same party’s hands, ad most of the lower-level offices are as well. But there are some new faces and some changes at lower levels. And the passage of Medicaid expansion in Idaho will set up a major topic of discussion in the upcoming legislative session.

After 18 months of grassroots organizing, Reclaim Idaho supporters across the state celebrated the passage of Proposition 2, which gives healthcare access to 62,000 people in the Medicaid Gap. Before Tuesday, an estimated 62,000 Idahoans made too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to qualify for the state exchange.

Trustees of the College of Western Idaho were reviewing the possibility of pressing for a recount after their proposed plant levy fell short in unofficial vote counts.

Boise Mayor David Bieter on November 8 announced that the city of Boise is suing 20 pharmaceutical companies for their role in the ongoing escalation of the national and local opioid crisis.

State regulators have set a deadline for parties to intervene in an Idaho Power case involving the study of on-site generation. The study is intended to identify the costs and benefits of on-site generation – primarily rooftop solar but any customer-owned generation source – on Idaho Power’s system, and to determine how those factors should be reflected in rates, rate design and compensation for excess energy.

Idaho’s first influenza-related death of the 2018-2019 influenza season occurred this week in a northern Idaho woman over the age of 50.

Electric bikes (e-bikes) are now becoming popular throughout the United States and there has been confusion about whether they are considered motorized vehicles and where people may ride them. The Salmon-Challis National Forest would like to clarify where e-bike riders are allowed to ride.

The Bureau of Reclamation has selected two projects in Idaho to receive $57,602 for small-scale water efficiency projects. The funding from Reclamation will assist the selected applicants with canal automation and the installation of water measuring devices.

IMAGE Sarah Brede skis the Christmas tree out of the forest. Most of the 2.5 million acres of National Forest System lands on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests are open for Christmas tree cutting. (photo/Idaho Panhandle National Forest, courtesy of Mike Brede) (photo/Idaho State University)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – November 5

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for November 5. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

We're at work trying to make the Briefing a free-access publication through contributions. See our donation site at IndieGogo.

As Idaho comes to the end of the 2018 general election campaign season, campaigns in Idaho – as in so many places around the country – come to a fever heat. A sampling of press releases from the campaigns is included in this issue.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on October 20 endorsed Proposition 2, the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative.

United States Attorney Bart M. Davis announced that Assistant United States Attorneys Jack Haycock, Ray Patricco and Traci Whelan will lead the efforts of his Office in connection with the Justice Department’s nationwide Election Day Program for the upcoming November 6, general election.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has scheduled a telephonic public hearing for a case involving the exchange of electrical assets between Avista and the Bonneville Power Administration.

A federal grand jury indicted a state-owned enterprise of the People’s Republic of China, a Taiwan company, and three individuals, charging them with crimes related to a conspiracy to steal, convey, and possess stolen trade secrets of an American semiconductor company for the benefit of a company controlled by the PRC government.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s Executive Committee focused on the study of autonomous and connected vehicles formally approved its initial report and will submit it to the Governor’s Office Nov. 1.

United States Attorney Bart M. Davis said on November 1 that his office’s Financial Litigation Unit collected more than $11.17 million in criminal restitution, fines, and assessments and in civil debts for the fiscal year that ended September 30.

Idaho State University’s faculty and President Kevin Satterlee have approved a new proposed Faculty Senate Constitution, the document that outlines the faculty’s role in shared governance at the University.

Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mike Crapo on November 2 led a bipartisan group of their colleagues in requesting funding to modernize firefighting assets so the U.S. Forest Service can more effectively respond, in a cost-effective manner, to devastating wildfires.

The University of Idaho’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences aims to meet a growing demand for communication-related occupations by bringing back its degree in communication.

IMAGE Now in its third year, the Idaho National Laboratory-hosted Family Nuclear Science Night has found its stride, offering everything a K-12 student might want to know about fusing or splitting an atom – and much, much more. The event, held Oct. 18 the INL Meeting Center in the Energy Innovation Laboratory Building, is designed to get students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by offering them unique activities.. (photo/Idaho State University)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – October 29

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for October 22. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

We're at work trying to make the Briefing a free-access publication through contributions. See our donation site at IndieGogo.

As the trees turn around Idaho, and higher elevations prepare for consistent cooler weather, political candidates begin making their final pitches to voters. And Republicans hop on their biennial bus and travel around the state.

The Idaho Falls Residential Fiber Pilot Program is set to begin with a public meeting scheduled for October 23 at 6 p.m. at Taylorview Junior High School. Residents whose neighborhoods have been selected to participate in the pilot program have been identified and have received a letter from Idaho Falls Power and the Idaho Falls Fiber Network advising them of the date and time of the meeting.

State regulators have approved a rate adjustment that will lower natural gas rates for Avista customers. The change to the Fixed Cost Adjustment will decrease residential rates by 4.2 percent when it takes effect Nov. 1.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Idaho Water Resource Board will host an open house on November 8,, to share early-stage information about a feasibility study for increasing water storage capacity within the Boise River system, particularly at Anderson Ranch Dam.

The Idaho Water Resource Board toured two fish-conservation projects in the Lemhi River Basin that restored water flows to Bohannon Creek and Big Timber Creek to allow Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout to spawn in those streams for the first time in nearly a century.

Boise State University’s overall fall enrollment has reached another new record of 25,540 students, an increase of 5.7 percent over last year.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the largest in the nation with jurisdiction over nine states and two territorial courts. With the State of Idaho as part of that circuit, its judges have influence over Western issues that affect Idahoans. Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on October 24 chaired a hearing on a slate of nominees, including two selected to serve as judges on the Ninth Circuit.

Lieutenant Governor Brad Little released the results of the Licensing Freedom Act— Executive Order 2017-06— which required state agencies who administer occupational licenses to provide reports to the Offices of Lt. Governor and Governor no later than July 1.

IMAGE High school students, their parents and college transfer students check out health science programs at the ISU-Meridian Health Science Experience Night and Pharmacy Open House Oct. 23. (photo/Idaho State University)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – October 22

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for October 22. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

We're at work trying to make the Briefing a free-access publication through contributions. See our donation site at IndieGogo.

Still more debates were held last week between candidates for state office as the general election reaches its final phase. The biggest debates had to do with finances in the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined slightly to 2.7 percent in September, continuing at or below 3 percent for the 13th consecutive month. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – was 853,076 people, essentially unchanged since July.

Idaho National Laboratory has completed a Technical Assistance Agreement with a company seeking independent evaluation of its test plans for improving a cybersecurity product designed to safeguard industrial controls and critical infrastructure.

Entomologists with the Idaho Department of Lands and U.S. Forest Service spent this fall sampling selected trees for infestations of tiny wingless insects that can have devastating effects on fir stands in Idaho and the region.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and Tamarack Homeowners Acquisition Company have agreed to a land exchange and bond-transfer agreement to settle outstanding debt associated with Tamarack Resort near Donnelly.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter reported positive initial feedback on October 18 from the 11 Idaho companies and organizations that joined him on a trade mission to Toronto, Canada from October 1 – 4, 2018.

The Boise City Council on October 17 approved the purchase of a downtown property to house a Boise Police Department microdistrict substation to serve Boise’s growing and vibrant downtown core.

President Donald J. Trump has signed into law legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, and Gary Peters (D-MI) aimed at helping small businesses safeguard their intellectual property with expanded education on obtaining and protecting patents.

The city of Nampa is beginning a process to review and update its Comprehensive Plan which guides growth and development in Nampa. Community members are invited to join in the process by attending open houses, completing surveys or participating in the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee. The first advisory committee meeting will be held October 23.

IMAGE This is a smaller example of the type, but forests of political campaign signs have sprouted all over Idaho with the arrival of October. (photo/Randy Stapilus)
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – October 15

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for October 15. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

We're at work trying to make the Briefing a free-access publication through contributions. See our donation site at IndieGogo.

Still more debates were held last week between candidates for state office as the general election reaches its final phase. Wildfires continue active around the state even as winter firmly arrive in parts of eastern Idaho (though weather toward the west is distinctly autumnal).

The United States Senate this evening voted to confirm Ryan Nelson of Idaho Falls to serve as a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Final 2019 premium rates for individual and small group health insurance plans have been released by the Idaho Department of Insurance.

Idaho Fish and Game recently reached an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assume operations of the Hagerman National Fish Hatchery, which raises about 1.6 million juvenile steelhead for release in the Upper Salmon River Basin.

Idaho conservation groups issued a harsh rebuke to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter today after the governor committed the state to four more years of support for failed federal salmon policies.

The Micron Foundation announced a $1 million grant for universities and nonprofit organizations to conduct research into how artificial intelligence (AI) can improve lives while ensuring safety, security and privacy.

Governor C.L. “Butch”Otter announced the appointment of retired Fish and Game employee Don Hancock Beck Jr. to fill a vacancy on the Nez Perce County Commission created by the recent resignation of Commissioner Bob Tippet.

Jeanne Higgins, Forest Supervisor for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, is pleased to announce she has signed the decision memo for the Hanna Flats Good Neighbor Authority Project on the Priest Lake Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo voted in favor of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act. Among many important upgrades to our waterways, irrigation systems and dams, the bill will help ensure water delivery to Idaho ranches and farms, and will increase water storage in the West. It also removes unnecessary red tape, making billions of dollars in deauthorizations to help reduce the deficit. The President is expected to sign the bill into law.

Christians and other faith leaders launched a week of prayer and action in support of Proposition 2, the Medicaid expansion ballot intuitive.

IMAGE Downtown Moscow was packed with crowds as the city’s popular farmers market attracted people from around the region. (photo/Randy Stapilus)