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Idaho Briefing – April 9

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for April 9. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Major stories coming from an unusual direction this week: The hiring of new presidents at two of Idaho’s major higher education institutions. (On top of putting the UI athletic director on lease.) That work isn’t done yet – the hiring for Boise State University still awaits – meaning that changes for higher ed in Idaho this year could be significant event if the proposed reorganization plan (that the legislature rejected) went nowhere.

Idaho Power is joining seven other electric utilities in the western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), enabling the company to buy low-cost energy from across the region in real time.

University of Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear has been put on administrative leave for 60 days while investigators and university leadership work to better understand process failures in reporting sexual assault complaints in 2012 and 2013, what has been done since then, and what should be done in the future.]

Local health organizations are joining the effort to put closing the coverage gap on the ballot in Idaho. Following another year of legislative inaction, advocates are eager to give the voters of Idaho the chance to decide.

The Bureau of Land Management has begun implementing an experimental targeted grazing project aimed at reducing fuels and associated fire risk and protecting rehabilitation efforts within the Soda Fire zone. Participating local ranchers will be grazing livestock along 36 miles of Owyhee Front roadways from approximately Marsing to Murphy from now through June.

Boise State University officially has begun construction on the $50 million Micron Center for Materials Research.

Representative Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, sharply criticized a federal court decision he contends is forcing the waste of $40 million in hydropower based on dubious scientific grounds in the name of helping salmon.

After nearly 32 years on Kimberly Road the Sawtooth National Forest Supervisor’s Office will be moving. The new Supervisor’s Office will be located at 370 American Avenue in Jerome.

PHOTO The Department of Energy last week officially approved the contract modification that enables a five-year extension for Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) to manage and operate INL through September 30, 2024. (image/Idaho National Laboratory)

Idaho Briefing – April 2

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for April 2. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

With little drama, the Idaho Legislature called it quits early last week, and governmental activity in the state largely took a breather – aside, perhaps, from reconsidering what did and didn’t happen at the Statehouse.

The Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District, Salmon-Challis National Forest, recently signed a decision to implement the South 21 Project. The South 21 Project planning area is located approximately 15 miles northwest of Stanley, Idaho on the Middle Fork Ranger District, administered by the Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District

Managing a large sterile lake with big, long-lived predators and a fluctuating prey species poses a big challenge for fisheries managers, and Payette Lake at McCall is the latest case where managers are asking anglers what they would like to see in the future.

For the bioeconomy to continue expanding, biomass must be produced and converted into biofuels in a cost-effective way. In September, Idaho National Laboratory bioenergy researchers helped meet those cost challenges by reducing the modeled cost of growing, harvesting, storing, transporting and preprocessing biomass from $149.58 per dry ton to $82.86 per dry ton.

The Idaho Department of Correction is investigating a disruption by Idaho inmates at a contract-bed facility in Texas.

Idaho State University’s College of Arts and Letters started its on-campus dual-enrollment pilot program in the fall of 2017 and has almost tripled the program’s size from 10 students to 29 in just one semester.

A bridge that has stood in Pocatello for more than 50 years is getting a bit of work. Recently, crews began work on the substructure that supports the Benton Street Bridge. The project will use various techniques to rehabilitate the structure with plans calling for reinforcing the concrete using carbon fiber wrapping, installation of a corrosion protection system, and repairing the column footings below ground.

PHOTO A lightning storm hits at the Salmon Falls Reservoir. The photo was released by the Bureau of Land Management last week. (image/Bureau of Land Management)

Idaho Briefing – March 26

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for March 26. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Nearly all substantive legislative work for this year’s Idaho session was concluded on March 22, but final adjournment was held off, primarily in case legislative action is needed to deal with one or more gubernatorial vetoes.

The steady shift of Idaho’s population from rural to urban counties continued between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017, according to estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Six urban counties – Ada, Canyon, Kootenai, Bonneville, Bannock and Twin Falls – had a combined population of 1,116,173, accounting for 75 percent of the growth in the state’s population and 65 percent of overall population. The state’s total population was estimated at 1,716,943.

The 366th Civil Engineer Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base is in the process of gathering information to conduct an environmental assessment for air and ground training spaces in urban areas located throughout Idaho. Training in urban areas allows MHAFB aircrew to experience conditions similar to those faced in combat.

Representative Mike Simpson on March 22 applauded the House passage of H.R. 1625, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which included monumental benefits for Idaho and Western States.

Legislative sessions preceding general elections for statewide elected officials mark the point when salaries for those offices are fixed by the legislature, and lawmakers acted on that subject in this session.

The city of Nampa will begin rebuilding 2nd and 3rd Streets South from 12th Avenue to 16th Avenue South on March 27.

Holding steady for the sixth consecutive month, Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3 percent in February.

Senator Mike Crapo, who has served as the lead Republican sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act, on March 21 reiterated his support for justice for trafficking victims and voted in favor of H.R. 1865, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which passed in the Senate on a 97-2 vote.

PHOTO By the end of last week, things were relatively quiet in the Statehouse rotunda. This image looks across to the House chambers, shortly before the floor session on Thursday morning. (image/Randy Stapilus)

Idaho Briefing – March 19

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for March 19. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

As the Idaho legislative session moved toward adjournment – possibly this next week, more likely the week following – a series of large rallies and protests hit the Idaho statehouse. They did not, however, appear to much change the course of legislation.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January was 3 percent – the fifth consecutive month at this rate following the benchmarking of 2017 estimates.

Senator Jim Risch on March 16 introduced legislation to make it less burdensome for non-federal entities, like irrigation districts, to obtain the title for Reclamation projects they operate and have repaid. The Reclamation Title Transfer Act of 2018 would simplify the title transfer process by authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to facilitate uncomplicated transfers for qualifying entities.

Mild weather so far means more young deer and elk are surviving this winter, which will likely grow herds and produce more game for big game hunters next fall.

February marks the fourth consecutive month that General Fund receipts have topped their forecasts. They were $166.1 million this month, which exceeded the expected $121.8 million by $44.3 million (36.3%).

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra on March 12 called for a greater investment in the safety of Idaho’s students through a new initiative, announced today, focused on increasing support to Idaho’s schools.

Senators Mike Crapo and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) are leading a group of bipartisan Senators to demand the VA take action to hold Health Net, the contractor that helps run the Choice Program, accountable for its “frustrating and completely avoidable” customer service problems and late payments to community providers.

Close the Gap Idaho joined hundreds of Idahoans rallying at the Statehouse to ask legislators to take action to narrow the health coverage gap. Doctors and medical professionals, faith groups, and Idahoans in the coverage gap, converged on the Statehouse to make their voices heard.

PHOTO In a week that saw several large rallies at the Idaho Statehouse, one of the largest was the high school-based rally calling for restrictions on gun sales and proliferation. (image/IdahoEdNews)

Idaho Briefing – March 12

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for March 12. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Friday night marked the end of candidate filing – for partisan and judicial offices, at least – for this year, and more than 300 candidates signed for offices at the legislative level and up. You’ll find them all in this issue.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma on March 8 sent Idaho officials, including Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, a letter rejecting the state’s plan for a “skinny” health insurance plan. Such a plan, it said, runs afoul of the Affordable Care Act.

A group of eight senators and two representatives introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill that will use revenues from energy production on federal lands to help pay for the over $11 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks.

Bipartisan legislation led by Senators Mike Crapo and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and cosponsored by Senator Jim Risch, cleared the Senate today by voice vote. The measure, S.97, known as the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, would create partnerships between private-sector innovators in nuclear energy with government researchers to create the next generation of clean, advanced nuclear power.

Due to a shortage of beds in Idaho’s prisons and jails, the Idaho Department of Correction will soon move 100 more male inmates to the Karnes County Correctional Center in Karnes City, Texas.

The State Board of Education on March 2 voted to take official positions on five separate pieces of education-related legislation being considered by state lawmakers. Board members voted unanimously to support three bills and to oppose two others.

Hunters took more elk and white-tailed deer in 2017 than in 2016, but mule deer harvest was down. With a much milder winter so far, Fish and Game biologists expect the drop in mule deer harvest to be short lived as herds recover from last year’s difficult winter across Central and Southern Idaho.

The Salmon River Ranger District on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests will release the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) for the Hungry Ridge Restoration project, for public review and comment.

PHOTO The two co-chairs of the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Senator Shawn Keough (second from left) and Representative Maxine Bell (second from right) were celebrated at an event on March 9 as their panel moved toward wrapping budgeting for this session. (image/Idaho Department of Health & Welfare)

Idaho Briefing – March 5

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for March 5. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Last week was the first half of the two-week period for candidate filing for the primary election (in May) for statewide, congressional, judicial, legislative and some other seats. Candidate filing opened on February 26. It closes on March 9,at the end of business.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has revised Idaho’s statewide seasonally adjusted annual average unemployment rate for 2017 up slightly to 3.2 percent – one-tenth percent higher than the estimated 3.1 percent first reported. Idaho’s December 2017 unemployment rate was also slightly higher at 3 percent – revised upward one-tenth of a percent from the 2.9 percent reported before the benchmark.

The College of Idaho has appointed two highly successful business and non-profit leaders to the office of President to lead the state’s oldest private college into the future. Former President of TitleOne Corporation Doug Brigham and the former CEO of the Treasure Valley YMCA Jim Everett have been selected as the Presidents of The College of Idaho. The appointment was finalized by a unanimous Board of Trustees vote of approval on February 23.

The State of Idaho auctioned another U.S. Forest Service timber sale today as part of a State-federal partnership to increase management activities on federal lands in Idaho.

The Office of Performance Evaluations has released a report on the “Child Welfare System: Reducing the Risk of Adverse Outcomes.”

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has accepted Intermountain Gas Company’s plan for meeting customer demand through 2021.

Plans to expand and modernize St. Luke’s McCall’s medical center have entered the next stage, and the project’s entitlement application for site preparation will go to the McCall City Council.

PHOTO The Boise Department of Parks andRecreation released a series of conceptual drawings for repairs and new development along the Boise River in the Boise area. This one shows proposed work on a bird observation and study area. (image/Boise Department of Parks and Recreation)

Idaho Briefing – February 26

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 26. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Albertsons Companies, one of the nation’s largest grocery retailers, and Rite Aid Corporation, one of the nation’s leading drugstore chains, announced a definitive merger agreement under which privately held Albertsons Companies will merge with publicly traded Rite Aid.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on February 20 welcomed a proposal from the Trump administration to extend from three months to 12 months the length of allowed short-term health insurance plans, which could fill a need similar to the plans Idaho insurers can offer under the Governor’s groundbreaking January 5 Executive Order.

Acting Governor Brad Little announced the appointment today of Margie Gannon of St. Maries to the Idaho House of Representatives seat vacated by the recent resignation of Plummer Democrat Paulette Jordan, who stepped down to campaign for her party’s gubernatorial nomination.

The Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) will temporarily close its commercial service Runway 2/20 for rehabilitation in September and encourages customers to plan their travel accordingly.

State regulators have initiated an investigation into a small electric utility that serves the unincorporated community of Atlanta.

An entirely public Spokane River waterfront appears to be widely supported for the Atlas Waterfront project site based on the first round of public input gathered for the project.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today a settlement with TK Holdings, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Japanese airbag maker Takata, over allegations the company concealed safety issues related to its airbag systems.

PHOTO Hundreds of concerned citizens marched through downtown Boise to the Idaho Capitol on February 19 to urge repeal of Idaho’s laws that shield members of faith-healing sects who deny children needed medical care. Marchers carried symbolic child-sized coffins with them as they walked to honor the 183 infants and children who’ve died from medical neglect since exemptions were enacted in the mid 1970s. (photo/Protect Idaho Kids)

Idaho Briefing – February 12

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 12. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Legislative conflicts arose last week over a wide range of subjects, from a proposed constitutional convention, to tax cuts, to health care. Meanwhile, statewide campaigns heated up, as one legislator – Democrat Paulette Jordan – resigned to devote full time to the campaign trail.

Representative Paulette Jordan said on February 7 that she is officially stepping down from her District 5 legislative seat to concentrate on running for governor full-time.

Senator Mike Crapo, chair of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, today delivered the following remarks during a full committee hearing entitled “Virtual Currencies: The Oversight Role of the SEC and CFTC.”

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 contains tax incentives for investments in low-income census tracts designated as Opportunity Zones. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and the Department of Commerce are calling for cities, counties, and tribes in eligible areas to apply for a Governor’s nomination to participate.

House Bill 463, the largest tax cut in Idaho history, passed today on straight party-lines with a 59-11 vote in the Idaho State House of Representatives.

Due to a shortage of beds in Idaho’s prisons and jails, the Idaho Department of Correction will soon move up to 250 male inmates to the Karnes County Correctional Center in Karnes City, Texas.

At the groundbreaking ceremony last June for Albertsons Companies’ new Broadway Market location, CEO Bob Miller hinted that Boise shoppers may ready themselves for a brand-new shopping scene, unlike any other in Idaho.

PHOTO Republicans in the state Legislature today announced a Regulatory Reform Joint Subcommittee to focus on the rules and regulations of state licensing boards and look at ways to improve them. The joint subcommittee will operate under the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee and the House Business Committee, and will consist of three majority members and one minority member from each committee. Representative Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens and chairman of the House Business Committee, said the subcommittee will invite state regulatory boards to appear before it and examine the licensing rules and regulations specific to each industry. (photo/Idaho Republican Party)

Idaho Briefing – February 5

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 5. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

The news web site Politico reported on January 31 that, with the retirement of Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey, Idaho Representative Mike Simpson may put in a bid for the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee.

Governor C.L. “Butch”Otter signed the first bill sent to him this year by the Idaho Legislature today, immediately reducing unemployment insurance tax rates and saving Idaho employers about $115 million over the next three years.

The Idaho Water Resource Board may set a new record for recharging Snake River flows into the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) in the winter of 2017-18, potentially going as high as 370,000 acre-feet, officials said.

Idaho State Police Forensic Services posted the annual Toxicology Trends Report on the ISPFS website. This report contains statistics related to drug and alcohol impaired driving in Idaho.

Fish and Game will continue managing Priest Lake as primarily a lake trout fishery while also protecting native cutthroat trout and bull trout in Upper Priest Lake.

The Idaho State University College of Business is now accepting applications for the state’s first Master of Healthcare Administration program, scheduled to begin August 2018.

The Federal grazing fee for 2018 will be $1.41 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and $1.41 per head month (HM) for lands managed by the USDA Forest Service. The 2017 public land grazing fee was $1.87.

PHOTO Boise State University President Bob Kustra spoke to all 475 students at Payette High School Thursday, urging them to consider going on for more education after graduation. Idaho has one of the lowest “go on” rates in the nation of students starting college right after high school, but the state, its K-12 system and its public universities are working to improve that pathway — estimates show that as jobs become more technical and Baby Boomers retire, more and more people in Idaho’s workforce will need education beyond high school. (photo/Boise State University)

Idaho Briefing – January 29

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for January 29. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Budget hearings are well underway at the Idaho Legislature, and much of the relatively substantive debate is about to get underway. Outside the capitol dome, winter continues apace.

Schools chief Sherri Ybarra asked budget-writers to keep Idaho’s public school students in mind while weighing her request to increase state spending on K-12 by more than $113 million next year.

Idaho Fish and Game Commission on January 17 voted to continue the current general hunts in the popular Sawtooth Elk Zone A and B tags sold on a first-come, first-served basis in 2018, but commissioners signaled a plan to change elk hunts in the zone to controlled hunts in 2019.

As required by Idaho Code, Idaho State Police Forensic Services provided the annual Idaho Sexual Assault Kit report to the Idaho Legislature on Friday.

Boise State University and its alumni drove nearly $1.9 billion in Idaho in fiscal year 2015, according to a report commissioned by the university and conducted by Tripp Umbach, a national economic analysis group.

Idahoans who receive natural gas service from Avista Utilities will pay less this winter after regulators approved a decrease to the Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment set in November 2017 through the company’s annual PGA filing.

The Bureau of Land Management recently took quick action to close off a collapsed mine shaft that opened suddenly in the historic mining town of Silver City, 50 miles southwest of Boise. The resulting sinkhole was adjacent to the community park and near a campground frequented by recreationists, posing an immediate safety risk.

PHOTO The Idaho State police respond to a snow slideoff in eastern Idaho, where many roads were impacted by snowfall last week. (photo/Idaho State Police)