From this week’s Idaho Weekly Briefing: An Idaho Fish & Game report on how this summer’s heat may be affecting fish and fishing rules.

Warm water temperatures came earlier than usual to many of Idaho’s fishing waters, but it’s unlikely to lead to fishing closures or restrictions similar to those that neighboring states have implemented.

“In many streams, what we’re seeing this year with water temperatures happens every year, we’re just seeing it sooner than normal,” said Jim Fredericks, chief of the Department of Fish and Game’s fisheries bureau.

A heat wave in late June and early July spiked water temperatures, but many waters have since cooled to normal summer temperatures. That doesn’t mean fish haven’t been stressed, particularly trout and other coldwater species, but conditions are not likely to affect fish populations now or in the near future based on current water conditions.

Warm water is a common occurrence during summer, and several factors come into play when it happens. Summer migrations into headwaters, cold tributaries or around underwater springs are a normal part of life for trout in many Idaho rivers. In lakes and reservoirs fish move to deeper, cooler water. Many rivers, or portions of them, have dams that allow water temperatures and flows to be adjusted.

The feeding activity of the fish also helps minimize the problem. Fish that can’t find cooler water typically become lethargic and decrease or stop eating, which means slow fishing and a corresponding drop in fishing pressure.
While closures in neighboring states won’t affect Idaho, Oregon and Washington have implemented restrictions on the Snake River where it shares a border with Idaho.

Joe DuPont, Fish and Game’s Clearwater Region fisheries manager, said fishing pressure for sturgeon, and catch rates in the Snake River from Idaho anglers, are likely to be low.

“I’m confident the sturgeon in the Hells Canyon reach of the Snake River are not going to be impacted by anglers due to temperatures,” DuPont said. “Catch rates drop so much that very few get caught. You can’t stress them out if you can’t catch them.”

The department is monitoring the Snake River, and he noted that during spring, two dead sturgeon were reported by multiple callers to the department.

“When a sturgeon dies, we get repeated calls,” Dupont said. “If large numbers were dying, we would know about it.”

Fish and Game officials have the authority to implement emergency fishing closures in extreme cases, although they aren’t expected.

That’s not to say anglers won’t see some noticeable effects from warmer. Anglers and others may see localized fish die offs, a few of which have already occurred. Anglers may also notice the effects of stress on individual fish, such as parasites, lesions and other physical signs.

Anglers can also reduce stress on fish by not fishing during the warmest parts of the day, and if they plan to release the fish, land them quickly and carefully release them. If anglers see fish go belly up after being released, they may voluntarily stop fishing until the water cools. Early mornings are typically when the water temperatures are coolest during the day.

The window when temperatures are above a comfortable level for fish are typically short-lived, and most fish can withstand the temporary stress. As water cools, typically in late summer when days get shorter and night temperatures drop, fish resume their normal routines and anglers will likely see catch rates improve. (photo/Nan Palmero)

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The Oregon legislature, which normally runs longer than Washington’s or Idaho’s, has adjourned. (It was a little later than expected, but not by a lot.)

Here’s what the House leadership cited as the session’s accomplishments.

Investing in a Strong Education System

A $7.4 billion investment in public schools will provide stable budgets for most school districts while also funding full-day kindergarten for children throughout Oregon for the first time.
A $35 million investment in Career and Technical Education and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education (CTE/STEM) will help increase high school graduation rates and better prepare Oregon students for high-wage jobs.
Students seeking higher education will benefit from boosts in funding for public universities, community colleges, and student financial assistance (Opportunity Grants) – including a new tuition waiver program for qualified community college students and a requirement that public universities justify any proposed tuition increases above 3 percent in 2016-17.
New investments in early childhood education – notably Healthy Families home visiting, relief nurseries, and quality preschool – will help ensure children arrive at school ready to succeed.

Expanding Opportunities for Working Families

The Sick Leave for All Oregonians Act will make sure most working Oregonians can accrue a reasonable number of paid sick days each year – a basic workplace protection that will make a major difference for families across the state.
Oregon Retirement Savings Accounts will give more families the opportunity to save for retirement via an easy, effective, and portable savings account.
Prohibiting employer retaliation for discussing what you earn will help combat wage disparities and help women who currently do not get equal pay for equal work.
Strategic investments in the Employment Related Day Care Program and the Working Family Child and Dependent Care tax credit will increase access to quality, affordable childcare for working families.
A landmark investment in affordable housing construction will help thousands of families and begin to tackle Oregon’s statewide housing crisis.
Removing questions about criminal history from job applications, commonly known as “ban the box,” will help Oregonians get back on their feet once they have served their time.

Supporting Job Creation and Local Economies

A $175 million bonding investment will enable seismic upgrades to K-12 schools throughout the state, and an additional $125 million in bonds will help school districts across the state to fix outdated, dilapidated, and hazardous facilities.
A $90 million investment in Oregon’s transportation infrastructure will provide much-needed upgrades, including $35 million to improve the safety of some of the most deadly intersections and dangerous stretches of highway in communities across the state.
Strategic investments will create jobs and spur economic development across the state, including: investments in multimodal transportation through the ConnectOregon program; pivotal resources for community-based initiatives through the Regional Solutions program; and support for converting unusable brownfields such as abandoned gas stations into development-ready lots.
The implementation of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program will provide Oregonians with more choices at the fuel pump, cleaner air to breathe, and more jobs in an emerging industry.
Rural economic investments include $50 million in grants and loans to help meet water storage and conservation needs, resources to improve sage grouse habitats and maintain grazing lands, and funds to manage and build a market for Western Juniper.
A fix to Oregon’s centralized property tax rules will provide certainty for technology companies that want to build data centers and create jobs in rural Oregon.

Improving Public Safety for Oregon Families

A package of common-sense regulations will guide a safe and successful implementation of the voter-approved Measure 91 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.
The Oregon Firearms Safety Act will help keep convicted felons, domestic abusers and people in severe mental crisis from buying guns online or through other direct private sales because criminal background checks will now be required for those transactions.
Barring domestic abusers from possessing guns and ammunition will help protect victims and keep families safe.
Establishing long-needed rules to define and prohibit racial profiling will help rebuild public trust in local law enforcement and make communities stronger and safer.
Doubling the statute of limitations for first degree sex crimes from six years to twelve years will give victims a voice and a real chance to seek justice.
Improving the state’s capacity to respond to accidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials will make our communities safer.

Promoting Healthy Communities

Significant investments in mental health care and alcohol and drug treatment will strengthen communities throughout the state, including $20 million to build supportive housing for Oregonians impacted by mental illness or addiction.
Pharmacists will be allowed to prescribe and dispense birth control and insurance companies will be required to cover 12 months of prescription coverage – both of which will increase access to contraception and help reduce unintended pregnancies.
The Oregon Toxic Free Kids Act will require some manufacturers to incrementally phase out dangerous chemicals from kids’ products.
Cover Oregon has been abolished as a public corporation, which will add much-needed transparency and accountability to Oregon’s health insurance marketplace.
Vulnerable patients (victims of domestic violence, for example) will be able to keep their sensitive medical information private by having their “explanation of benefits” information mailed to an address that is different from the policy holder’s.

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A guest opinion from Tami Thatcher, who has written frequently in recent years about the Idaho National Laboratory and related nuclear industry issues. She said that she “was a nuclear safety analyst at INL for several years. . ..and then “graduated” in 2005. It’s a long story. Since 2005, I have provided contractor work for the INL, Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, and Environmental Defense Institute of tiny Troy Idaho where many of my articles are posted.”

I have been trying to piece together the history of radionuclide and chemical contamination of drinking water at the Idaho National Laboratory. US Geological Survey reports and data fill in much of the history of what was monitored since 1949.

State regulation of drinking water laws began to permeate INL in the late 1980s. INL contractors now perform the INL drinking water monitoring.

I visited the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to see the data. What I discovered was that IDEQ does not collect or post online the radionuclide data for INL drinking water, only the chemical data.

In 1995, the IDEQ granted the DOE’s request to no longer provide radionuclide drinking water results.

Few people know that the radionuclide results for INL drinking water are not available at IDEQ or the site annual environmental monitoring reports.

The DOE’s own lax limits were 100 times more permissive than current federal drinking water limits. DOE and USGS reports that did disclose highlights of the contamination often emphasized that more permissive federal limits would soon be enacted. But they weren’t.

IDEQ ceased oversight of radionuclides in INL drinking water at a time when radionuclide levels remained at or near the federal limit. A legal loophole for non-community wells means the radionuclide contaminants are not regulated by the state.

A comprehensive review of chronically contaminated historical INL drinking water does not exist. The contamination has yet to be acknowledged in National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) energy worker compensation dose reconstruction or epidemiology studies. The energy worker compensation law enacted in 2000 has paid out about $200 million in INL claims, but NIOSH does not disclose when or which facilities exposed the workers.

Brain tumors, leukemia and lymphatic cancers were found to be elevated in INL workers regardless of their recorded dose and whether or not they were radiation workers.

In the past, workers at INL’s Central Facilities Area were drinking up to five times the federal drinking water limit for tritium, 70 percent of the limit for iodine-129, and a host of other contaminants for decades. Drinking water wells at other INL facilities were also contaminated.

The full extent of Snake River Plain aquifer contamination from reactor operation, fuel tests, nuclear fuel reprocessing and waste burial remains obscured behind overly simplistic presentations that promote the idea that as long as current contamination levels don’t exceed federal limits, there’s no reason for concern.

There are serious radioactive omissions when it comes to describing current and historical drinking water contaminants at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Piecing together the full picture of all historical INL drinking water contaminants would require filling in those not monitored but later discovered to have been present.

Former workers (and their children) may wonder what they were exposed to. When weighing the benefits of future operations at INL, the public needs access to the full story of INL’s past and current contaminated drinking water.

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Another take on charter schools (see also a Washington state report last week), this time by Levi B Cavener, a special education teacher in Caldwell, Idaho. He also manages the education blog IdahosPromise.Org.

60 years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. On May 17, 1954, the High Court ruled unanimously that U.S. public schools must be desegregated, that separate school systems for blacks and whites are inherently unequal and a violation of the “equal protection clause” of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

It’s now more than a half century later. Here, we have Idaho.
On April 29, 2015, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission released their first ever Annual Report. A damning self-indictment, it paints a painfully grim picture for minority student enrollment in Idaho’s public charter schools. The Commission’s comprehensive report was unequivocal in its findings: Idaho charter schools are consistently and disproportionately unreflective of their surrounding communities’ demographics.

A few takeaways from the report: 55% of Idaho charters under enroll Special Education students; 77% of charters under enroll Free and Reduced Lunch students; 87% under enroll Limited English Proficiency students; and 90% under enroll non-white students. What does this mean? It means Idaho has reversed course and is heading back to 1955, back to the Civil Rights era, and back to schools that are both separate and unequal. It means, apparently, “white flight”?

Beyond a moral and legal argument to ensure equity in public charter schools, here’s why every property owner in Idaho should care about the Commission’s recent findings: When public charter schools fail to share an equitable burden for providing expensive minority student services — such as special education and English Language Learner instruction – local public schools end up enrolling a disproportionate number of these students. Local public schools are then forced to levy property owners to pay for expensive minority instruction and support.

While some may point to the current imbalance as merely a byproduct of so called “school choice,” the Commission’s findings should, at minimum, create pause to ensure that charter facilities are actually “a choice” for minority student populations. Remember, Jim Crow laws and segregated schools were also a product of active policy “choices” by lawmakers.

Remember, the bargain that charters made with Idaho is enhanced instructional freedom in order to experiment with new pedagogy and curriculum. However, that bargain also requires charters to provide equitable access and appropriate minority service instruction as required by civil rights law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Terry Ryan, President of the Idaho Charter School Network (the lobbying arm of Idaho’s charters), recently wrote an op-ed declaring that the solution to this inequity problem is…wait for it…to build more charters! Said Mr. Ryan, “The best way to help charter schools serve more diverse populations is to help them grow.” Throw more money at the problem. Where have we heard this before?

Idaho Ed News reported that Idaho Charter Commission Chairman Alan Reed said of the report’s findings, “Before approving new charters, we ask petitioners, ‘What are your strategies for reaching special and underserved populations?’”

Chairman Reed’s question should be modified: Before approving any new charters we need to fix the imbalance that exists today. After all, shouldn’t minority students be entitled to the same freedom and legal opportunity “to choose” charters as any other kiddo?

It’s time for a moratorium on any new charters until we address this chronic imbalance. It’s time we fully recognize that regular public schools are shouldering the heavy burden of educating special education, minority and low income student populations. And it’s past time that funding for Idaho charter schools be withheld until they can demonstrate they are following the law.

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This is from a report by the Oregon Health Care Association, about a Portland State University study which shows needs of Oregon seniors have risen while Medicaid reimbursement rates decreased in community-based care settings.

The number of Oregon seniors who depend on Medicaid has risen considerably since 2008, but the Legislature’s funding of reimbursement rates for services has declined in the same time period, according to a new report by Portland State University’s Institute on Aging.

The report – “Oregon Community-Based Care: Resident and Community Characteristics” – offers a unique look at Oregon’s long-term care landscape, and includes data from 243 community-based care (residential care and assisted living communities) providers across the state. Findings indicate the proportion of Oregon seniors who depend on Medicaid to afford care has risen by ten percent since 2008, but Medicaid reimbursement rates have decreased by three percent when adjusted for inflation.

“The findings from this study fill an important gap in our understanding of Oregon’s senior population, staff and caregivers, and community-based care settings as a whole,” said Paula Carder, PhD, Associate Professor, Portland State University Institute on Aging. “The demand for community-based care is expected to increase as our population ages, and we hope this report will be used to inform policy decisions that ultimately improve the lives of aging Oregonians.”

The report indicated that nearly half (47%) of all residents in community-based care settings have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. This staggering figure represents a five percent increase from 2008 in the number of seniors with dementia living in community-based care settings, and points to higher overall acuity rates and service needs among Oregon seniors. According to a 2010 report by the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Oregonians with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to double by 2025.

In March, the Oregon Health Care Association released data that shows more than 31,000 low-income seniors in Oregon depend on Medicaid reimbursements to afford care each month, but Medicaid rates have not kept pace with rising costs. In state after state, studies demonstrate that investments in long term care for low-income seniors ultimately improve health outcomes by allowing providers to offer better quality care. A 2011 study showed that states that increased Medicaid reimbursements the most improved quality outcomes for low-income seniors in long term care settings.

Commissioned by the Department of Human Services (DHS), the report was a collaboration between DHS, Portland State University Institute on Aging, the Oregon Health Care Association, SEIU, and LeadingAge Oregon.

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From a report on who pays what in Oregon taxes, prepared by the Oregon Center for Public Policy. The numbers in brackets refer to sources, which can be found where the full report is posted online.

Who pays more, low- or high-income households? The income group in Oregon that pays the highest share of their income to state and local taxes: Lowest income households.[1] The income group in Oregon that pays the lowest share of their income to state and local taxes: The wealthiest 1 percent of households.[2]

Have taxes increased as a share of Oregonians’ income? Oregon state and local general revenue as a share of income in 1991: 15.8 percent.[3] Oregon state and local general revenue as a share of income in 2012: 15.0 percent.[4]

How much do working poor Oregonians pay in income taxes? 2013 federal poverty threshold for a family of four with two children: $23,624.[5] State income tax paid in Oregon by a family of four living at the poverty line in 2013: $230.[6] Of the 42 states with income taxes, the number that taxed the income of a family of four living at the poverty line in 2013: 16.[7] Oregon’s rank in taxing the income of a family of four living at the poverty line in 2013: 5th highest.[8]

What share of income goes to the top 1 percent? Share of income going to Oregon’s top 1 percent in 2013: 14.0 percent.[9] Share of income going to Oregon’s bottom 40 percent in 2013: 7.7 percent.[10]

What share of capital gains income goes to the top 1 percent? Share of income from capital gains going to Oregon’s top 1 percent in 2013: 53.0 percent.[11] Share of capital gains going to Oregon’s top 5 percent in 2013: 73.6 percent.[12] Share of income from capital gains going to Oregon’s bottom 95 percent in 2013: 27.5 percent.[13]

How do lottery and income tax revenues compare? Anticipated state revenue from personal income taxes in 2015-17: $15.75 billion.[14] Anticipated state revenue from the Oregon Lottery in 2015-17: $1.13 billion.[15] Anticipated state revenue from corporate income taxes in 2015-17: $1.08 billion.[16]

Do corporations pay a fair share of income taxes? Share of Oregon income taxes paid by corporations in 1973-75: 18.5 percent.[17] Share of Oregon income taxes corporations are projected to pay in 2015-17: 6.4 percent.[18]

Additional state revenue available in 2015-17 for schools, health and human services and public safety if corporations paid the same share of the state’s income taxes as they paid in 1973-75: $2.5 billion.[19] Amount of additional money Oregon schools needed in 2013-15 to provide all children a quality education: $2.2 billion.[20]

Do some profitable corporations pay nothing in income taxes? Number of profitable corporations doing business in Oregon that paid the corporate minimum tax in tax year 2012: 3,294.[21] Number of corporations with Oregon profits that used tax credits to reduce their 2012 tax liability below the corporate minimum tax: 218.[22] Number of corporations with Oregon profits that paid nothing in Oregon corporate income taxes for tax year 2012: 169.[23] Number of corporations with over $1 million in Oregon profits that paid nothing in Oregon corporate income taxes for tax year 2012: at least 49.[24] The names of corporations that paid nothing in corporate income taxes that support the public structures that create a strong business climate: The legislature has yet to make this public.

Who itemizes deductions and who uses the standard deduction? Share of Oregonians who itemized their deductions in 2013: 47.0 percent.[25] Share of Oregonians who used the standard deduction in 2013: 53.0 percent.[26] Share of Oregonians earning $100,000 or less in 2013 who itemized: 39.7 percent.[27] Share of Oregonians earning $100,000 or less in 2013 who used the standard deduction: 60.3 percent.[28] Share of Oregon’s wealthiest 1 percent who itemized in 2013: 95.5 percent.[29]

Share of the mortgage interest deduction benefits going to the highest-earning 20 percent of Oregonians in 2011: 61 percent.[31]

Who benefits from the Oregon EITC? Projected 2015-17 cost of the Oregon Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): $105 million.[32] Share of Oregon taxpayers benefiting from the Oregon EITC in 2013: About 16 percent.[33] Share of Oregon EITC going to working families in 2013: 100 percent.[34]

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A statement from Chuck Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Corporations have gamed our tax system and it is costing the rest of us billions.

The Center’s analysis of today’s state revenue forecast shows that if the legislature stopped the corporate gaming of our tax system and made corporations pay the same share of income taxes that they paid in the 1970s, we would have about $2.5 billion in additional revenue in the upcoming budget period to help the poor and middle class get ahead.

There would be enough money to pay for the costly mistakes by the 2013 “grand bargain” special session — the illegal PERS changes and the special tax treatment for wealthy business owners.

There would also be enough money to cover the loss of revenue due to the spendthrift kicker, a $473 million tax cut that primarily benefits the rich.

Today’s revenue forecast underscores the need to end corporate tax gaming that’s projected to about $2.5 billion in the next budget period.

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