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A digital keepup

carlson
NW Reading

When you're talking about digital information, the line between using public resources for official and unofficial purposes can get awfully blurry. A note out today from the Washington Legislative Ethics Board:

If you have a personal smart hone, tablet, iPad or similar device commoni referred to as a PDA, and you use your PDA to connect both to the legislative e-mail system and non-legislative e-mail, please pay attention to this message.

Recently, some legislators have inadvertently sent carnpaign­related or personal messages from their PDA, only to learn later that the message was sent from their “leg.Wa.gov” address. Use of the legislative network to assist a campaign, to support or oppose a ballot measure, or for most non-legislative purposes is a violation ofthe Ethics in Public Service Act. How do you avoid this? in this situation you must pay careful attention to which e-mail address mail is being sent from and you must use a campaign or personal e-mail address for campaign-related business. To be safe, you should probably set the campaign or personal e-mail account, not the legislative account, as the default or account for sending of e-mail. That Will help avoid inadvertent use of the legislative e-mail address and servers'.

The Legislative Service Center (LSC 360.786.7000) will assist legislators with setting up legislative on a PDA and establishing appropriate default settings, but it is each individual’s responsibility to not use legislative facilities for campaign or inappropriate personal purposes.

In addition, if you are using a PDA that was purchased with public resources, it is treated the same as your legislative computer, laptop, phone, etc. - it is a violation ofthe Ethics Act to use any public resource for political campaigns.

The use of the internet as a communications medium can have unintended consequences. Whether through a YouTube video, a tweet on Twitter, or a Facebook posting, such communications can reach audiences While posted and also have a potentially unlimited life. Literally anyone in the World With access to the Internet can access such communications long after the time they were intended to be available.

In a recent case, a legislator asked for his YouTube video to be removed upon learning there Were ethical concerns about his use of public resources in the production of the video. However, materials on the Internet are generally cached and, are diflicult if not impossible to eliminate completely. Although the video in question should never have involved the use ofpublic resources in the Hrst place, its placement on YouTube prolonged the life of the Clear, visual representation ofthe use of public resources for campaign purposes and may, far into the future, reHect upon the ethics of the Legislature as a whole.

Original intent

What did the founders intend for the Constitution to do - what did they intend for it to accomplish?

We don't have to guess. They told us, right at the beginning, in words that should trump any narrow or extreme interpretation of the specific provisions in what followed:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

That's what they had in mind. That's what they intended our government do.

As we move on from Independence Day, ask: How are we doing?

ID Bill of the Day: House Bill 370

Trail
Tom Trail

The Idaho medical marijuana bill has been introduced, by Representative Tom Trail, as he had said last year he would do. House Bill 370 does not have much chance of passage, or of clearing its first committee vote - if it gets one. (If it does, we'll be curious to see who else votes for it.)

Proposals along these lines, or further down them, have either become law in Washington and Oregon or have been strongly discussed for years. Outright state legalization (which still wouldn't mean federal legalization) is likely on the Washington ballot this year. But the subject has gotten no traction in Idaho.

How little traction? For some years, Trail has proposed (last year, along with Representative Brian Cronin, D-Boise) resolutions backing legalization of industrial hemp. Though biologically related to marijuana, it cannot be used to get high: Its uses are industrial, and many. It could be a major crop in Idaho, as Trail has noted. Many of the founding fathers, including George Washington, grew it. But last year it failed in the House Agriculture Committee.

Still, the rationale language in the new medical marijuana bill is strong: "Compassion dictates that a distinction be made between medical and nonmedical uses of marijuana. Hence, the purpose of this chapter is to protect from arrest, prosecution, property forfeiture, and criminal and other penalties those patients who use marijuana to alleviate suffering from debilitating medical conditions, as well as their physicians, primary caregivers and those who are authorized to produce marijuana for medical purposes."

We'll see how far compassion gets this bill.

Picky, picky

If insurance companies may be generating less and less trust these days - this concerning companies whose business it is to provide and whose advertising promotes a sense of security and peace of mind - there may be some good reasons for that.

Look at the Washington Supreme Court case out today in Laura Holden v. Farmers Insurance Company of Washington. Here's the Washington Supreme Court's summary:

Laura Holden purchased a renter's insurance policy from Farmers Insurance Company of Washington. In the event of property loss due to fire, the policy provides coverage for the "actual cash value" of the damaged property. ACV is defined as "fair market value" at the time of loss. FMV is not defined. After a fire at her rented home damaged some of her personal property, Holden sought coverage under the ACV provision, which states that payments will not exceed the lesser of either policy limits or "the amount necessary to repair or replace the damaged property." Farmers refused to account for Washington State sales tax when calculating the value of the damaged property. We are asked to decide whether, under the terms of this policy, the ACV provision unambiguously supports Farmers' interpretation, or if instead it is subject to a reasonable interpretation that accounts for sales tax in calculating the FMV of damaged property. Because the ACV provision is ambiguous and accordingly must be construed in favor of the policyholder, we reverse the Court of Appeals and reinstate the trial court's order granting Holden's motion for summary judgment.

There wasn't any question that the policy was in force, and that it covered the burned items. But the company was determined to contest any payout it could - up to and including the relatively minor sales tax component. Our personal experience with insurers in years past hasn't been so negative. But it seems to be getting that way, more and more. Just read the appellate court decisions that keep coming down on topics like this.

Count your fingers when you sign their contracts.

OR gov: An opening round

gov

At the debate: John Kitzhaber (left), Bill Bradbury/Stapilus

The two main Demcratic candidates for Oregon governor, former Governor John Kitzhaber and former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, have debated before and fairly recently. But this evening at the Multnomah County Courthouse was the first since filing for the office closed - since, you might say, the campaign period more or less formally begins.

Both, at a crowd somewhere upward of 100 people, were readty to roll this evening.

Both put some emphasis, opening their discussion, on Democratc bona fides. Kitzhaber painted himself, for one thing, as the bulwark against the Republican tide of the mid-90s, saying of his many vetoes, for example, that "without those vetoes Oregon wold be a far different state today". (Although he would speak later, passionately, about working with Republicans.) Bradbury spoke about a range of fronts, from his Bank of Oregon proposal to his call for much higher education funding levels. Both made a point of addressing the state's economic problems.

Bradbury was quick to be up front about his muscular schelosis, point out his entry into the room on his segway. But he said the disease was diagnosed back in 1980 and didn't stop him from serving as Senate president or secretary of state.

The most striking single policy idea (not new to this debate, but highlighted at it) was Bradbury's for a Bank of Oregon, as a means of keeping Oregon money in state to a greater degree. Kitzhaber said he thought it was an idea worth investigating further, among others, but noted that North Dakota (the only state now with a state bank) and Oregon may have a number of structural differences.

Broadly, they agreed on quite a bit - both, in loose terms, are liberal Democrats. (Their disagreements had mainly to do with means, not ends - Kitzhber sometimes questioning the practicality of some of Bradbury's ideas.) But Bradbury's framing sounded more like traditional Democratic talk (he, more than the crisply wonkish former governor, had that earnest-Democrat sound), while Kitzhaber's approach and conceptual framework was a lot different on a range of issues. One brainy Idahoan was asked, years ago, whether in the area of utility regulation he considered himself a consumer advocate; he said not really, because he wasn't a fan of consumption - his way of looking at issues was simply different. Analogous with Kitzhaber, who seemed to scale down the current talk on health insurance (considering it one one slice of the issue), for example, in favor of a large-concept look at health in terms of promoting better health as the essential solution to the problem.

Kitzhaber was asked about the choice between bipartisanship and sticking with principles; he described it as a false choice, that "we have to recreate some kind of a political center."

Bradbury's supporters seemed more in evidence than Kitzhaber's. They were sign-waving outside, and they were more evident in the commission meeting room too (they live streamed the debate). But the crowd seemed laid back; it was a group of Democrats, do supportive of both candidates, but didn't seem strongly weighted toward either.

Registration update

At just over a year to the next general election - close to the midway point - seemed a useful point to review the party voter registrations in Oregon.

A note: Ind refers to the Independent Party; non-af is nonaffiliated. None that the drops in the interim (which are across the board) are generally explained because of standard records purging.

Month Dem Rep Ind non-af
Aug 909,414 679,934 47,563 423,711
May 907,700 679,624 44,752 419,486
Feb 930,649 692,610 45,358 429,858
Nov 08 931,318 694,589 43,030 429,758

.

Very stable.

Idahoans, D.C. and the Kempthorne bathroom

No, this is a different bathroom story. But is there something about Idahoans who go to Washington and, well . . .

There was some rumble a few days ago about this, and we held off comment until the Washington Post, which first wrote about it, got together a more complete account. Today they have, in "Flushing Out Interior's Bathroom Spending," about the price tag for construction of a new bathroom in the office of the secretary of the Interior. Who has been, for the last two and a half years, former Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne.

What got everyone's attention was, in contrast to another famous occurrance, not what happened in it, but rather the price tag for the remodel: $236,000. The article points out that as of late last year, the median price for a house in Boise was $187,000.

An inspector general is looking into it.

Probably not the last - as a Bush Administration official - big headline Kempthorne might have wished for.

ALSO The Idaho Falls Post Register brings up a point that should have come immediately to mind. When Kempthorne was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, his key campaign television ad - the one most often mentioned and thought to have given him much the biggest boost - showed ordinary Idahoan touring D.C., angered and seemingly surprised to find paid elevator operators and a Capitol Hill subway system: "Well, it sure looks like a lot of spending around here to me."

Broder on Minnick

Washington Post columnist David Broder's latest column is on new Idaho Representative Walt Minnick, who (he points out) has a back story more unusual than that of most incoming members of Congress.

Nothing especially new of note, but it does put Minnick into some perspective. And Minnick says he will be back in his district weekly - and why.

More cuts to the bone

How much longer can this go on before local newspapers have to simply say they're no longer providing anything resembling meaningful news coverage? They're not there yet, and hats off to those in the newsrooms struggling to do the job. But be clear: The job cutbacks are cuts to the core; whatever fat there was, was dispensed with long ago.

Today's news is impending job cuts at three McClatchy newspapers in Washington, the Tacoma News Tribune, the Olympian and the Tri-City Herald. At all three, most newsroom employees are being offered buyout options. That doesn't mean most will be leaving, but word is that if enough don't, substantial layoffs will be next. The size of the newsrooms cuts expected isn't made clear - an ominous thought all by itself.

At Olympia, Publisher John Winn Miller was reported as saying "he thinks The Olympian, which has 180 full- and part-time workers, will survive as an independent news voice in the state capital."

Note the language: He thinks it will survive.