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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 stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

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)
 

Not your grandpa’s Vietnam

jones

It is hard to believe how much Vietnam has changed in the last 50 years. Tay Ninh Province, where I served, is hardly recognizable. Located northwest of Saigon, the province borders Cambodia on the north, the west and much of the south. The province was a main terminus of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Fifty years ago, the northern part of the province was uninhabited jungle and dangerous territory. That area is now developed with residences, shops, restaurants, and farms, as well as a national park. Tay Ninh City, a former backwater, has turned into a real city.

Saigon (even though it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1975, many locals still call it Saigon) has grown into a real metropolis, boasting a population of about 12 million people and 8 million motorbikes. While Hanoi has about 5 relatively tall buildings, Saigon has dozens and more are under construction or in the planning stage. Wages are rising and people are optimistic about the future. Although the government is still reluctant to allow political freedom and dwells on the past with anti-U.S. propaganda at historic sites, the people everywhere in the country are welcoming and friendly to Americans. The country is up and coming.

One of my trip objectives was to find some of the kids from the orphanage I had worked with in 1968-1969. It was run by the Cao Dai Church, a universalist religion headquartered in Tay Ninh City. When my wife, Kelly, and I arrived at our hotel in Tay Ninh, the interpreter I’d hired told us the orphanage had been closed by the Communists when they took over in 1975. However, she said her grandmother had worked in the orphanage and remembered me.

We met with grandma, Do Thi Cung, a delightful 78-year-old, on February 2. She remembered me because I’d brought umbrellas for the orphanage staff during one of my visits. She told us she had lost touch with the kids but she knew that some of them had ended up in America. After the orphanage closed, she continued working for the church in another capacity. Meeting with her was a real highlight of the trip.

The Cao Dai Great Divine Temple and Holy See were about the only things that remained as I remembered them. The ornate temple is one of the two attractions that bring tourists to Tay Ninh and it is well worth a visit. The church was established in 1925 and claims upwards of 5 million members around the world. The other attraction is Nui Ba Dinh, or Black Virgin Mountain, an extinct volcano that towers over the rather flat province. Fifty years ago, it was dangerous territory but now it has a gondola that takes visitors about halfway to the top. I remember directing artillery fire against parts of the mountain back in the day.

With our history of ugly conflict with the Communists, who ultimately prevailed, it felt a bit odd to be well received by almost everyone we met. I’m pleased we are able to get along now and I hope our two countries can strengthen our bonds, as each has strategic interests in doing so. But, one can’t help but wonder whether the resort to war those many years ago was really necessary.
 

Who’s been in charge?

stapiluslogo1

The context for the major campaign statement - a sweeping recital of policy and perspective - that Raul Labrador released on January 30, is this:

Republicans have been in control of Idaho state government for the last two dozen years, about a generation. Whatever has happened, whether you like it or dislike it, they’re the ones who made it happen. Aside from a few terms when Democrats were state controller or superintendent of public instruction, they’ve held all of the state executive offices since 1994. And since then, they’ve consistently held more than three-fourths of the state legislative seats.

So bear in mind who Labrador, one of three main contenders for the Republican nomination for governor (the other two being Brad Little and Tommy Ahlquist), is talking about in his call to “Dismantle the power and perks of establishment politicians.”

One of his proposals is small bore, has only slight impact and will be obscure to most Idahoans - “The law governing the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho allows special interest groups to participate in this state-sponsored retirement program that was intended for public employees. Special interest groups that lobby the Legislature shouldn’t receive a benefit reserved for state and local government employees.”

The other points he made have sweeping import.

He said, “In Idaho government, political connections sometimes impact how policies are developed and contracts are awarded. Sweetheart deals and special favors have become both costly and normal.” That’s what Republican governing of the state has wrought?

He said, “Term limits allow fresh ideas and innovations to rise to the surface, and can help stop corruption and cronyism from taking root. Conversely, concentrating power into the hands of people who have been in office for too long can lead to cronyism and, at minimum, a belief that political favoritism is behind policy decisions.”

Aside from the significant number of long-serving legislators, Idaho has a governor and lieutenant governor in their third terms and U.S. senators - and a representative, in the second district - with elective office background going back about as many years as the average Idahoan has been alive. (That latter number is 34.6 years.)

Then: “Idahoans are often asked to just trust that their elected officials aren’t personally benefiting from a government contract or policy change. It shouldn’t be this way. An elected official can have private financial interests, but when those interests are factored into public matters, that’s called corruption. Even the appearance of corruption can erode public confidence in government. It’s well past time for Idaho to require a thorough disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.”

That sounds a lot like the disclosure bill recently shot down at the legislature.

And, “part-time legislators who transition into full-time Idaho government employment after their elected service are rewarded with an extremely valuable perk that’s available to no one else, full-time PERSI credit for part-time work. This loophole can be used to turn a pension worth a few hundred dollars a month into one worth thousands of dollars. This isn’t right.”

That would include, presumably, the current secretary of state, and a number of top officials in the Otter Administration.

There’s merit to many of the points Labrador is making here.

In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad starting point for this year’s Idaho Democratic platform.

But I do wonder how a lot of Republicans, who have been happy at being in charge in Idaho, will react.
 

Tribes social clubs or governments?

trahant

I was at an event in Seattle recently and listened to Slade Gorton talk about the future of the Republican party in Washington at the Crosscut Festival in Seattle last week. Washington state is changing and the GOP runs the risk of being irrelevant (as is now the case in California elections). And, Washington, like California, has a top two primary. So it’s a challenge for Republicans to win a spot in the general election. In the last Senate election, for example, the “top two” finalists were both Democrats.

Gorton, who just had his 90th birthday, was once considered a moderate in Republican circles. That’s no longer the case. It’s true he is not a “loyal” Trump supporter. Then that’s not an easy species to find in Washington state. But he does support the GOP congressional agenda. So moderate he is not.

Of course Gorton did not talk about American Indian or Alaska Native issues. Even though that’s what we in Indian Country remember. Actually it’s too bad for Republicans. The party is shrinking, in part, because it does not recognize the changing nature of the country’s demographics. Then that’s been true for a long time. I remember talking to a former GOP party leader, Gummy Johnson, more than twenty years ago who wanted to position his party as a supporter of Treaty Rights and tribal governments. The Gorton wing of the party would never have let that happen.

Gorton (and his ally on the Supreme Court, the late William Rehnquist) had a nuanced view of tribal governments. These two men used their legislative and judicial powers to try and undercut federal Indian law and treat tribes as social clubs. Tribal membership was not citizenship but a special privilege. So tribal authority, the power of government, could only be applied to tribal members (and even that was subject to any limitations set by Congress). The legal theory for this nonsense was the implied divestiture doctrine, the secret but steady erosion of tribal governments.

Sen. Gorton has moved on to other issues. He’s an expert on national security, and, as I learned the other night, on rebuilding the Republican brand. (Or not. Because he argues there is an ebb and flow and Republican ideas will come back again in Washington with major change.)

I was thinking of Slade Gorton's ideology in the context of the Stop Disenrollment campaign that will be posted across social media on Feb. 8. It’s being led this year by Alaska Native actor Irene Bedard. “The movement is poised to raise indigenous social consciousness again this year — in what might be its final year given the growing sense that disenrollment is declining nationally,” said a news release. “Prominent Native Americans like author Sherman Alexie, former U.S. Vice Presidential candidate Winona LaDuke, rapper-actor-entrepreneur Litefoot, film director Chris Eyre, fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail, and Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills headlined the 2016- and 2017-campaigns.”

What does Slade Gorton have to do with disenrollment? It’s an extension of the idea that tribes are social clubs and that membership is exclusive. That’s a different narrative than a government with citizens. Great nations grow. Great nations want all the talent that can build a better society. (Hint: This idea has applications to the immigration debate, too.) Great nations don't kick out their relations.

To me, tribal citizenship is the key. Thumb through history and some of Indian Country’s greatest leaders: Washakie, D’arcy McNickle, and many, many more could have been on the wrong side of history had there been a narrow debate about disenrollment and membership.

Are tribes exclusive clubs? No. The answer is always the framework of government.

Mark Trahant is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports
 

Notes . . .

notes

Last fall, when the sexual harassment complaints against Roseburg (Oregon) Senator Jeff Kruse surfaced, he was accused of “ongoing workplace issues,” without a lot more detail provided. People reacted seriously, but for those of us without knowledge of the specifics - and an unwillingness to prejudge in a time when j'accuse too often seems enough for conviction - a clear assessment was harder to make.

That's not a problem now.

A detailed investigation of Kruse's activities was conducted, and this week the results, 51 tightly-spaced pages worth, were released.

Before this report, we were left wondering what exactly it was he did - and with one small exception, he did not deny the allegations (saying in some cases that he didn't remember) - and so left wondering whether this was serious stuff. Taken together, and in some cases even as individual incidents, this was certainly worth the uproar.

Part of the conclusion read, "there is a longstanding pattern of Senator Kruse engaging in unwelcome physical contact toward females in the workplace, including Senator [Sara] Gelser and Senator [Elizabeth] Steiner Hayward, and that he stubbornly refused to change that behavior after being warned about it in March 2016." There were other people and incidents involved too, but what seemed most especially pertinent was the unwillingness to change his activities and approach. I can understand not reading someone else's mind, or intuiting their preferences; persisting after those concerns were conveyed (in this case even through official channels) is highly noteworthy.

Many of the MeToo cases in recent months have exposed clearly bad behavior, while some have seemed - to me - in a grayer area. The report is recommended reading. It makes clear that Kruse was not operating in a gray zone, and that clarity should help with moving through what is likely to come next. - rs
 

There are polls, and there are polls

carlson

All pollsters tell clients that a poll is just a snapshot in time and attitudes can change swiftly. They also say the polling instrument is only as good as the input and how well questions are phrased. Garbage in, garbage out or filet mignon in, filet out.

Dr. Corey Cook is dean of Boise State’s school of public service. He also is an expert on polling. In an interview about BSU’s third annual statewide survey of 1000 Idahoans on issues of public policy and where they stand from health care and insurance to education to the economy to taxes to transportation he was candid, sharp and informative.

He went to great lengths to explain why this was a poll about public policy and should not be considered a political poll.

He conceded, however, that in keeping with transparency he should have acknowledged that the firm handling the polling, GSStrategic Group, is led by Greg Strimple, a nationally known Republican pollster. His firm is currently handling polling for doctor/developer and gubernatorial aspirant, Tommy Ahlquist. Dean Cook said he was convinced the firm had kept a firewall internally.

When asked the cost Cook said it was $50,000 for the 20 minute, 60 question poll - approximately $30,000 from public funds and the rest contributed by five private companies: Blue Cross, the Idaho Realtors Ass., Midas Gold, Monsanto and Western States Equipment.

The price did not include focus group sessions to test the wording of the questionnaire nor any follow up to verify contacts and responses.

Despite Dean Cook’s eloquent arguing to the contrary, almost any poll asking questions about public policy is by definition “political” and can be used for political purposes. Idahoan views on the inadequate underfunding of public education as well as teacher pay has ramifications when presented to the Legislature

Indeed, in several places the poll invites the respondent to choose between options on whether and how the Legislature should act.

Because it does have political implications it becomes critically important to understand decisions made with regard to internal dynamics. For example, the pollster has to choose between “weighting factors,” such as deciding to over sample in north Idaho to make sure the poll reflects a decent number of respondents from the ten northern counties.

Several variables come into play and in looking at these red flags should be raised. The split between calling those with land lines as opposed to cell phones was clearly subjective. Idaho is supposed to lead the nation in folks who just have cell phones. Thus, of the 1000 calls 590 were made to cells, or 59%. Dean Cook, estimates the correct number to be 65%, not 59%.

Cell phones tend to be the purview of the young and the tech savvy. Older voters stay loyal to their landlines and also vote at a much higher percentage than the young. So, weighing a higher value to a land line holder might be a shrewd move.

Other than saying they had purchased commercial lists to get to respondents who primarily use a cell phone, the Dean did not reveal the GSStrategic Group’s methodology and the firm did not return my calls.

In previous polls the Dean said they would ask whether the respondent had voted in the last presidential election. This is a wasted question for few want to self report to anyone that they did not do their civic duty. One is far better off to purchase a list of the active voters, the so-called four for fours in order to get a better read on a possible political result.

The gender split was almost 50/50. That’s ok for a policy survey but a political survey should be 53% women, 47% men. It is also fair to say that the BSU poll surveyed “white Idaho.” Hispanics comprise 11.5% of Idaho’s population yet the breakout on the cross tabs indicated that only 2.3% of the respondents were Hispanic. This is a most unfortunate undercount.

When it comes to voting by party preference the numbers don’t really reflect current demographics. The same is true for the response to religious preference. The BSU poll had self-described affiliation at 39% for independents (too high), 37% for the GOP (a bit low) and 16% for the Democrats (way too low).

As to religious affiliation, the 2017 poll indicated 115 respondents were Roman Catholic (too high), and 181 were LDS (way too low - it's more like 25%). The education numbers appeared to be badly skewed also as were the income numbers. BSU’s breakdown on education was 18% on high school grad or some high school but the Political Almanac shows the number at 38%. BSU’s 2018 survey shows the number at 50%. Which is it?

With income the numbers did not square with other data either. The Almanac indicated Idahoans with income under $50,000 was 52% of the population. BSU’s poll indicated it was 35%.

Bottom line is Dean Cook was correct. This cannot and should not be used as a reliable political poll. There are just too many questions. It is indeed about policy and accurately reflects Idaho residents views. Marty Trillhaase, the Tribune’s fine editorial page editor, drew the other correct conclusion. Idahoans say they are green/blue on the issues but they always vote red.
 

A half truth is a whole lie

richardson

Our republic is in uncharted territory. Last Friday, the GOP majority on the House Intelligence Committee, with the approval of the White House, released a memo based on classified information.

Tim Weiner, former national security correspondent for the New York Times called the memo “a weapon of political warfare,” and a “cruel cudgel created to attack everyone who’s been in charge of the federal investigation of Team Trump.” The release of such a memo is unprecedented and unwarranted, and it shamelessly undermines federal law enforcement.

Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee strongly objected to the memo’s release, calling it inaccurate and misleading. The FBI concurred, publicly stating its “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

That their memo is, at best, a half-truth seems of little concern to House Republicans. But, as Mark Twain rightly observed, “A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies.”

There is a reason that witnesses are required to tell not just the truth, but the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth. It is the same reason that judges instruct jurors to refrain from forming an opinion on the merits of a case until the ENTIRE case has been submitted for determination. Incomplete testimony and a partially presented case are unlikely to reveal the truth.

And just as jurors are also told that arguments and statements by lawyers are not evidence, the public should know that the GOP memo is not evidence. It is nothing more than a partisan argument, a set of bald, conclusory and very much disputed assertions.

The Republicans insist that their memo has been thoroughly vetted, but that claim is patently false. The memo was produced only two weeks ago and the committee has conducted no depositions or interviews nor has it held any hearings. Incredibly, no member of the committee, including Chairman Devin Nunes, has read the source documents that served as the basis for the memo. Moreover, the FBI was given only a very limited opportunity to review the memo and, when the FBI asked to meet with the committee to explain its concerns, Committee Chair Devin Nunes summarily denied that request.

It is also significant that the committee never referred this matter to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) which is much better equipped than the House Committee to assess whether there had been any actual wrongdoing. The sole mission of the OIG is to detect and deter waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct in Department of Justice programs and personnel, and to promote economy and efficiency in Department operations.

Unlike the House Intelligence Committee, the OIG has the staff – special agents, auditors, inspectors, attorneys and support staff – to thoroughly and objectively make findings of fact and conclusions of law. But the GOP, intent on shaping – and shading – the narrative, didn’t want to delay its rush to judgment.

Republicans argue that the public has the right to know the information contained in their memo and some even purport to support the release of the Democrats’ memo rebutting their own. However, they would delay the release of the Democratic memo until theirs has been in circulation for some time. The Democrats, understandably, have a problem with this approach knowing full well that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts on its boots.”
Finally, the president – who has told friends how delighted he is that the memo might undermine the special counsel investigation – is unlikely to approve the release of the Democratic memo. That would leave us with public access to only one version – the Republican version – of the truth, and that is very much contested.

Committee Chairman Nunes was discredited some time ago when he made a big production of delivering certain documents to the White House, documents which he received from the White House in the first instance. After this public charade came to light, Nunes ostensibly recused himself from the House investigation.

But now that Nunes has released the GOP memo his recusal seems illusory and transitory. It would appear that Nunes and the other GOP members are not exercising an oversight role so much as acting as defensive linemen for the president.

As you consider the merits of the GOP memo, remember the age-old adage: “Beware of the half-truth. You may have gotten hold of the wrong half.”

 

There’s NO nuke button

rainey

I’ve been mentally wrestling with something for, oh, a year or more. Something I’ve not seen the national media explain ‘cause they probably don’t know. You won’t hear it from the Oval Office, either, ‘cause he certainly doesn’t know.

So, looks like it’s coming down to Ridenbaugh Press: a burden we didn’t ask for but have been given nonetheless. Here it is. As straightforward as it can be said.

There’s NO DAMNED NUCLEAR BUTTON. On Trump’s desk or in the entire White House! No! None! Zero! Zip! Nada! Never has been! PERIOD! His little fingers can’t push it ‘cause there’s nothing there to push! He cannot - repeat - CANNOT unilaterally order up a nuclear conflagration.

I spent a few cold war years about three-feet from where the button would have been if there had been a button to push if a nuclear button needed to be - pushed. And it wasn’t there, either! Never was! The damned thing has never existed!

So, without a “button,” what’s a guy “push” when we need to launch all the things in our far-flung nuclear arsenal? Well, therein lies a tale that needs some background.

Ever notice when a President travels away from the White House there’s always - ALWAYS - a field grade officer lurking nearby, carrying what looks like the president’s personal luggage? Always there. Always carrying. He’s one of a small cadre, holding the topmost security clearances, who have no other job but carrying that “luggage” for the Commander-In Chief.

The “luggage” is euphemistically called “the Football.” The best description of it I’ve ever seen - and of what’s inside - is an old Washington Post piece. To wit:

“The Football is a metal Zero Halliburton briefcase carried in a black leather "jacket" weighing about 45 pounds. A small antenna protrudes from the bag near the handle.

“There are four things in the Football. The Black Book containing retaliatory options; a book listing classified site locations; a manila folder with eight or ten pages stapled together giving a description of procedures for the Emergency Alert System; a three-by-five inch card with authentication codes.

“The Black Book is about 9 by 12 inches and has 75 loose-leaf pages printed in black and red. The book with classified site locations is about the same size as the Black Book and contains information on sites around the country where the president could be taken in an emergency.” End quote.

If someone in the Pentagon War Room sends a signal to the “Football,” it will be opened and the President will be in immediate contact. He’ll be given a very short update on what’s happening and will quickly be given options for military response - if any - previously developed and updated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

What happens from that point is highly classified. But we do know the approximate steps. The President can choose any option. Or decline. But, if the option to launch is made, he must read a long series of coded numbers aloud to the War Room listener - most likely the Secretary of Defense. The numbers and sequences must be verified by responder and he must read aloud his own code series.

Others in strategic military locations around the world should be listening by this time, having been alerted after the initial presidential call. Once a decision is made, more codes in more sequences will be sent to field commanders to which they have to immediately respond with confirmation codes. If all checks are positive, those military commanders will issue the direct orders to the force. All forces with nukes must acknowledge and transmit their own codes.

Not the President. No “nuclear button.”

And there’s this. It’s within the purview of the Secretary, the Joint Chiefs and - theoretically - a force commander to refuse to obey if they believe the “go-to-war” order is illegal. So, just because the order is given, there’s no basis to believe it will be blindly followed.

The President can’t unilaterally send our military to war. There are too many checks and cross-checks. As there should be. And there’s NO DAMNED BUTTON!

Anyone got an email address for CNN and the rest?
 

The fork already taken

stapiluslogo1

This column originally appeared in the News-Register of McMinnville, Oregon, on February 2.

This year’s Oregon legislative session, which begins today, took its biggest fork in the road well before it even convened, on January 23.

That was when voters across the state passed, by a landslide, Measure 101, upholding the taxes approved last year which helped underwrite a big chunk of Oregon Medicaid costs. The measure was a tax increase, of .7 percent on large hospitals and 1.5 percent on most health insurance policies. This plan was supported by the health industry in the state, which recognized that the income from matching federal payments would amount to more than would be paid in taxes (much of which could be passed on to consumers).

If the measure had lost, a huge revenue gap would have opened, along with the risk of health insurance loss for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, and dealing with that immediately would have become the major and almost only topic for the short session. As it is, an opening for more subjects has appeared. [[referred portions of the law account for between $210 million and $320 million in state revenue, the loss of which could have resulted in possible reduction of federal funds by between $630 million and $960 million. ]]

Not that the cost of health care will vanish from the lawmaking scene. Complaints about last year’s Medicaid funding bill focused more on the tax structure than the need to pay, so adjustments to the formula might still be proposed. Voters almost surely were expressing more a desire to keep the insurance system alive than they were the specific tax plan.

And House Minority Leader Mike McLane said in a statement after the vote, “We must now shift our focus to improving efficiencies within the Oregon Health Authority and in the administration of the Oregon Health Plan. I hope legislators on both sides of the aisle will make it a priority to safeguard and protect the investment in our state government that Oregon taxpayers have affirmed.” That will likely become a subject for discussion.

As will the next Medicaid-related shortfall, which is expected in another couple of years, and many legislators may want to begin planning for that this year.

Short sessions usually have a lot to do with budget numbers, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, was quoted as saying, “Our budget focus must now shift to the February forecast and the effects federal tax changes will have on state revenue.”

Some participants in the session may try to take another crack at long-running budget issues. Mark Johnson, until last year a state representative and now the new president of the Oregon Business and Industry group, noted in one commentary that, “the costs associated with funding the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) will continue to consume ever-larger chunks of the state budget until action is taken, and that means less money for classrooms and vital services.” He indicated that may be a focus for his group, though it has proven a stubborn issue for years on end, including in longer sessions.

More than budgeting will come up this session.

A good bet for the top non-budget issue, which already has lots of lobbying to back it up, is talk about a state “cap and trade” (or “cap and invest”) system.

Two bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, already have been prepared and released as “legislative concepts”. The whole of the system is complex, but the core of it would involve a limit on greenhouse gas emissions with mandates that large producers buy “allowances” - in a sense, a kind of greenhouse gas marketplace. Payments would be involved, and those would be used to cover efficiencies, help with consumer costs and shore up communities hit by global warming. The hope is that over the years, emissions would be reduced gradually through a system of incentives.

The concept at least has backing from Governor Kate Brown and House Speaker Tina Kotek.

A good deal of money could be at stake, so the basis for intense lobbying is clear. And strongly-worded arguments on both sides already are shaping the debate.

There will be more. Affordable housing has become an increasingly heated subject, especially in the Portland area but elsewhere too, and some effort to deal with it may come up.

In education several legislators (including Democratic Representatives Brian Clem of Salem and Margaret Doherty of Tigard) are suggesting requiring that class sizes be included in labor contract negotiations.

One lobbyist noted that as coordinated care organizations (for regional health care) look ahead to negotiating new service contracts, they may look to the legislature for adjustments in how they are financed.

The recent federal action on solar panel tariffs could lead to some state response on that subject, in a state where solar energy has become increasingly important.

All of this will be happening in a context of something institutionalized - by calendar - and something unusual:

The normal and unavoidable part is that the 2018 session will happen quickly - it will last only about a month - and in an election year. That normally is a prescription for dealing with necessities and emergencies, mainly of a financial nature, and not a lot else.

And there’s an unusual factor: the large number of new people involved, or people who have been around the statehouse but are moving to new positions. An especially large number of legislative personnel changes happened in recent months, including a new Senate minority leader and a new Senate chair on budget.

On top of that, the legislature’s revenue officer, who has held the job for two decades, retired last year.

Sometimes those personnel shifts kick loose legislation that doesn’t ordinarily see the light of day. The odds are this will be a mostly quiet session, with one or two big policy subjects. But then, 2018 may be an unusual political year.
 

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 stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

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)