Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts tagged as “Idaho”

Cut off before the first step

Nicole LeFavour

Nicole LeFavour

There isn't a formal bill text to link to here, because in Idaho until bills are formally "introduced" they are considered the personal property of the sponsor, not public record. (Try wrapping your mind around that one.) So we don't have text, but the description in the blog of reporter Betsy Russell should be nearly as good: "to extend the Idaho Human Rights Act’s anti-discrimination provisions to cover sexual orientation and gender identity."

The reason there's no bill is because the Senate State Affairs committee considering introduction decided not to print it - not only deciding not to approve of the idea, but deciding as well to give the idea no currency, no distribution for public discussion. Many pieces of legislation are introduced with the understanding that the bill might be flawed, might not get majority support, but the concept is worth a chat. Members, and the governor, and some others, often are able to get an introduction done just as a matter of courtesy. In this case, a proposal on a policy solidly ensconced in law in many other states (Washington and Oregon among them), no introduction was granted.

The key sponsor was Senator Chuck Coiner, R-Twin Falls. On the committee, Senator Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, made the motion to introduce; Senator Kate Kelly, R-Boise, seconded. The others on the committee, Senators Denton Darrington, R-Declo, Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, and Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, (and possibly a fifth member as well) voted against. They did not speak on the issue.

Senator Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, the one openly gay legislator Idaho has ever had, spoke on the measure at the hearing and remarked afterward, “I know better of them, and I know in their hearts they know better. That’s the hardest part.” On her blog later:

On a simple print hearing vote this morning where seven committee members heard from Senator Coiner first and then from me on why more than 42,000 people deserve to be able to work at their jobs, go to school and live in a house or apartment without fear, the senate state affairs committee voted five to two not to introduce the proposal as a bill.

Not to even give it the courtesy of print. Not to acknowledge that discrimination against gay people might be a problem worth discussing inside the state's law making body.

Clearly we have far far to go and need many more voices in there with ours because people all over this state live quietly in fear every day. In school rooms, in board rooms, at desks, in processing plants and apartment complexes. What are the values of a state which, by omission, condones discrimination year after year, whose law makers know better, but refuse to stand up and act.

The committee members asked not a single question. Senator Steger, always valliant, made the motion to approve the introduction of the bill. Senator Kelly seconded. The committee was silent but for their brief voice vote. Five to two. No.

Quite a committee

The federal stimulus money has been politicized in various ways around the country; among Republican governors, there's been talk of not accepting it (though all or nearly all probably will). Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, never a fan of the feds or federal money, has engaged in a little of that. But his first practical response so far has been impressive: An advisory committee on stimulus spending that isn't just an advisory committee, because of who is on it - three former governors plus four former state budget directors, the overall panel split evenly between the parties.

The governors are Democrats Cecil Andrus and John Evans and Republican Phil Batt.

That (together with the budget office expertise) make up a classy combination. And it's not your usual advisory committee, because whatever this one comes up with will be very hard to casually dismiss.

From the feds

While in Washington and Oregon there's a tone among political people that the federal stimulus money, welcome as it may be, shouldn't be run through too quickly or without thought, the attitude among many Idaho political people suggests that a really foul pile of landfill deposits is about to emptied on the state.

Idaho's portion is thought to be somewhere around a billion dollars (ad about 17,000 jobs, a few more in the 1st district than in the 2nd) - substantial money, of course. But the lather could stand some easing off. The Idaho Statesman's Kevin Richert put the the money in some perspective in a blog post: "All state agencies [put together] received just over $1.9 billion from the feds. And unlike the one-time stimulus money, this represents year-to-year federal spending, outside the state's general fund." And remember that local governments get plenty of federal money on top of that.

Richert concludes: "Idaho has had a federal funding habit for a long, long time."

WASHINGTON/OREGON: Estimated job creation out of the stimulus in Washington is estimated at 75,000, and in Oregon at 40,000.

Hard times, all over

Member of Congress - not all, but most - tend to be more insulated than most of us from economic downturns, but that's a little less true at the state legislative level. State legislators (in the Northwest's states, as in most others) are part-time positions, and those not retired or relatively wealthy have to deal with the same economy as the rest of us.

A useful piece in the Boise Weekly points out some of the Idaho legislators who are hitting scrambling times outside the session.

House Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts, R-McCall, is quoted, "I'm looking for jobs and doing my taxes," and the report adds, "Roberts owns a construction and excavation business in Valley County, where construction has come to a near standstill. His wife works four days a week at a pancake house in McCall." Had a little intake of breath when we saw the phrase "construction and excavation business in Valley County" - that may be as good a locus of a rough business climate as any in the Northwest right now.

An immigration sweet spot?

The subject of illegal immigration, subsumed to a degree by the current economic crunch, is bound to rebound - it almost always does in tough times. If it turns into a hot topic that, say, the Obama Administration might want to put away with some efficiency, the search may be on for a political "sweet spot", a point in the debate where some realistic solution (or something close to it) might be found, a place that satisfies no one on the extremes but might find some broad acceptance.

Something like what a group of Idaho business people are suggesting. Wouldn't that be a mind-blower: The Obama Administration drawing from such a source? And yet, as policy, it might be a pretty good fit.

Brent Olmstead of the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform had this to say in a guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman:

Amnesty unfairly rewards those who broke our laws, and mass deportation is unrealistic. Current enforcement policy is centered on undocumented workers who are contributing to our economy. The enforcement priority should target those engaged in criminal activities.

That is why we support a sensible guest worker program that takes undocumented workers off the black market and legitimizes their economic contributions without providing an expedited pathway towards citizenship status. This type of a program in conjunction with increased enforcement at the border will more readily allow the government to know who is entering our country.

A guest worker program that provides foreign workers with a worker ID removes the incentive for millions of people to illegally enter our country. It adds workers to our tax base, generates revenue for needed social services and it satisfies the need that employers have for a reliable labor pool.

Those who are here illegally and want to stay should be assessed a fine, pay any owed back-taxes and submit to and pass a criminal background check. When all of that is completed the individual should be given a renewable work permit that is valid as long as the individual stays employed.

Absolutists on one side or the other won't much like it. But it jumps past the key problems with the absolute answers, from basic practicality to making a joke out of our legal system, to having some realistic control of our borders and a sense of who is and isn't within them. This may be an idea worth some more thought.

Sali II: The return?

Bill Sali

Bill Sali

There's probably a sense among a lot of organization Republicans in Idaho that the state's congressional delegation would be all-Republican again this year were it not for the Republican House member who lost his seat two years ago - Bill Sali. After all, the other two Republicans running for Congress in Idaho last year, Jim Risch and Mike Simpson, won their seats with great big margins. A Republican running in the first district who was closer to their model than the highly controversial Sali, they might reasonably figure, would have won. As it was, Democrat Walt Minnick narrowly won the seat, and doesn't seemed to have made any political mistakes so far.

With Sali's filing for another run at the seat, all this becomes pertinent fodder again.

Often, a candidate for a major office who either is ousted from it or only narrowly loses it will at least win his party's nomination for another run, if he (or she) wants it. In the two other House seats seriously contested in the Northwest last year, in Washington's 8th and Oregon's 5th, the outside party (Democratic and Republican respectively) each nominated for another go their candidate from 2006; both, it might be noted, lost. In the run for Washington governor last year, Republican Dino Rossi - who just barely lost in 2004 - had the Republican nomination for the asking; and he proceeded to lose as well.

But could Sali get the nomination? You can't rule it out. He has a known name and organized support. But he also has a big campaign debt (about $120,000 at last count), and several prospectively solid Republican candidates (Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and state Senator John McGee have expressed interest) could in the field. Sali won in 2006 in a deeply fragmented field that advantaged him almost perfectly. There'd be strong pressure in the Republican hierarchy to avoid a repeat of that scenario.

He would at least, though, have the opportunity to get a lot of that debt paid off . . .

NOTE: Edited to correct reference to Mike Simpson, from Crapo.

UPDATE: Sali is quoted as saying that he hasn't actually decided yet whether he will run. That's worth bearing in mind; the filing of paperwork is prerequisite, but not the same thing as a declaration of candidacy. He also says his campaign debt is all the way down to $117,000.

ID: One of the last five?

We'd say this overstates the case - in a good many states, there are lots of self-described Democrats who vote mostly Republican. And it seems to misstate the case in the South and in parts of Appalachia.

Gallup map

Still, you now have the pollster Gallup concluding that just four states (Idaho, plus Utah, Wyoming and Alaska) are "solid Republican" states, and just one more (Nebraska, which gave up one electoral vote last year to Barack Obama) as "leans" Republican. (The actual ranking for Republican-ness is, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, Nebraska, Kansas and Alabama.)

Washington and Oregon, as you might thereby expect, are listed as "solid Democratic."

Stimuli in the states

So what are the prospects for states - the three in the Northwest, specifically - to get from the current iteration of the federal stimulus package?

The Center for American Progress has put together some general information. It's limited in details, but some of the interactive maps do provide some useful material.

Overall, Oregon seems to make out marginally the best. But results vary . . .

bullet Oregon - total $6.3 billion. Of that, 11.9% goes for balancing the state budget, the rest for specific programs and tax cuts. Tax cuts overall: $2 billion (or $529 per person), $1.8 billion for Make Work Pay tax cuts, $50.7 million for EITC increases, $153 m for child tax credits. Spending for unemployment, homelessness, poverty - $1.3 billion ($330 per capita), $835 million for those who lost jobs, $75 million for housing, $312 million for food stamps, $30 million for miscelleneous poverty efforts.

bullet Washington - total $10.4 billion. Of that, 12.8% for balancing state budget, the rest for specific programs and tax cuts. Tax cuts overall: $3.6 billion (or $550 per person), $3.2 billion for Make Work Pay tax cuts, $85.8 million for EITC increases, $288 m for child tax credits. For unemployment, homelessness, poverty - $1.5 billion ($232 per capita), $935 million for those who lost jobs, $135 million for housing, $398 million for food stamps, $49 million for miscellaneous poverty efforts.

bulletIdaho - total $2.5 billion. Of that, 13.3% for balancing state budget, the rest for specific programs, tax cuts. Tax cuts overall: about $900 million (or $566 per person), $.8 billion for Make Work Pay tax cuts, $23.9 million for EITC increases, $79.4 m for child tax credits. For unemployment, homelessness, poverty - $312 million ($205 per capita), $198 million for those who lost jobs, $34 million for housing, $66 million for food stamps, $14 million for miscelleneous poverty efforts.

New thinking?

Wayne Hoffman, the unusually high-profile spokesman for former Representative Bill Sali, has launched a new effort, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, self-described as "the state’s only think tank dedicated to finding free-market solutions to the challenges facing our state."

Remarkably, it may more or less be, if you parse carefully. There's been a long string of pro-free market think tanks (bear in mind, that's a term of art) in Idaho over the years. Former Idahoan Laird Maxwell contributed a bunch all by himself (Idahoans for Tax Reform, This House is My Home, among other efforts). More currently, there's even the Free Market Duck, although you may have some difficulty describing exactly what that is. There are also no lack of organizations from outside the state with national outreach including the Free Market Foundation of Plano, Texas, "dedicated to protecting freedoms and strengthening families in Texas and nationwide."

Ever since the days (amounting to four decades now) when Ralph Smeed and Steve Symms co-founded the Idaho Compass at Caldwell, and pushed for a chair of capitalism at the University of Idaho, the state has not lacked for free-market advocates and organizations - there's been quite a crowd of them over the years. If those had consisted only of legislators, that would still be quite a crowd.

A question keeps arising about many of these efforts, though. All or nearly all refer to "free market solutions" to whatever ails you - an established determination. So: If you already know the answer to whatever question may be asked, how much thinking do you really have to do?

We'll credit Hoffman with taking as his initial shot a run at pushing for transparency in government: "In Texas, the state spent $300,000 developing a transparency Web site, and Comptroller Susan Combs believes the program has saved millions of dollars. Among other things, the effort brought to light unnecessary duplication in contracts and produced cheaper ways of meeting government goals. In Idaho, I would imagine that a transparency project could have prevented some agencies from loading up on equipment, bonuses and travel in a mad dash to spend year-end cash, as I witnessed over and over, even in lean years."

The point and the approach of really transparent government are clearly worthy, though the implementation is neither automatic or simple. To get it done and done right, it may even take a fair amount of actual thought.

Afterthought: By way of transparency, who are the IFF's benefactors?