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Idaho Weekly Briefing – February 4

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 4. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at

Governor Little delivers two major executive orders on administrative rules, just as the Idaho Legislature is wrapping work on considering those approved from last year. Meanwhile, state budget hearings are heading toward closure as agency heads talk about stresses in some of their departments.

Governor Brad Little on January 31 signed two new executive orders aimed at reducing state regulatory burdens on Idaho citizens and businesses. Executive Order 2019-02, the “Red Tape Reduction Act,” requires state agencies that have authority to issue administrative rules to identify at least two existing rules to be repealed or significantly simplified for every one rule they propose.

Water Resource Board officials on January 31 lauded a recent agreement signed by 16 cities located in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer region at its regular board meeting last week. In the agreement, the cities committed to contributing an average of 7,650 acre-feet of mitigation water to the board’s ESPA managed recharge program on an annual basis to do their part to restore the aquifer to sustainable levels.

A new study reveals Idaho endowment lands contributed $531.3 million in gross state product in 2017, including $315.4 million in wages from 7,641 jobs.

Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, along with Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski urged federal officials to deliver Secure Rural Schools (SRS) payments as quickly as possible in the aftermath of the government shutdown.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has announced a former southern Idaho sheriff was sentenced Friday, February 1, for one count of misusing public money. Fifth District Judge Ned Williamson sentenced 61-year-old Douglas McFall, the former Jerome County Sheriff, after he pleaded guilty in November 2018.

Governor Brad Little appointed Regina Bayer of Meridian to fill the Senate seat for Legislative District 21. Bayer’s son, Cliff Bayer, vacated the seat when he became Chief of Staff for Representative Russ Fulcher earlier this month.

The University of Idaho College of Law Library has launched a research and records repository that serves as the only online source for Idaho Supreme Court records and briefs as well as other legal documents.

IMAGE An image from the new state Fish & Game upland game management plan. (photo/Idaho Department of Fish & Game)

Idaho Weekly briefing – January 28

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for January 28. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at

The federal government shutdown appeared headed to an end last week week, as Idaho's congressional delegation played distinctive rules on it. The Idaho Legislature saw a significant number of bills, on a wide range of subjects, introduced.

On January 23 the U.S. House voted on a bill proposed by Democrats, but similar to one which passed with bipartisan support a month ago in the Senate, on reopening the federal government. Representative Mike Simpson voted in favor of the bill, and Representative Russ Fulcher voted against.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra outlined her vision for the future of Idaho’s public schools Thursday morning in her budget presentation to the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Idaho Fish and Game is collecting public input on the newly updated draft of the Mountain Goat Management Plan. This planning document provides guidance for the Department to implement management actions, including season recommendations, for mountain goats throughout the state.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced that he and 45 other state attorneys general have reached a $120 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary DePuy.

Lewis-Clark State College students who want to pursue a law degree and are accepted into the University of Idaho College of Law will now have a quicker path to earn that degree thanks to a transfer articulation agreement between the two schools.

Taxpayers will see big differences when they file their Idaho income tax returns for 2018 due to recent changes to tax laws.

More than a quarter-of-a-million passengers traveled through the Idaho Falls Regional Airport during 2018, according the most recent numbers compiled by airport personnel. The total of 320,000 passengers is an increase of more than 30,000 passengers from 2017, reflecting a 10% increase over the previous year and the highest totals for the airport for more than a decade.

IMAGE A photo by an Idahoan traveling last week on the snowy road north to Featherville. (photo/Dave Hand)

Idaho Weekly Briefing – January 21

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for January 20. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at

Congressional action is well underway, with Idaho’s congressional delegation active in proposing several measures. The Idaho Legislature has begun to amass a significant list of introduced pieces of legislation.

From a just-released report by the Idaho Office of Performance Evaluations: "The operational model of the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center (SWITC) is no longer tenable. The center lacks enough clients for economies of scale to support the variety of expertise needed. In addition, its institutional setting prevents the center from replicating community living for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Often these vulnerable individuals have co-occurring mental illnesses, complex medical and behavioral issues, and history of violence or involvement with criminal justice system."

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 2.6% in December – the 16th consecutive month the rate has been at or below 3%.

State regulators have accepted Avista Utilities’ 2018 natural gas Integrated Resource Plan, a 185-page document that outlines the company’s plans for meeting customer demand over the next 20 years.

Renewing their push to protect U.S. energy infrastructure from potential cyberattacks, Senators Jim Risch and Angus King (I-Maine), both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Energy and Natural Resources Committee, reintroduced the Securing Energy Infrastructure Act.

For the last 20 years, Idaho State University fish ecologists Ernest Keeley and Janet Loxterman in the Department of Biological Sciences have studied Cutthroat Trout populations in waters from Alaska to New Mexico. They identified some of the last remaining native, genetically pure populations of Cutthroat Trout around Pocatello, including distinct subspecies variations, in some unlikely places.

The city of Pocatello Engineering Department is inviting residents to talk about the potential impacts of flooding in the Gate City and provide feedback on proposed revisions to the community flood map.

IMAGE Wintertime is an exceptional time of year to be in the great outdoors. From snow covered mountains and valleys to the intermittent snow-packed sagebrush of the high desert steppe, there is always something to be offered out there, for even the most timid of recreationalists. This is also the time of year when our wildlife is the most vulnerable to the elements. By now most wildlife have reached their wintering grounds where they will spend the next few months waiting for Mother Nature to bring warmer temperatures and green grass back to their world. (photo/Department of Fish & Game)

Idaho Weekly Briefing – January 14

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for January 7. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at

The Idaho Legislature kicked off with a new speaker about the state of the state, Governor Brad Little. In Washington Senate committee assignments were parceled out, and Senator Jim Risch was named chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Idaho Legislature convened in its annual session for 2019 on January 7, and the first major item of business was, as usual, hearing from the governor in his state of the state address. Governor Brad Little is following through on his promises to increase teacher pay, make new investments in public education, eventually eliminate the grocery tax, and fully implement Proposition 2 related to Medicaid expansion during his first State of the State and Budget Address.

Senator Jim Risch on January 8 was elected chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the 116 th Congress. Notably, Risch is the third Idahoan to serve as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, following William Borah’s tenure from 1925-1933 and Frank Church’s two year term from 1979-1980.

As the newly-reelected Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Mike Crapo will maintain the bipartisan push he began in the previous Congress into the 116th Congress.

Representatives Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher introduced legislation that would authorize important but routine maintenance at Smith Gulch on the Salmon River in Idaho. The bill would allow the use of limited maintenance equipment needed to maintain the routine functions and safety of the existing lodge.

Governor Brad Little announced that the Idaho Department of Correction said on January 9 he has appealed a U.S. District Court ruling that orders the State of Idaho to provide gender reassignment surgery to an inmate.

Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have introduced legislation, S.103, to establish an additional federal district judgeship in Idaho for the first time in more than sixty years.

State regulators have approved Rocky Mountain Power’s $8.5 million investment in efficiency programs in 2016 and 2017.

Idaho State University is investigating complaints received by a football player outlining unfair and targeted treatment by coaching staff. On Nov. 14, 2018, ISU received a written complaint from a current football player alleging inappropriate communication from a coach, a lack of playing time, an alleged assault by a coach during an away game, and the student-athlete being incorrectly informed about his eligibility status.

IMAGE The group backing Medicaid expansion in Idaho, Closing the Gap, held a press conference on the subject just after Governor Brad Little’s state of the state address. (photo/Close the Gap)

Idaho Weekly Briefing – January 7

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for January 7. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at

The new year is starting, with inauguration of new Idaho state officials and - this week - opening of this year's regular legislative session.

Governor-elect Brad Little has been publicly sworn in as the 33 rd Governor of Idaho. The ceremonial swearing-in on the steps of the Capitol included all of Idaho’s constitutional officers.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has denied the proposed merger of Avista Utilities and Hydro One. In its order, the Commission said the transaction is prohibited by Idaho Code § 61-327, which limits the ability of an electric utility to sell assets in certain situations.

Russ Fulcher, recently elected to the U.S. House from Idaho’s first congressional district, was sworn into office on January 3.

The Legislature’s Joint Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment received mixed news Thursday, just days ahead of the opening of the 2019 legislative session.

Idaho anglers will once again have the opportunity to fish for and harvest burbot in the Kootenai River, its tributaries and Bonner Lake starting Jan. 1.

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter on January 3 named a former Twin Falls County prosecuting attorney to fill a vacant judgeship in the Magic Valley’s Fifth Judicial District.

The City of Twin Falls has partnered with SeeClickFix to launch a new mobile app that will allow citizens to report quality-of-life issues and request services from the City of Twin Falls.

IMAGE Brad Little was sworn in as the new governor of Idaho on January 3. (photo/IdahoEdNews)

Idaho Weekly Briefing – December 17

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 17. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at

With Christmas on the horizon, government activity slowed last week, though some remained busy (such as Representative-elect Russ Fulcher, who has to work speedily to set up his new congressional operations in less than a month). December did also bring with it a coating of snow across much of the state.

The Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a draft water quality certification of the federal license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the continued operation of Idaho Power Company’s Hells Canyon Complex.

The state of Idaho and U.S. Department of Agriculture will enter into a new agreement to improve forest health conditions across Idaho that sets an example of interagency collaboration for other states to follow. Jim Hubbard, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment overseeing the Forest Service, will join Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Governor Elect Brad Little in signing the new “Shared Stewardship Agreement” on Tuesday in Boise.

Developer Aaron Howell announced on December 12 donation of a 16-acre parcel in the southeast corner of Boise. The park to be developed on the property will be named in honor of Aaron’s wife, Sue Howell.

Senate leaders from Oregon and Idaho are joining together in a long-term reform of the Secure Rural Schools Program. The legislation, introduced by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Mike Crapo and co-sponsored by U.S Senators Jim Risch and Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, provides certainty for rural counties to ensure they have the long-term funding needed for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement and other essential services.

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter said on December 12 that the Ada County town of Star will host his administration’s 108th, and final, Capital for a Day on Thursday, December 20.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, known simply as the Farm Bill. Was supported by Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation announced a gift of $2 million to the Idaho State University College of Technology capital campaign that will be used for the renovation of the ISU William M. and Karin A. Eames Advanced Technical Education and Innovations Complex.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is asking Idahoans to be aware of an increase in scams targeting state residents. The alert comes after a surge in so-called imposter scams. These scams vary, but always include a scammer pretending to be someone they’re not in order to get money from the target.

IMAGE The Cloverdale Bridge over Interstate 84 west of Boise was demolished last week, over the course of two nights. It had been damaged in a major traffic accident earlier this year. (photo/Idaho Department of Transportation)

Idaho Weekly Briefing – December 10

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 10. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at

The Idaho Legislature's organizational session last week ended with little change in floor leadership but lots of shifts in committee chairs, even among the legislators who had one last term and are returning. The preceding taxpayers association session included an unusually strong warning of the prospect of a recession coming at some point in the months ahead.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on December 7 approved an agreement to keep most steelhead seasons open, but steelhead fishing in two areas will close effective 11:59 p.m. December 7.

Bipartisan legislation led by Senators Jim Risch and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to protect Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed salmon and steelhead from extinction has passed the Senate without objection.

The Bonneville Power Administration on December 6 released its initial wholesale power and transmission rates proposal for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. The rates proposal includes significant program cost reductions and supports a multi-year grid modernization initiative to maximize the capacity of the federal power and transmission systems and improve grid efficiency.

The Idaho Department of Lands concluded a 21-month review of historic endowment trust land sales to determine whether sales exceeded constitutional provisions limiting how many acres may be sold to one individual, company or corporation.

The next phase of the Lewiston Orchards Water Exchange and Title Transfer project, construction of a second well (pictured), is underway with the purchase of land and city permitting complete. In July, the Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District procured land located just east of the first well site as the home for the second well and secured final city permits in October. With land purchase and permitting complete, contractor solicitation and selection can commence leading to construction.

Former Idaho Department of Correction correctional officer Richard McCollough, 37, of Boise, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis said on December 6.

State regulators will hold a telephonic public hearing on December 11 regarding the proposed transfer of eight customers from Rocky Mountain Power to Idaho Falls Power in eastern Idaho.

IMAGE An image of the fish that was the center of passive controversy during the last week. (photo/Bureau of Land Management)

Idaho Weekly Briefing – December 3

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 3. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at

Winter hit much of Idaho last week as the state moved into holiday mode, and governmental activity settled. The Idaho Supreme Court of Court of Appeals did get new jurists. And state legislators are however preparing for their organizational session next week.

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter announced the appointment today of a veteran Judge and a seasoned trial court attorney to serve on the Idaho Supreme Court and the Idaho Court of Appeals respectively. Seventh District Judge Gregory Moeller, of Rexburg was picked to fill the Idaho Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Joel Horton. Attorney Amanda Brailsford, of Garden City was appointed by Otter to the Idaho Court of Appeals to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Sergio Gutierrez.

Citing the importance of the Secure Rural Schools program, Senator Mike Crapo and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden on November 28 led a bipartisan call with 23 of their Senate colleagues calling for a one-year reauthorization of the program in any year-end funding measures.

Senator Jim Risch, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, joined his colleagues in advancing Dr. Rita Baranwal’s nomination for Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy to the Senate floor.

December 3 at 8:00 a.m., the Ada County Elections Office will begin recounting all ballots cast in Ada County during the 2018 General Election for Legislative District 15 State Senate race and the College of Western Idaho Plant Facilities Reserve Fund Levy.

Two years after launching, the Idaho Policy Institute in Boise State University’s School of Public Service has completed more than three dozen projects encompassing every geographic region of the state, and has grown its staff from three to eight full-time employees and two graduate students.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on the annual update to the Site Treatment Plan for the Idaho National Laboratory.

Beginning in 2019, Pickles Butte Sanitary Landfill will charge customers an additional $50 fee for vehicles or trailers that have uncovered/unsecured loads.

IMAGE Idaho State University researcher Chris Tennant researches snowpack levels around the western states. Here, he is engaged in field work. (image/Idaho State University)

Idaho Weekly Briefing – November 26

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for November 26. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at

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Idaho had a quiet Thanksgiving week as winter began to move in and drop white covering some higher-elevation areas, especially in eastern Idaho. Legislators were preparing for their organizational session coming up early in December.

Tamarack Resort Holdings, a partnership of investors and managers with decades of development and operations experience at premier resort properties across North America, has entered into an agreement to purchase all of the Tamarack Resort operations and key assets in Donnelly.

The Bureau of Reclamation is proposing to perform maintenance on and rehabilitation of components of the spillway at American Falls Dam, which is located in Power County in the town of American Falls.

The Bureau of Land Management Idaho Falls District and Caribou-Targhee National Forest released a draft environmental impact statement on November 23 analyzing different alternatives for the proposed Dairy Syncline Mine, east of Soda Springs.

Senators Mike Crapo, Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on November 19 urged federal officials to reauthorize citizen committees that provide key advice for important natural resources work in national forests.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden reported that an eastern Idaho woman was sentenced November 16, on a felony count of misusing public moneys.

Several State Board of Education officials have expressed concerns with a software company that appears poised to receive a statewide contract for teacher evaluations. An Idaho Education News review of more than 200 pages of emails and other state public records revealed a series of disagreements between the State Board of Education, the Department of Administration and Governor Butch Otter’s office over a $1 million state earmark to purchase software to assist school districts with teacher evaluations.

A research paper that uses data collected by lidar imaging to better measure snowpacks in Western U.S. mountains by former Idaho State University geosciences graduate student Chris Tennant has received a 2017 Editor’s Choice Award by the journal Water Resources Research.

The Idaho State University Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work Program recently achieved reaffirmation of accreditation from the Council of Social Work Education.

IMAGE Idaho State University researcher Chris Tennant researches snowpack levels around the western states. Here, he is engaged in field work. (image/Idaho State University)