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Office of Lieutenant Governor Brad Little

Tuesday, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is having surgery to get his left hip resurfaced. From the time Otter goes into the hospital to when he comes out from his anesthesia, Lt. Gov. Brad Little will be Idaho's acting governor.

It's something Little is pretty accustomed to; it happens on a regular basis. Any time the sitting governor is out of the state or incapacitated, the lieutenant governor steps in as the top official, even if it's just for an hour or two.

JOE JASZEWSKI / Idaho Statesman

Boise State University will distribute a limited number of tickets to see President Barack Obama speak Wednesday on campus.

Obama will speak at the Caven-Williams Sports Complex, located next to Albertsons Stadium. Tickets for the event will be distributed Monday through the BSU ticket office at the football stadium, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

Boise State University

The White House has announced President Barack Obama will speak Jan 21 in Boise.

The President will deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday, then be in Boise Wednesday. He’s expected to discuss themes of his address on the Boise State University campus.

“We are honored and excited to host President Obama here at Boise State,” Boise State President Bob Kustra said. “We know he will be impressed with our students and faculty and the innovative work and world-class research they are doing.”

Idaho Capitol Dome
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

For a second year, a joint legislative committee has unanimously supported increasing wages for Idaho's 17,000 state workers in fiscal year 2016.

The bipartisan Change in Employee Compensation Committee proposed awarding a 3 percent pay boost on a merit basis. This means, however, not everyone is guaranteed a raise.

The recommendation —estimated to cost nearly $30 million— now needs full legislative approval but is already expected to be supported by the governor.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to remove Western juniper from a 1.5 million-acre area of public land in southwest Idaho to conserve sage grouse habitat.

BLM Boise District Manager Jim Fincher in a statement Friday says conserving habitat for sage grouse is a key method for improving an entire rangeland ecosystem.

The agency is hosting two public meetings to provide information about the plan in Owyhee County. The first is in Boise on Feb. 4 and the second in Murphy on Feb. 5.

Comments can also be sent to the agency by Feb. 20.

Christina Birkinbine / Treefort Music Fest

Music fans, get your headphones ready.

Boise's Treefort Music Fest has announced another round of bands set to play in March. The multi-venue festival will feature an eclectic mix of artists over five days.

Here's some from the top of the announcement this morning:

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Mike Masterson's office is almost stripped bare as he puts 10 years of papers into boxes on the floor. Boise’s Police Chief is retiring after 38 years on the force.

Kaitlyn Farrington
NBC/USOC

Idaho native and Olympic gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington announced an unexpected retirement Thursday, just a year after winning the halfpipe snowboarding competition in Sochi.

Butch Otter
Idaho Statesman

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter will have surgery next week to have his left hip resurfaced — a procedure he underwent on his right hip several years ago.

Otter made the announcement Thursday, telling reporters he would have the surgery on Tuesday and then work the next two or three weeks from home while he recovers.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little will serve as acting governor on Tuesday, while Otter is incapacitated.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Former Idaho Govs. Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus say current Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is turning the state into nuclear waste repository.

The former governors at a Thursday news conference blasted Otter's recently revealed deal with the U.S. Department of Energy to allow 50 spent nuclear fuel rods into the Idaho National Laboratory for research.

Keyboard, computer, tech
newfilm.dk / Flickr Creative Commons

A new audit shows slightly more than half of the schools surveyed aren't using the equipment purchased through Idaho's pricey broadband contract and nearly 6 percent of the videoconferencing equipment can't be located.

Legislative auditors told budget writers Thursday that use of the Idaho Education Network, a program that provides broadband access to Idaho public schools, has declined since it first began in 2012.

State Sen. Dean Cameron says the report raises concerns for the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee as it considers funding the program for another year.

Data: Pew | Chart: Emilie Ritter Saunders

If Idaho had to pay all its bills using just reserves, the state could have funded government for 27 days in fiscal year 2014.  That's according to a report released by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

State reserves, or rainy day accounts, were depleted during the recession as states relied on that money to pay for an increase in welfare costs and unemployment insurance benefits. 

Butch Otter
Idaho Statesman

Idaho's Constitutional Defense Fund committee has approved the latest round of legal bills in Idaho's court fight over gay marriage.

The panel — made up of the governor, attorney general, House Speaker and President Pro Tem — unanimously voted to pay roughly $401,000 to the winning side's attorney fees and printing costs. Members then voted 3-1 to pay $55,000 for outside counsel to appeal Idaho's gay marriage case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court.

protest, capitol
Courtesy Idaho Statesman

A gay rights proposal known as the “Add the Words” bill will be heard for the first time in the Idaho legislature.

A committee of the Idaho House voted 6-1 Wednesday to introduce a bill that would ban discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. The measure would add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes in Idaho’s Human Rights Act.

Idaho Wine Commission

Idaho wine growers have good reason to say "cheers" these days. According to research from Stonebridge Research Group, the number of wine cases bottled in 2013 increased 76 percent from the previous year. In 2013, Idaho vintners produced 234,000 cases in 2013 up from 179,000 in 2012. The Idaho Wine Commission paid for the study.

The number of Idaho wineries has also grown. In 2002 there were 11 wineries in the state, now there are 51.

internet, computer, broadband,
Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

The state has outlined its timetable to rebid the Idaho Education Network broadband contract — and Idaho will likely have to go it alone on project funding at least until July 1, 2016.

The state Department of Administration won’t accept bids on the new contract until June, and that’s well past the deadline for the state (or school districts) to apply for federally administered “e-Rate” funds for 2015-16.

Here’s how the two timetables mesh:

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" says he'll grant a one-time waiver to the U.S. Department of Energy to bring nuclear waste for research into the state if certain conditions are met.

The Post Register reports in a story on Wednesday that Otter in a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says spent fuel rods can enter if the federal agency commits to resolving noncompliance issues from a 1995 agreement.

Idaho Democrats predict more common ground than usual at the state Capitol this year. That’s because Idaho’s minority party leaders say many of the Republican proposals on the table are things Democrats have been pushing -- for years.

Democrats make up only 20 percent of Idaho’s Legislature. House Minority Leader John Rusche says they’re used to their bills not even being printed.

Tyler / Flickr Creative Commons

Officials with Idaho's health insurance exchange, Your Health Idaho, say 83,383 people enrolled for insurance between November 15-December 31. That number includes people who were already enrolled and renewed their coverage, as well as new insurance customers.

Your Health Idaho Executive Director Pat Kelly says the number of people signing on has had its ups and downs in the last two months, but he's pleased overall.

Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho lawmaker who has the power to kill tax bills says there will be no new tax breaks unless beginning teacher salaries boost to $40,000 a year.

Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway threatened to hold proposed tax cuts hostage in order to get more funding for Idaho's public schools even before the legislative session kicked off on Monday. Siddoway sharpened his demand on Tuesday, saying teacher salaries must increase sooner than what Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has outlined.

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