Associated Press

WaterArchives / Flickr Creative Commons

Environmentalists are worried about new and expanded dams on southwestern Idaho rivers after lawmakers voted to inject millions into studying water storage projects pushed by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.

Idaho Rivers United Thursday formally opposed what could be $1.3 billion in dams on the Boise and Weiser rivers.

A day earlier, the House voted unanimously to spend $3.5 million to complete initial studies.

No charges will be filed against Boise police following a 22-month federal investigation into allegations officers stole items from searched homes.

U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson in Idaho in a letter to Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson says there isn't enough evidence to prove officers violated Fourth Amendment rights of individuals.

The Idaho Statesman in a story on Friday reports it obtained the Dec. 18 letter through a public records request.

The investigation included a grand jury probe that ended without indictments.

Melissa Davlin / Idaho Public Television

At least 65 demonstrators seeking anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians law ringed the third floor rotunda of Idaho's Capitol 10 days after dozens of them were arrested at a previous protest.

Thursday's demonstration didn't include blocking entrances to lawmakers' chambers, the event that precipitated arrests March 3.

Idaho State Police troopers who guard the Capitol observed the silent protest — the demonstrators covered their mouths with their hands — but didn't intervene.

medical, stethoscope
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Sign-ups in Idaho's insurance exchange accelerated in January, rising to 32,899 as more people sought health care coverage as the March 31 enrollment deadline approaches.

The federal government reported Wednesday Your Health Idaho enrollment amounted to the second-highest per capita in the country, with only Vermont's numbers topping those of the Gem State.

Exchange spokeswoman Jody Olson said the figures are positive, but urged residents currently without insurance to seek coverage required under President Barack Obama's 2010 health care overhaul.

education, election
Courtesy Sherri Ybarra

The race to lead Idaho's public schools is growing more-crowded — and potentially more raucous — with the addition of yet another Republican candidate to the field.

Mountain Home educator and administrator Sherri Ybarra threw her hat into ring, announcing Wednesday she'll vie for the Republican nomination in the May 20 primary election.

Ybarra joins Republicans already in the race, Grangeville teacher John Eynon and American Falls principal Randy Jensen.

The lone Democratic candidate, so far, is Jana Jones, who was defeated in 2006.

Boise's top police officer said democracy failed at a Senate State Affairs hearing in which he and other law enforcement leaders were blocked from speaking about a bill allowing concealed-carry on college campuses.

Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson signed up to talk about his opposition to the bill, which passed 7-2 Wednesday morning. The chief was set to argue concealed carry permit holders lack the training and qualifications needed to react correctly during a mass shooting.

NBC/USOC

Idaho native Kaitlyn Farrington captured gold in the women's Olympic snowboarding halfpipe final Wednesday, edging out defending champion Torah Bright and American teammate Kelly Clark for the title.

Farrington, who grew up in Bellevue, Idaho posted a score of 91.75 during her second run, just good enough to beat Bright's 91.50. Clark, who smacked the wall during her first run in the finals, recovered to earn bronze and win her third Olympic medal.

capitol, JFAC
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

About 17,000 Idaho government employees are a step closer to getting a 2 percent raise in fiscal year 2015.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee voted Wednesday to build $11 million more into state worker pay starting next July.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter didn't recommend the raises.

But Republican Sen. Dean Cameron of Rupert said the timing was right to direct more money to government salaries for the first time since 2012.

Cameron says the budget panel is simply following recommendations of an employee pay committee.

Colleges and universities are one step closer to permitting students, staff and visitors to bring concealed firearms to campus after the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to move it forward Wednesday.

The 7-2 decision comes as proponents argue that the bill is necessary to uphold second amendment rights and allow students and staff to protect themselves.

A BSU psychology professor was among those who testified in favor of the bill, describing her terror when a former student threatened to kill her last month.

Lawmakers voted 62-6 to restore adult Medicaid dental benefits, arguing cuts three years ago that left 27,000 people without coverage cost Idaho more in dental-related emergency room services than it saved.

The House vote over the $1.4 million measure Tuesday pitted arguments for good preventative dentistry against fiscal hawks who say federal deficits trump good oral hygiene for low-income, elderly and disabled people.

Minority Leader John Rusche of Lewiston argued it not only made sense from a health perspective, but also from a fiscal perspective.

Yellowstone NPS / Flickr Creative Commons

Yellowstone National Park administrators say they plan to ship as many as 600 bison to slaughter this winter if harsh conditions inside the park spur a large migration of the animals into Montana.

The Billings Gazette reports only 60 or 70 bison have crossed the park's northern boundary at last count this winter.

A state-federal agreement signed in 2000 requires the bison population to be kept at roughly 3,000 animals. There were about 4,600 as of June 2013.

food, groceries, store
Qmnonic / Flickr Creative Commons

Republican lawmakers including Sen. Russ Fulcher aim to eliminate Idaho's 6 percent tax on groceries starting July 1, 2016.

Fulcher, a Meridian Republican running against Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter in the May primary, and Boise Sen. Cliff Bayer are promoting the proposed legislation.

Currently, Idaho gives nearly all its residents a credit when they file their annual tax returns, to offset surcharges they pay on groceries.

This tax credit has been expanded since legislation passed in 2009.

Come next year, it's due to be $100 for everyone, and $120 for seniors.

Sen. Nonini
Idaho Legislature

Two Republican senators want to eliminate Idaho's fund that helps pay the medical bills of indigent people.

Sens. Steve Thayn of Emmett and Bob Nonini of Coeur d'Alene pitched the legislation on Monday.

They sold it to lawmakers on the Health and Welfare Committee as a better way to treat low-income people without insurance than the existing Catastrophic Care Fund.

Now, there will be a full hearing on the measure.

Currently, state and county taxpayers combine to cover indigent people's medical bills.

TelstarLogistics / Flickr Creative Commons

A Republican lawmaker proposes digging into Idaho's sales tax revenue to fund highway and bridge projects.

Rep. Joe Palmer, House Transportation Committee chairman, pitched the idea Monday.

Typically, Idaho pays for roads from fees assessed on gas or vehicle registrations.

Palmer's measure would depart that tradition, but only after Idaho's revenue reaches certain thresholds.

Once general fund income hits $2.91 billion and education funding exceeds $1.4 billion — both pre-recession records — he'd begin taking a slice of the growing sales tax for roads.

Michelle Stennett
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A plan to put more money in the pockets of Idaho's lowest-paid workers cleared its first hurdle Monday when the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to send it forward to a full hearing.

The proposal would increase the state's minimum hourly pay from $7.25 the federal requirement— to $8.50 July 1, then raise it again to $9.75 in 2015.

But Republicans who control 81 percent of the Legislature immediately criticized the plan, throwing its future into doubt.

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