Samantha Wright

News Reporter/On-air Host

Samantha Wright is a news reporter and the local host for Boise State Public Radio's All Things Considered on weekday afternoons.

Her spot reporting, special projects, and audio production have been featured on Voice of America, National Public Radio News, This American Life, National Native News, the Northwest Radio Network and on The New York Times website. Samantha earned a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Use of Sound for her feature “Co-op Cooks.”  She also earned a first place award for Use of Sound for her feature “Canning Makes a Comeback” from PRNDI - Public Radio News Directors Incorporated. Samantha was a co-producer of the Idaho StoryCorps Project. The project was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Idaho Representative Steve Hartgen / Facebook

The Idaho House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted Tuesday to bring the state's tax code in line with federal rules, despite facing objections from two lawmakers who argued the state should not be recognizing same-sex marriages.

Pat Joyce / Flickr

Researchers at Idaho State University have programmed drones to be able to identify potatoes infected with a virus.

Researchers say they've been able to find individual plants infected with potato virus Y, commonly called PVY, with 90 percent accuracy using cameras mounted on drones, The Capital Press reported Friday.

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management has given the green light to the final federal land section of the Gateway West Transmission Line.

It’s called a Record of Decision, or ROD, and wraps up the federal permission process for the 990-mile power line from Glenrock, Wyoming to Melba, Idaho. The two companies building the line, Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power, started working with the BLM on the project in 2007.

Ada County Statehouse Capitol Building Entrance Steps Bell
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

As the Idaho Legislature wraps up its second week, lawmakers have introduced around 30 bills so far.

Boise State University Political Science Professor Gary Moncrief says that’s a little below normal, but we’ll see a lot more bills next week.

Right now, lawmakers are looking at a change to the Primary Election system in Idaho. They also want to make sure liquor licenses get used for selling booze instead of as investments. And Democrats had a suggestion for getting more teachers into rural schools.

White House

There are only a few hours left in Barack Obama’s presidency and chances are dimming that he’ll move on two issues with ties to Idaho.

There has been speculation over the last few months of Obama’s presidency that he might create a National Monument across Idaho’s border in eastern Oregon.

John Miller / AP Photo

Two federal agencies have approved a 2.4-mile-long open pit phosphate mine proposed by a Canadian company in southeastern Idaho.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service late last week issued separate decisions approving the plan by Calgary-based Agrium Inc.

The BLM manages the area where the mining will occur, while the Forest Service manages land that will receive waste materials.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

It’s been a tumultuous first two weeks in the Idaho Legislature. It started last week when Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke removed Republican Representative Heather Scott from her committee assignments for comments she made about her colleagues.

The move came after Scott was accused of telling another lawmaker that women in the House trade sexual favors with leadership to secure committee chairmanships. That’s when Representative Christy Perry of Nampa wrote a letter to the Speaker saying Scott displayed aggressive and anti-social behavior during meetings.

Rick Bowmer / AP

Leaders of an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in rural Oregon were driving to a public meeting a year ago when police shot and killed one of them at a roadblock.

Now, LaVoy Finicum's widow and their children are planning to hold that meeting later this month in the same town, John Day. Speakers are slated to talk about the Constitution, property rights and other issues.

Samantha Wright/BSPR

The Idaho Legislature has been in session less than a week and lawmakers are already speculating about when they will go home.

Boise State University Professor of Political Science Gary Moncrief says there has been a lot of talk about how long the session will last. He says he’s heard from the media and some lawmakers that it should be a short session.

But in this week’s 2017 Weekly Legislative Update, Moncrief says history doesn’t support that theory.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

WritersResist.org website

Writers from around the country will gather Sunday as part of an international movement to talk about democratic ideals. In Idaho, writers will gather in Moscow for an event called “Writers Resist Hate.”

Jim Urquhart / AP Photo

Federal officials are delaying their decision on whether to lift protections for more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park and allow hunting, amid opposition from dozens of American Indian tribes and conservation groups.

Officials had planned to finalize the proposal to turn jurisdiction on grizzlies over to state officials in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by the end of 2016.

Associated Press

Environmental groups are asking a federal court to halt 11 infrastructure projects on four lower Snake River dams in Washington state that could ultimately be removed if a pending review determines the dams need to come out in order to help salmon.

The 45-page notice filed late Monday in Portland, Oregon, estimates the cost of the projects at $110 million.

capitol, statehouse, idaho
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Governor Butch Otter said Monday during his State of the State address that education is his top priority for his fiscal year 2018 budget request.

His speech focused on education, tax relief and Idaho’s economy.

“Our finances are secure. Revenue is exceeding expectations. Economic growth is outpacing the overall growth of government and our own operations are more transparent and efficient than ever,” says Otter.

He is also proposing some tax relief.

AP Photo / Otto Kitsinger

Idaho Governor Butch Otter told lawmakers Monday that education is his top priority for the next budget year.

During his 11th State of the State address, he proposed more money for K-12 teacher salaries and the higher education building fund. And he wants tax cuts for businesses.

But there were a few things that he didn’t have a solution for, including a transportation maintenance shortfall, and the 78,000 Idahoans who don’t have health insurance because they make too much money to get on Medicaid.

AP Photo

Speaking at an Associated Press legislative preview Friday, Idaho Governor Butch Otter hinted at some of his priorities for the 2017 session.

Otter traditionally unveils his budget and policy plans in his State of the State speech, which he gives on the first day of the session, which is Monday. But he did give a sneak peek Friday morning when he said his main focus will be education.

He’ll ask lawmakers for $58 million for the teacher pay raise program known as the Career Ladder. The five-year plan is in its third year and Otter says the goals are straightforward.

Gary Moncrief

It’s a new year for Republicans who now control government at the national level. And also for the 2017 Idaho Legislature, which leans even more toward the GOP after losing four Democratic seats in the fall elections. That means change in Washington D.C. and in the Gem State.

Today, we bring you our first 2017 Weekly Legislative Update. We’ll be taking a close look at what happens in the Idaho Statehouse, both in the public eye and behind the scenes.

Zoo Boise

Zoo Boise says it’s sad to report that Jabari the lion was euthanized Wednesday.

We told you last year that the 14-year-old lion was diagnosed with lymphoma. He was getting treatment, including chemotherapy. But his health continued to decline and his condition worsened recently.

It was 2008 when Jabari and two female lions opened the African Plains Exhibit. He was a favorite at the zoo, often roaring during the day.

Little Black Star / Flickr

Idaho’s Office of Emergency Management is warning of possible flooding around the state, thanks to recent winter storms.

The Idaho Emergency Operations Center is now at the level of Heightened Awareness. That means the threat level is moderate and could develop into a state-level emergency disaster.

Officials are watching the Lemhi River, Big Wood River and the Snake River at Weiser, all of which have ice jams and minor flooding. Ice jams occur when shallow areas of the river freeze faster than deeper spots and the ice gets stuck around bends and curves.

Mike Crapo / United States Senate

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo will start his next term in Congress by joining the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Crapo already sits on four committees, Budget, Finance, Indian Affairs, as well as Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Now he joins the Judiciary Committee.

Crapo will be part of the group that has jurisdiction for judicial and executive nominations - everything from Attorney General to the nation’s highest court. Plus, many district and appeal courts. Crapo says he’s ready to weigh in on a new Supreme Court nominee, to replace Judge Antonin Scalia, who died last year.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

When they convene next week, lawmakers in the Idaho Legislature plan to take a closer look at teacher evaluations.

For years, Idaho has required an annual evaluation to use as a tool for educators to improve their performance. In 2015, lawmakers decided to tie those evaluations to teacher raises. Called the Career Ladder, this initiative spends $250 million over five years to boost teacher pay. But to climb that ladder - teachers must meet certain performance benchmarks in order to earn a raise.

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