Idaho Legislature

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter began outlining his budget and policy priorities for state lawmakers during his "State of the State" address Monday afternoon, naming public education as his primary focus for the year.

The annual speech kicks off the start of the legislative session, with state lawmakers, members of the judiciary and other leaders gathered in the Idaho Statehouse to hear Otter's remarks.

Otter reminded lawmakers of the state's constitutional requirement to provide a general, uniform and free public school system. He proposed a 7.9 percent increase to the state's public education budget. That would bring the total to $1.59 billion. It's the second year in a row that Otter has proposed steep hikes for education spending.

S. Hellstrom / Bureau of Land Management

As tensions mount over the occupation of a federal building in an Oregon wildlife refuge by an armed group, some are asking the question: Could it happen in Idaho? The Gem State has had its own arguments over the use of federal land, including the Legislature considering taking control of all the federal land within Idaho’s borders.

Kaiser Family Foundation

According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study, the 29 states that expanded Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act have – not surprisingly – witnessed increased enrollment and spending. Those states brought in new low-income enrollees that were not eligible before. In California alone, 3.4 million people were added to the state-run health insurance program.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Strengthening Idaho's system for purchasing goods and services comes down to careful training, good research, picking the right providers and following the law, some state employees told a group of lawmakers on Thursday.

The legislative interim committee is digging into Idaho's contracting system in the wake of several scandals, including an illegally awarded $60 million school broadband contract that was voided by a judge earlier this year.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Some Idaho lawmakers were briefed Wednesday on a streamlined sales tax policy during a meeting on potential changes to the tax code. Twelve legislators make up the Tax Working Group, which began holding public meetings earlier this month.

The Idaho State Tax Commission policy manager talked about the streamlined sales tax system. States like Utah and Wyoming already use the system, and it would make it easier for Idaho to collect online sales tax from people using sites like Amazon.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho’s Constitutional Defense Council will meet Wednesday. The members will be asked to spend money to pay for a lost legal case. Recent court cases have drained the fund considerably this year.

Idaho Transportation Department

You may have noticed higher registration fees when you’ve paid for new stickers for your car or truck. That’s part of a new law, and a new revenue stream for the Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) backlog in road restoration and preservation. Now ITD says it is already wrapping up the first projects using the new influx of cash.

Emilie Ritter Saunders

If you’re being stalked by a person who isn’t a relative or a romantic partner in Idaho, there’s not much the police can do to protect you from having contact. Civil protective orders here don’t cover stalking behavior by acquaintances or strangers.

But Idaho State Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, wants to change that. The lawmaker and attorney says he’s been working on legislation to broaden the categories governing protective orders since 2013.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Last weekend, a shooting in Boise’s North End neighborhood sent a woman to the hospital with serious injuries. The victim – Mikaela Zabel-Gravatt – is recovering, and Christopher Wirfs is facing felony charges. The alleged shooter is charged with felony aggravated battery, use of a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm.

The incident exposes a gap in Idaho's legal code when it comes to getting protection from stalkers.

Thomas M. Parsons / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho officials aren't ruling out that new state parks could be named after private companies that give large donations or sponsorships, but a recently proposed set of rules would severely limit business' ability to acquire naming rights.

Earlier this year, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed legislation permitting the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to pursue sponsorships with corporations to help offset slashed state revenue. Now department officials are finalizing sponsorship rules, which will need approval from the department board and Idaho Legislature.

Screenshot / Idaho Public Television

It’s a multi-million dollar question that now stands before the Idaho Supreme Court: Should a ban on instant horse racing become law? This question was argued before the justices Tuesday.

The case is about instant horse racing machines, which some, like the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, argue are too close to illegal slot machines.

Idaho Democratic Party

Leaders of Idaho’s Democratic Party picked their next chairman Saturday. Bert Marley of McCammon replaces Larry Kenck, who resigned earlier this year for health reasons.

Marley, 67, is a former teacher and state lawmaker. He lost the lieutenant governor’s race last fall by 30 percentage points.  Democrats, in fact, lost all five statewide races. 

Marley spoke to KBSX’s Scott Graf Wednesday.  

Q: Considering the party’s recent struggles, what interested you in this job?

Idaho Democratic Party

Idaho’s Democratic Party elected a new party chairman over the weekend. Former state senator Bert Marley of McCammon will lead the minority party, after former chairman Larry Kenck stepped down, citing health reasons.

Marley says he’s excited and honored to serve his party. He beat one other candidate - party spokesperson Dean Ferguson - in an election held by party leaders Saturday.

Former Idaho House Speaker Tom Boyd has died.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that the Republican lawmaker who served eight terms in the Idaho Legislature from 1977 to 1992 died Monday at a nursing home in Moscow. He was 86.

Boyd represented Latah County for 16 years, the last six as speaker.

Lawmakers described him as a "peacemaker" and "consensus builder."

Boyd farmed wheat and peas in the Genesee area and served on local boards before running for state office.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has decided it won't use an option made available by lawmakers earlier this year intended to speed the commission's natural gas and oil decision making process.

The commissioners with the 3-0 vote on Wednesday chose not to use the option given to them by lawmakers earlier this year that allowed the commission to exempt itself from the contested case provision in Idaho law.

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