Politics & Goverment

Stories about politics, policy, and how government works.

Republican state Sen. Shawn Keough of Sandpoint has been appointed to co-chair Idaho's powerful budget-setting committee.

President Pro Tem Brent Hill of Rexburg on Monday announced that Keough will replace former Sen. Dean Cameron of Rupert, who left the Idaho Legislature earlier this year to lead the state Department of Insurance.

Keough has served 20 years in the Idaho Statehouse, making her the longest serving female senator in Idaho's history.

Law enforcement officials in northern Idaho are worried local vape shops may be violating the state's strict anti-marijuana laws by selling oil derived from cannabis plants.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reports that the oil is a non-psychotropic extract, meaning users are unable to get a high using the product.

However, Post Falls Police Chief Scott Haug says the oil is illegal under Idaho law because it comes from a marijuana plant.

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.

Idaho Racing Commission

Idaho horse breeders could end up empty-handed due to a dispute about how the money collected from lucrative betting machines should be distributed.

The Idaho Racing Commission discussed the topic Wednesday, but delayed making a decision until October.

There is a disagreement over how much the breeder fund should be split between the thoroughbred and quarter horse accounts. If it's not solved by December, the money automatically goes to public schools.

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.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has created a task force intended to strengthen the state's protections against computer hackers.

Otter on Monday announced that he signed an executive order creating the Idaho Cybersecurity Cabinet Task Force.

Otter in a statement says the task force will develop policies, programs and strategies to find vulnerabilities and prevent attacks.

He says the state's long-term economic competitiveness is linked to cybersecurity.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

After two years without one, Boise will soon have its next ombudsman in place.

Mayor David Bieter announced Friday that attorney Natalie Camacho Mendoza will assume the role on August 3, pending city council approval.  Council members are expected to approve the selection at their meeting Tuesday.

Camacho Mendoza is originally from Pocatello.  She’s been in Boise for 20 years and has practiced law for 26.  Her experience includes work as a defense attorney and prosecutor. 

Inmates at an Idaho prison are asking a federal judge to sanction the state because they believe prison officials deliberately misled a court-appointed examiner on prison health care by tampering with medical records and hiding problem inmates.

The Idaho Department of Correction, meanwhile, contends the inmates' claims are without merit and little more than exaggerations based on unsubstantiated hearsay.

It's the latest tangle in the three-decades-old lawsuit over prison conditions at the Idaho State Correctional Institution.

Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

Disappointed. That’s how Naghmeh Abedini describes finding out the release of her husband was not included in the Iran nuclear deal announced Tuesday.

Her husband, Saeed Abedini, is a pastor from Boise. He has been held in prison in Iran since 2012. He was convicted of undermining state security for forming private Christian churches in homes in Iran, and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Boise Looking For Public Input To Tree Management Plan

Jul 13, 2015
Jeremy Erickson / Flickr Creative Commons

Boise has an estimated 180,000 trees and Boise Parks and Recreation is responsible for about 45,000 of them. The city is updating a 10-year management plan for its trees, led by forester Brian Jorgenson.

Right now, the tree canopy covers 16 percent of the city. Jorgenson — who calls himself the "tree guy" and remembers almost every tree he's planted in his three decades of working for the city — wants to increase that to 25 percent.

"I think trees are just one of those things, along with clean air and clean water, we take for granted," says Jorgenson.

A new effort to bring together Idaho police, leaders from Muslim and refugee communities, and advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is underway in Boise. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said Friday in a press release that a meeting this week between the various groups was the first step in building stronger connections. 

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

State officials have not responded to demands for millions of dollars in back payments from contractors hired under the recently dissolved statewide broadband system.

This means the contractors now have clearance to file a lawsuit.

Idaho Deputy Attorney General Scott Zanzig says the state has not issued a formal response to the tort claims filed back in early March.

The state had 90 days to respond.

Elevated / Flickr Creative Commons

The Ketchum City Council this week passed an ordinance authorizing police to break into cars to rescue pets endangered by high temperatures. It may be the only city ordinance of its kind in Idaho. That could be because most law enforcement agencies don’t think it’s necessary.

Meridian Deputy Police Chief Tracy Basterrechea says even though his city doesn't have a specific ordinance on it, his officers have the authority to break into a car to rescue an overheated animal.

Idaho Statesman

You’ve seen roadside memorials - a cross or flowers that says someone died at that location. Now, the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) wants to regulate those displays.

ACHD commissioners asked a group to write some rules, and Wednesday morning the commission will decide if those are ready to advance.

Currently, people place the markers without permission. ACHD only removes them if they’re problematic, but spokesman Craig Quintana says they’re becoming problems too often.

Photo Fhiend / Flickr Creative Commons

With last week’s Supreme Court decision, same-sex couples around Idaho were able to breathe a sigh of relief. But state Republican leaders say they're not done opposing same sex marriage.

Idaho GOP Executive Director David Johnston says the Supreme Court’s decision leaves a lot unanswered for people who say their religious freedoms are being infringed upon. He says the justices' ruling was an example of judicial activism and overreach.

Kellie Parker / Flickr Creative Commons

Earlier this week, Latah County officials voted to update their employee handbook to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The rule only applies to LGBT people who work for the county, and not the entire population.

“At this point it’s not on our agenda to take that up, although it could be," says Latah County Commissioner Tom Lamar. "It could be talked about more.”

Pierce Place / Flickr Creative Commons

Mississippi's flag, and the Confederate symbols embedded within it, has come down outside Boise's City Hall.

Boise Mayor David Bieter pushed to have the symbol removed from City Hall's 50-state display following the South Carolina church massacre and ensuing debate over the Confederate flag being flown at the capitol there.

A Boise official says there are currently no plans to return Mississippi's flag to the display.

Nampa Library officials are asking for a 16 percent budget increase to help pay for new costs associated with their more expensive location.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reports the new facility is twice the size of the previous library and has been occupied since fiscal year 2015. It was funded and completed by the Nampa Development Corporation.

Deb Love / Trust for Public Lands

An Idaho official is trying to garner support from counties in western states to legally challenge the government's ownership of public lands.

The Lewiston Tribune reports Idaho County Commission Chairman Jim Chmelik is traveling this week with the goal of getting 100 counties to sign on to support the Western Landmark Foundation.

The foundation was formed in March with Chmelik as the registered agent. He says when 50 counties have signed up he'll start asking supporters to contribute between $3,500 and $5,000 each toward a legal fund.

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