Politics & Goverment

Stories about politics, policy, and how government works.

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.

SamPac / Flickr

City of Boise officials says they're pleased that a judge decided this week to dismiss a lawsuit over a homeless camping ordinance. Bell v. City of Boise has been in the courts since it was filed in 2009.

At issue was a law that said the city could cite people sleeping outside. After the suit was filed, the city changed the law to say citations could only be issued if homeless shelters had empty beds.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

Just three days after federal officials decided not to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's office and the Idaho Legislature has announced the state filed a lawsuit. Click here to read the suit.

A federal official who helps oversee refugee resettlement in the U.S. says despite an effort to do away with a program in Twin Falls, he still thinks the city is a viable option for refugees.


The head of the Federal Aviation Administration was in Boise Monday. Director Michael Huerta spoke to the National Association of State Aviation Officials convention at the Boise Center. Prior to his comments there, Huerta visited the National Interagency Fire Center. 

The FAA and officials at NIFC have worked together to try and curb the issue of drones flying too close to aerial firefighting operations. Numerous times this year, air tankers and helicopters flying over wildfires had to be grounded because drones were discovered nearby.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

A series of seminars on open meetings and public records laws returns to southwest Idaho Monday. The organization Idahoans for Openness in Government puts together the seminars each year in different parts of the state along with the office of the Attorney General. The free public seminars start Monday in McCall then come to Boise and Nampa early next month.

Idaho’s Attorney General and the Idaho Press Club do the presentation. The interactive event lasts about three hours and features audience role playing.

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.

CyberHades / Flickr Creative Commons

The state of Idaho’s new Cybersecurity Task Force holds its first meeting Wednesday afternoon. Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter created the group through executive order in July. Lieutenant Governor Brad Little will chair the task force.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr Creative Commons

A campaign is under way in Twin Falls County to ban refugee centers. The city of Twin Falls is home to the College of Southern Idaho's resettlement program, which has been around for 30 years. The group behind the campaign argues refugee centers are a public nuisance. Some supporters are worried about dangerous refugees moving to the area. 

Idaho isn't known for attracting political powerhouses during presidential races. However, what it lacks in clout, it makes up for being home to one of the GOP's wealthiest donors.

Frank VanderSloot, founder and CEO of health care products company Melaleuca based in Idaho Falls, was a critical fundraiser for former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign during the 2012 election. Now he's being courted by GOP presidential candidates eager to benefit from VanderSloot's successful fundraising reputation.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul stopped in Boise as part of his Western tour to rally support and attract voters in a red-dominated state that is likely to have its pick of candidates during the GOP primary election.

Paul spoke to nearly 300 people at Boise State University on Thursday. He then left an afternoon rally in Nampa that's followed by a GOP barbeque in Idaho Falls.

The Kentucky senator's swing through the West has already included rallies in Alaska and Washington, with other stops planned in Utah and Wyoming.

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.