Politics & Goverment

Stories about politics, policy, and how government works.

UGA College of Ag / Flickr

A federal judge has ordered Idaho to pay roughly a quarter million dollars in legal fees to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and other groups who successfully sued the state over what they called the "ag-gag" law.

Idaho lawmakers passed the law making it a crime to surreptitiously videotape agriculture operations in 2014 after the state's $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of cows being abused at a southern Idaho dairy unfairly hurt their businesses.

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

Tuesday’s primary election in Idaho saw seven incumbent lawmakers lose their positions in the Legislature. It also whittled down the candidates vying for a seat on Idaho’s Supreme Court.

Many match-ups featured moderate Republicans against candidates from the far right wing of the party.

Reporter Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review writes the “Eye on Boise” blog and was among those watching the election closely.

Ada County Statehouse Capitol Building Senate Chambers Keough
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Two Idaho Supreme Court hopefuls are facing a runoff election with vote counting early Wednesday showing none of the top candidates having won more than 50 percent in Tuesday's primary.

Robyn Brody, an attorney from Rupert, and Curt McKenzie, a seven-term Republican state senator, were the top vote getters and are headed for a runoff in the November general election.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Tuesday is primary day for a number of legislative races in Idaho. There are some important face-offs to watch – ones that could influence the direction of Idaho’s conservative majority. Some incumbent Republicans are being challenged by more conservative politicians, creating division among the GOP.

The one big statewide race is for the supreme court. Four candidates are vying for this position, which is nonpartisan.

Jake Stephens for Idaho / Facebook

Idaho legislative candidate Jake Stephens says he was joking when he wrote on Facebook that he was out hunting Mexicans. The comment was posted underneath a picture of Stephens dressed in full camouflage and holding a rifle.

Stephens, a Republican, is running against first term Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, in the upcoming May 17 primary election. Stephens says he was teasing a close friend, who is Mexican, while commenting on his own profile picture back in October.

Jake Putnam / Flickr Creative Commons

It's been a tough spring for officials at Idaho State University (ISU).

In early April, anti-Muslim DVDs were placed on cars around ISU. Ten percent of the student body at ISU is from the Middle East, and some saw the DVDs as a direct threat to that population. Soon after, reports of dorm room burglaries and off-campus attacks have come up – including an off-campus stabbing of a Kuwaiti student last Sunday.

Campaign finance reports show that Idaho Supreme Court candidate Robyn Brody has raised more than $177,000, but her campaign will be giving a small portion of that back because some contributions violated the state's campaign laws.

Brody received $27,000 from four farm-related companies all tied to one owner. Idaho's Sunshine Law prohibits donors from giving more than $10,000 to statewide candidates during primary or general elections, including banning aggregated contributions.

Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst says Brody is expected to file an amended report Wednesday.

screengrab google.com/maps

The ground under the Boise foothills neighborhood called Terra Nativa has been sliding for weeks, possibly months. One house has been deemed unsafe to live in. At least one other has damage. And late last week the highway district closed two roads in the subdivision due to buckling streets and sidewalks and fear of landslides. 

We wanted to know how the city determines if a site in the foothills is safe to build on. Here’s what we learned.

Boise Police Department City Hall Logo
Lacey Daley / Boise State Public Radio

If you’ve been in downtown Boise on a Friday or Saturday night, you may have seen – or heard – cars cruising on Main and Idaho streets. Modified mufflers and blasting stereos are pretty hard to miss, after all.

But according to a press release from the Boise police department, the drivers could be fined for being too loud.

Ada County Statehouse Capitol Building Attorney General Office Wasden
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has charged two Republicans involved in a highly-scrutinized political action committee for allegedly hiding the source of campaign contributions.

Bonneville GOP Chairman Doyle Beck and former congressional candidate M.C. "Chick" Heileson were charged with a misdemeanor on Friday.

Wasden's office has been investigating the Integrity in Government PAC, based in northern Idaho, since February after multiple questions were raised about the group's contributions.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

In an email to supporters, the Idaho Republican Party boasts that for the first time ever, more Idahoans are registered as Republicans than as Democrats or unaffiliated. The GOP says the March presidential primary recorded the highest turnout ever for a primary in the state.

This comes as no surprise to Jaclyn Kettler, political science professor at Boise State University. She says at the time of the March primary, the Republican presidential nomination was still very much up for grabs.

If you think money has too great a role in Idaho politics, or worry that it could be headed that way, you have until tomorrow to give Idaho voters a chance to decide on some restrictions.

An effort by the political advocacy group Keep Idaho Elections Accountable to reform Idaho’s campaign finance laws needs 48,000 signatures by Saturday to get proposed changes on the ballot in November.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

An initiative to update Idaho’s laws around campaign finance has until Monday at 5 p.m. to reach the signature threshold. Former Democratic state lawmaker Holli Woodings is leading the initiative, called Keep Idaho Elections Accountable.

Woodings says that if the initiative passes muster, voters in November will have the chance to decide how Idaho deals with money in politics.

TASER International / Facebook

A Wall Street Journal investigation this week highlights some possibly shady business practices by Taser, the maker of the eponymous shock device and other police hardware. It uses the Boise Police Department’s nearly $1.5 million body camera deal with Taser last year as an example.

According to the Journal, Taser convinces police departments it is the only company that can provide services in order to secure contracts without having to go through an open bidding process. That’s done, the Journal says, by giving free trips to decision makers.

internet, computer, broadband,
Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho officials originally agreed to pay $7.2 million in a settlement over an illegal statewide contract that provided broadband in public schools.

However, a March ruling from the Idaho Supreme Court halted settlement talks after justices upheld a lower court's ruling deeming the $60 million contract was illegal. The surprise ruling came down in the final days of the settlement being finalized.

Bureau of Land Management

The senate subcommittee on public lands, forests and mining will take up a bill Thursday with a long history in southwest Idaho.

Known as the Owyhee Wilderness Areas Boundary Modification Act, the bill amends a 2009 public land management law. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo’s bill would allow ranchers to use motorized vehicles to herd and monitor livestock in the wilderness areas.

Wikimedia Commons

Members of Boise State’s Osher Institute Tuesday heard lectures linking Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunts of the 1950s to Idaho. History writer Marc Johnson connected the dots between McCarthy and two Idaho elections.

Department of Interior

In an address at the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C., Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stressed the need for what she characterized as a "major course correction" in conservation. Despite her location at the nation's capital, the majority of her comments were about places thousands of miles away. 

Thomas Hart / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho officials on Tuesday voted to use $280,000 of the state's Constitutional Defense Fund to pay legal fees for the opposing side after losing a federal court decision involving work unions.

The 4-0 vote by the Idaho Board of Examiners follows a court order in December.

Idaho lawmakers in 2011 approved the Fairness in Contracting Act making it illegal for unions to subsidize union contract bids to make them competitive with non-union contractor bids.

AP

Anyone who knows 20th century American history knows about Senator Joseph McCarthy and his hunt for Communists in the U.S. And anyone who knows about Idaho history and politics knows about Democratic Senator Frank Church. But what you may not know is that McCarthy's fall contributed to Church's rise.

That’s the theory Marc Johnson is presenting during two lectures Tuesday at Boise State’s Osher Institute. Johnson is a former journalist, adviser to Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus and a long-time behind-the-scenes political player. Now he writes about Idaho and U.S. history.

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