Politics + Policy

Idaho Legislature
2:36 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

So-Called 'Ag Gag' Bill Passes Idaho Legislature, Headed To Gov. Otter

A bill to punish people who secretly film animal abuse at Idaho's agricultural facilities is headed to Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter's desk after passing the House 56-14.

It's a response to videos released by activists who filmed workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping, and sexually abusing cows.

If Otter signs the bill into law, people who try to record such abuse face up to a year in jail, double the maximum punishment for animal cruelty.

Utah has a similar "ag gag law," currently being challenged in U.S. District Court.

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Idaho Legislature
11:59 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Idaho Legislature May Create Treasurer Oversight Panel

Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Treasurer Ron Crane may soon be getting help making sure taxpayers' money is safe after auditors rebuked him for inappropriately transferring tens of millions of dollars to state accounts where it was lost.

The Senate State Affairs Committee Wednesday approved a measure to create a new, five-person advisory board to make sure Crane or future treasurers are appropriately managing accounts.

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Idaho Legislature
3:55 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

105 Gay Rights Protesters Return To Idaho's Capitol

At least 105 gay rights demonstrators filled the Capitol's basement corridor seeking to convince lawmakers to update the Idaho Human Rights Act with discrimination protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination.

Tuesday action was organized again by former Idaho state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, a Boise Democrat who directed the demonstrators up and down the hall.

In addition to covering their mouths with one hand and maintaining virtual silence, many held photocopied pictures of gay or lesbian teens who committed suicide.

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Idaho Legislature
6:22 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Boise State President Says Guns On Campus Bill Solves A Problem That Doesn't Exist

Boise State University President Bob Kustra.
Credit Boise State University

Boise State University President Bob Kustra says he’s against proposed legislation that would allow guns on Idaho college and university campuses, because it addresses a problem that doesn’t exist.

Kustra is one of the eight Idaho academic presidents who came out this month in opposition to a proposal that would allow guns to be legally carried on campuses. The State Board of Education also opposes the legislation. 

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Idaho Legislature
4:29 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Idaho House Speaker Says Gay Rights Protests Are Hurting Dialogue

In this February 14 protest 65 people stood silently inside the Capitol.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho’s Speaker of the House Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, expressed frustration Monday over the repeated gay rights protests at Idaho’s Capitol. About 100 people have been arrested so far this month in peaceful demonstrations. They're trying to convince lawmakers to protect gays, lesbians and transgendered people from discrimination.

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Idaho Legislature
9:58 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Idaho Budget Panel Gives $6.6 Million To Education Network

Companies running Idaho's troubled broadband education network will be paid for work completed since last year, but lawmakers haven't decided how to handle funding for the coming year amid a contract dispute.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee voted unanimously Monday to cover the federal government's share of funding, about $6.6 million.

The Federal Communication Commission hasn't paid Tennessee-based Education Networks of America and CenturyLink since last year.

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Idaho Legislature
6:05 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Idaho State Senator Pushing For Guns On University Campuses Says It's A Basic Right

Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa.
Credit Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

On one corner of Curt McKenzie’s desk at the Idaho Capitol sit three candy jars. On the opposite corner - an Army green ammunition box.

McKenzie is the Republican state senator from Nampa who introduced a controversial bill that would allow some people to carry guns on Idaho’s college campuses. The bill has passed the Senate and is now in the House.

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Campus Safety
10:28 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Boise State: Allowing Guns On Campus Will Cost University About $2 Million Each Year

Boise State University says proposed legislation that would allow guns to legally be carried on Idaho campuses would require an overhaul of its campus security.
Credit Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Boise State University says proposed legislation that would allow guns to be legally carried on its campus would cost the school about $2 million each year.

BSU’s head of security and police services, Jon Uda, detailed the costs in a university memo. In it, he says having guns on campus would present “myriad” of new threats for campus security.

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Idaho Legislature
2:18 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

After 3 Years, A Small Victory For Idaho Girl Lobbying For A State Amphibian

This is Hickman last year, when she was in 6th grade, lobbying for her bill.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

A Boise seventh-grader's push to get recognition for her favorite amphibian slithered to victory in the Senate State Affairs committee.

Ilah Hickman has been prodding the Legislature to adopt the Idaho Giant Salamander as the official state amphibian for three years now.

Hickman thinks the creature would be a great fit: Not only does the Idaho Giant Salamander have Idaho in the name, but it also resides almost exclusively in the Gem State.

A poll of her classmates at Les Bois Middle School revealed that most students favor the salamander taking the crown.

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Idaho Legislature
12:34 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Idaho House Approves $2 Million Plan To Kill Wolves

Credit Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park

Lawmakers voted 49-16 to direct $2 million to help kill problem wolves, over objections from Democrats who say it's a poor use of the money.

Friday's vote sends the measure, backed by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and livestock producers, to the Senate.

Idaho has 118 packs and 680 wolves, according to 2012 figures.

This wolf control fund's proponents argue existing measures by federal trappers and hunters aren't enough to tackle wolves that prey on sheep, cattle and elk herds coveted by hunters.

This fund will help pick up the slack.

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Health Insurance
11:26 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Idaho's Health Insurance Exchange Awards $40.8 Million In Contracts

Idaho's insurance exchange voted to give two companies publicly funded contracts worth $40.8 million to build and operate a state enrollment system due to replace the federal software in place now.

Your Health Idaho's board Friday voted to give the work to GetInsured and Accenture, the two companies that also built California's state insurance exchange.

Idaho has used the federal government's exchange for the past five months because it didn't have enough time to build its own system before the Oct. 1, 2013 deadline.

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Idaho Legislature
11:15 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Idaho Commerce Director Pitches New Business Tax Incentive

Idaho's lackluster quiver of tax incentives make it flyover country for many companies looking to relocate or expand.

That's the verdict of Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer, who pitched a plan Friday he says would change that.

Sayer's proposition: What if Idaho allows companies that hire new, well-paid employees to recoup up to 30 percent of their income, sales and payroll taxes after they've proven to have met their expansion promises?

That way, he says, the state would protect itself from companies that don't follow through.

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Idaho Legislature
5:56 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Disputed 'Ag Gag' Bill Advances In House Committee

Credit Mouldfish / Flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers voted to send a bill blocking activists from secretly filming agricultural operations in hopes of capturing abuse on camera forward to full House debate.

The 13-1 vote came Thursday after the House Agricultural Affairs Committee heard testimony from dozens of farmers and animal rights supporters.

The Senate has already backed the measure, 23-10.

The bill, backed by Idaho's dairy industry, would slap those who sneak onto farms or get access under false pretenses to film animal abuse with fines and up to a year in jail.

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Gay Rights
10:50 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Protesters Block Idaho Senate Again Over Gay Rights

Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

UPDATE: 5:50 p.m.:

More gay rights activists were arrested by Idaho State Police after refusing to lift their peaceful blockade of the Idaho Senate.

In all, 30 people were arrested Thursday.

That included 23 people who posted themselves outside the Senate chambers for more than six hours but declined to leave when asked by law enforcement about 4 p.m.

All 23 were cited for misdemeanor trespassing.

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Gay Marriage
4:08 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Idaho Couples Ask Judge To Rule On Gay Marriage

Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Four couples suing over Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage are asking a federal judge to rule in their favor without a trial, contending the facts of the case and recent federal court rulings elsewhere make it clear that Idaho's marriage laws violate the Constitution.

The defendant in the case, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, also is asking the judge for an immediate ruling, contending that states and not the federal government have the right to define marriage and that same-sex marriages would harm Idaho's children.

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Idaho Legislature
12:29 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Idaho Lawmaker Pulls Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

Credit Idaho Legislature

A lawmaker promoting disputed legislation to protect religious people who refuse to serve gays, lesbians and others to whom they object from lawsuits says he'll withdraw the bill, for now.

Republican Rep. Lynn Luker of Boise says his measure was intended to protect the free exercise of religion, but was misinterpreted to be a "sword for discrimination."

A previous hearing on his measure lasted nearly four hours and drew hundreds to the Capitol.

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Elections
7:30 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Idaho’s Initiative To Legalize Medical Marijuana Is Failing Despite Public Support

Kendall Jeffs says she started using medical marijuana after losing her index finger and part of her middle finger in an onion harvesting accident. She says it's the only thing that helps with the phantom pain that still troubles her regularly.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The majority of Idahoans approve of medical marijuana, that's according to a four-year-old poll, which is the most recent available. Still, an initiative to legalize medical pot in Idaho is failing spectacularly.

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Idaho Legislature
1:02 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Idaho Senate Passes Guns On Campus Bill, Heads To House

Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The Senate voted 25-10 for a bill to allow students, faculty and others to tote guns on college campuses.

Sponsor Sen. Curt McKenzie said Tuesday it's wrong to strip students and faculty of their Second Amendment rights.

The House will now consider the measure, where it's likely to pass.

Sen. Michelle Stennett opposed the bill, arguing it will burden schools with additional security costs and could escalate arguments.

A similar bill failed in 2011 in the Senate.

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Idaho Legislature
9:57 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Idaho House Dumps Unconstitutional Capitol Protest Rules

Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A House panel ended the state's bid to appeal a federal judge's decision that rules governing protests at the Capitol are unconstitutional.

The House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday voted to reject rules that, among other things, had sought to limit protest duration and give special treatment to state events.

They were crafted in the wake of the "Occupy Boise" protests of 2011 and 2012.

But U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill decided the rules violated constitutional free speech protections last year.

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Idaho Legislature
2:40 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

200 Gay Rights Protesters Fill The Idaho Capitol For Third Time In February

This is the third time gay rights protesters have gathered in the Idaho Capitol since Feb. 3.
Credit Courtesy Idaho Statesman

More than 200 gay rights demonstrators descended on the Idaho Capitol, with placard-holding, flag-bearing activists filling multiple rotunda floors as they sought again to convince Republican lawmakers to hold a hearing on a bill to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.

Monday's showing was the largest this year at the Idaho Legislature.

But the group mixed without incident with other visitors to the Capitol, including representatives of Idaho's livestock industry and children promoting school choice.

There were no arrests or incidents.

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