Politics + Policy

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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Policy
12:49 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Idaho Spends Millions To Hire Outside Attorneys

Idaho taxpayers have paid private attorneys more than $30 million in the past three years to do the state's legal work, in part because the Idaho Attorney General's office doesn't have the staff to handle caseloads.

The Associated Press obtained the payment information from the State Controller's Office through a public records request. The private attorneys charge the state anywhere from $125 to well over $300 an hour, compared to the $54 per hour it costs to have a state staff attorney do the job.

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Policy
6:19 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Midwives Say Idaho Licensing Law Has Brought The Practice Out Of The Shadows

A midwife uses a fetoscope on a patient.
kc7fys Wikimedia

Idaho started licensing midwives in 2010 under the Midwifery Practice Act so midwives could deliver babies in homes and at birthing centers legally. 

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Idaho Legislature
1:03 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Disputed 'Ag Gag Bill' Advances In Idaho Senate

Credit Mingerspice / Flickr Creative Commons

Dairy farmers enraged by spying animal-rights activists got a boost when senators agreed to intensify punishments for those who film their operations without permission.

Idaho's Senate voted 23-10 Friday to put people caught surreptitiously recording agricultural operations in jail and fine them $5,000.

The bill now goes to the House.

This measure stems from a 2012 incident at an Idaho dairy where activists captured images of workers caning, beating and stomping on cows.

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Protest
11:41 am
Thu February 13, 2014

65 Gay Rights Protesters Return To Idaho Capitol

At least 65 silent protesters lined the halls of the Idaho Capitol Thursday.
Credit Melissa Davlin / Idaho Public Television

At least 65 demonstrators seeking anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians law ringed the third floor rotunda of Idaho's Capitol 10 days after dozens of them were arrested at a previous protest.

Thursday's demonstration didn't include blocking entrances to lawmakers' chambers, the event that precipitated arrests March 3.

Idaho State Police troopers who guard the Capitol observed the silent protest — the demonstrators covered their mouths with their hands — but didn't intervene.

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Election 2014
4:25 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Third Idaho Republican Enters Race For Schools Chief

Credit Courtesy Sherri Ybarra

The race to lead Idaho's public schools is growing more-crowded — and potentially more raucous — with the addition of yet another Republican candidate to the field.

Mountain Home educator and administrator Sherri Ybarra threw her hat into ring, announcing Wednesday she'll vie for the Republican nomination in the May 20 primary election.

Ybarra joins Republicans already in the race, Grangeville teacher John Eynon and American Falls principal Randy Jensen.

The lone Democratic candidate, so far, is Jana Jones, who was defeated in 2006.

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Idaho Legislature
4:18 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Boise Police Chief Says He Was Blocked From Speaking Against Guns On Campus Bill

Boise's top police officer said democracy failed at a Senate State Affairs hearing in which he and other law enforcement leaders were blocked from speaking about a bill allowing concealed-carry on college campuses.

Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson signed up to talk about his opposition to the bill, which passed 7-2 Wednesday morning. The chief was set to argue concealed carry permit holders lack the training and qualifications needed to react correctly during a mass shooting.

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Idaho Legislature
11:30 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Budget Panel Votes To Hike Idaho State Workers' Pay

Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

About 17,000 Idaho government employees are a step closer to getting a 2 percent raise in fiscal year 2015.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee voted Wednesday to build $11 million more into state worker pay starting next July.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter didn't recommend the raises.

But Republican Sen. Dean Cameron of Rupert said the timing was right to direct more money to government salaries for the first time since 2012.

Cameron says the budget panel is simply following recommendations of an employee pay committee.

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Idaho Legislature
11:25 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Guns On Campus Bill Makes It Out Of Committee, Idaho Senate To Vote

Colleges and universities are one step closer to permitting students, staff and visitors to bring concealed firearms to campus after the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to move it forward Wednesday.

The 7-2 decision comes as proponents argue that the bill is necessary to uphold second amendment rights and allow students and staff to protect themselves.

A BSU psychology professor was among those who testified in favor of the bill, describing her terror when a former student threatened to kill her last month.

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Medicaid
2:04 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Bill To Restore Medicaid Dental Coverage Clears Idaho House

Lawmakers voted 62-6 to restore adult Medicaid dental benefits, arguing cuts three years ago that left 27,000 people without coverage cost Idaho more in dental-related emergency room services than it saved.

The House vote over the $1.4 million measure Tuesday pitted arguments for good preventative dentistry against fiscal hawks who say federal deficits trump good oral hygiene for low-income, elderly and disabled people.

Minority Leader John Rusche of Lewiston argued it not only made sense from a health perspective, but also from a fiscal perspective.

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The Two-Way
12:09 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Washington Governor Declares Moratorium On Death Penalty

Gov. Jay Inslee.
Elaine Thompson AP

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 4:41 pm

Saying the practice is "inconsistent and unequal," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced he was issuing a moratorium on the death penalty in his state.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Inslee said there were too many doubts raised about capital punishment and too many flaws in the system. With so much at stake, he said, it's not possible to accept "an imperfect system."

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Idaho Legislature
9:59 am
Tue February 11, 2014

GOP Lawmakers Push Dumping Idaho Tax On Food

Shoppers pay Idaho's 6 percent sales tax on groceries.
Credit Qmnonic / Flickr Creative Commons

Republican lawmakers including Sen. Russ Fulcher aim to eliminate Idaho's 6 percent tax on groceries starting July 1, 2016.

Fulcher, a Meridian Republican running against Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter in the May primary, and Boise Sen. Cliff Bayer are promoting the proposed legislation.

Currently, Idaho gives nearly all its residents a credit when they file their annual tax returns, to offset surcharges they pay on groceries.

This tax credit has been expanded since legislation passed in 2009.

Come next year, it's due to be $100 for everyone, and $120 for seniors.

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Idaho Legislature
5:03 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Two Idaho Republicans Want To Eliminate State's Catastrophic Health Care Fund

Sen. Nonini is a Republican from Coeur d'Alene.
Credit Idaho Legislature

Two Republican senators want to eliminate Idaho's fund that helps pay the medical bills of indigent people.

Sens. Steve Thayn of Emmett and Bob Nonini of Coeur d'Alene pitched the legislation on Monday.

They sold it to lawmakers on the Health and Welfare Committee as a better way to treat low-income people without insurance than the existing Catastrophic Care Fund.

Now, there will be a full hearing on the measure.

Currently, state and county taxpayers combine to cover indigent people's medical bills.

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Idaho Legislature
2:54 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Idaho Republican Wants To Shift Slice Of Sales Tax To Fund Roads

A view from U.S. 20 in central Idaho.
Credit TelstarLogistics / Flickr Creative Commons

A Republican lawmaker proposes digging into Idaho's sales tax revenue to fund highway and bridge projects.

Rep. Joe Palmer, House Transportation Committee chairman, pitched the idea Monday.

Typically, Idaho pays for roads from fees assessed on gas or vehicle registrations.

Palmer's measure would depart that tradition, but only after Idaho's revenue reaches certain thresholds.

Once general fund income hits $2.91 billion and education funding exceeds $1.4 billion — both pre-recession records — he'd begin taking a slice of the growing sales tax for roads.

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Idaho Legislature
9:50 am
Sat February 8, 2014

Idaho Democrats To Pitch Plan Raising Idaho's Minimum Wage

Credit Molly Messick / Boise State Public Radio

A Democratic lawmaker will ask her fellow legislators to sign off on a plan to raise Idaho's minimum wage.

But majority Republicans have largely rejected efforts to hike the minimum wage, even as neighboring states' pay goes up.

Idaho's wage is currently aligned with the federal minimum of $7.25, and hasn't gone up since 2009.

The state currently has the highest number of workers earning the minimum wage in the U.S.

Sen. Michelle Stennett's proposal comes alongside a proposed voter initiative that seeks to raise pay to $9.80.

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Politics/Policy
10:02 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Idaho Truckers Want To Increase Gas Tax To Improve Roads

Credit FutureAtlas.com / Flickr Creative Commons

A trucking group says Idaho's 25-cent-per-gallon gas tax should be hiked 6 cents a gallon.

That's according to the Idaho Trucking Association's measure introduced Thursday in the House Transportation Committee, to do it over the next three years. It's considered a longshot to pass.

Truckers pitched the bill on grounds Idaho should get started on tackling an estimated annual $262 million backlog of road and bridge projects.

Still, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has already said highway funding probably won't be an issue in 2014.

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Idaho Legislature
12:16 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Idaho Dairies Want To Stop Activists From Filming

Credit Ambersky235 / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho's $2.5 billion dairy industry wants to put people who film their operations surreptitiously in jail for up to a year, a bid to block animal-rights groups from spying on farms in hopes of catching animal cruelty on tape.

Sen. Jim Patrick of Twin Falls Thursday introduced the measure on the heels of videos produced in 2012 by a group at one of Idaho's largest dairies documenting cows being beaten.

If the measure passes, anybody who enters an agricultural production facility without permission and records operations could face a year behind bars and a $5,000 fine.

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