Monthly Archives: April 2017

What About North Central Idaho Roads?

A lot of attention is being devoted to repairing infrastructure around Idaho, especially in southern Idaho, be it because of recent weather damage or just long term needs, such as along I-84. But north central Idaho residents wonder about needs in this part of the state, as well. Highway 95 between Plummer and Potlatch, for example.  Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (:54)

Listen:

District 5 lawmakers were meeting with constituents Wednesday in Moscow when the question was posed– what about infrastructure needs in this part of the state?

District 5 State Representative Caroline Nilsson-Troy agreed, and pointed to the poor condition of Highway 95 north of Moscow as one example:

Caroline Nilsson-Troy: “Since when does commerce stop at Worley? Because every single thing that we do in this district goes in and out on the roads. All of our agricultural products, all of our timber products, all of our students, go in and out on our road system and this is ridiculous.”

Troy said the answer may lie in building a coalition among north Idaho lawmakers, and getting a stronger voice.

State Senator Dan Foreman said he doesn’t think further borrowing is the answer. He says the state needs to trim the fat out of its budget to help pay for repairs needed for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Posted April 27, 2017

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Idaho State Legislature: 2017 Interim

The 2018 Idaho State Legislature convenes January 8. Between now and then, though, there’s work to be done.

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State lawmakers meet with constituents in various forums and gatherings between legislative sessions. For example, the April 26 meeting of the League of Women Voters in Moscow is scheduled to feature District 5 lawmakers. Town hall-type meetings have been held with lawmakers in Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene since the session ended in March.

Some legislators also work on interim committees to gather information in preparation for the coming session. The Legislative Council appointed the interim committees on March 21.

Here are the interim committees and their tasks, according to the State Legislature’s web site:

  • The Administrative Hearing Officer Committee will “undertake and complete a study of potential approaches to mitigate the risk of bias in contested cases.”
  • The Capitol Services Committee will “address continuing short-and long-term Capitol Building facility issues that impact the Legislature.”
  • The Commercial Vehicle Annual Registration Fee Committee will “complete a study regarding an annual registration fee and an operating fee by weight class based on the total miles the owner operated such vehicle on roads and highways in Idaho.”
  • The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Oversight Committee will “maintain continuous oversight of the Idaho criminal justice reinvestment initiative and related issues.”
  • The Foster Care Study Committee will “complete a study of the foster care system in Idaho.”
  • The Idaho Council on Indian Affairs
  • The Natural Resources Interim Committee will “complete a study of natural resource issues.”
  • The Public School Funding Formula Committee will “complete a study of the Public School Funding Formula” and make recommendations.
  • The State Employee Group Insurance & Benefits Committee will “complete a study of the State’s Employee Group Insurance plan structure and total compensation package, including salary and benefits,” and make recommendations.

All of the interim committees are continuing from previous years, with the exception of the vehicle fee committee. So far, the State Employee Group Insurance & Benefits Committee is scheduled to meet May 4.

The Legislative Council is scheduled again for June 16.

There’s also a special committee that will work this interim on legislative compensation. The Citizens’ Committee on Legislative Compensation will “establish the rate of compensation and expenses for services to be rendered by members of the legislature.”

The Office of Performance Evaluations is preparing several reports, including studies of the Commission on Pardons and Parole, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Additional Issues in Child Welfare, and Residential Care.

Posted April 15, 2017

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UI To Review Thursday Fuel Explosion

Four University of Idaho students injured Thursday while testing model rocket fuel are doing better. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (:58)

Listen:

 

One of the students was discharged from the hospital Friday and three others have been upgraded to good condition, following the explosion Thursday in the parking lot east of the UI Steam Plant in Moscow.

The students were testing model rocket fuel, not trying to launch a rocket or other projectile, during the experiment. The fuel exploded when lit.

Moscow Police Chief James Fry, during a press conference Friday:

James Fry: “At this point in time we are assisting the ATF in their investigation, and at this time it is not a criminal investigation.”

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(UI’s Dan Ewart, left, and Moscow Police Chief James Fry, on Friday, April 14, 2017. Hunter Funk photo)

UI Vice President of Infrastructure Dan Ewart, also at Friday’s press conference:

Dan Ewart:  “The university is cooperating with local law enforcement on their investigation, as well we will be conducting a thorough review of this incident.”

UI President Chuck Staben said in a written statement Friday that the safety of students is always paramount, and he said he was grateful for the fast response from emergency responders.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Posted April 15, 2016

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UI Students Recovering After Model Rocket Fuel Explosion

Four University of Idaho students injured in an explosion of model  rocket fuel Thursday night are out of surgery and recovering today. Idaho Public Radio’s Hunter Funk reports. (:43 )

Listen:

The students are part of a student club called the Northwest Organization of Rocket Engineers, and on Thursday night, club members were in a parking lot east of the UI Steam Plant in Moscow testing fuel designed for model rockets.

The fuel blew up when it was lit.

At a press conference Friday morning, UI Vice President of Infrastructure Dan Ewart said the four are recovering at Gritman Hospital:

Dan Ewart:  “University employees spoke with all four students and their parents both last night and this morning, and our understanding is that all of them are out of surgery and in rovery at this time.”

First responders were on the scene Thursday minutes after the call came in at 9:52 p.m. local time.

An investigation into the incident is underway.

I’m Hunter Funk reporting.

Posted April 14, 2017

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2017 Idaho State Legislature: 80 Days

It was winter when Idaho state lawmakers started, spring by the time they finished. The First Regular Session of the Sixty-Fourth Idaho State Legislature began on January 9, 2017, and on the day it adjourned, March 29, Senate Prom Tem Brent Hill told his fellow senators, “We’ve done some great things.” Listen:

Legislators wrote over 770 pieces of draft legislation, and 530 of those– more than two-thirds– were introduced as bills.

Key issues included transportation, public education and tax relief.

TAX RELIEF

State lawmakers repealed the sales tax on groceries and the grocery tax credit in the same piece of legislation. The reduction would be approximately $79.3 million in taxes on groceries. Governor Otter is still deliberating the bill.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Legislators approved increases in public education for the third session in a row.

For K- 12, the FY ’18 General Fund increase was 6.3%, including an additional $61.9 million to implement the third year of the career ladder teacher  pay system.

Community colleges received a General Fund increase of approximately 6.7%;  4-year colleges and universities saw a General Fund increase of about 2.7%.

TRANSPORTATION

Roads and bridges were a major point of discussion during the latter part of the session. In the end, legislative action included $52 million in immediate disaster relief funding and authorization of up to $300 million in GARVEE bonds to fund transportation projects.

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LAWMAKERS ALSO PASSED:

  • Legislation to ensure that a sexual assault victim will not be denied a medical examination and that an inability to pay for that exam will not be an obstacle to the exam taking place.
  • A bill lawmakers said strengthens public transparency of the oil and gas industry by adding new reporting requirements and revising rights of royalty owners.
  • A bill allowing any person who is a current member of the U.S. armed forces to carry a concealed handgun in the state.
  • A bill revising prohibitions against certain dog racing events.
  • A bill to increase the annual individual state income tax deduction for contributions to a college savings program.
  • Legislation to revises the Idaho Conrad J-1 Visa Waiver Program to preserve slots for the physicians who are needed most.
  • Legislation to revises resident license fees effective December 1, 2017, and authorizing the Fish and Game Commission to implement a price lock system.
  • A bill to establishes standards of training, education and certification of emergency communications officers, emergency call takers and dispatchers.

Idaho Governor Butch Otter has vetoed seven bills in all so far, with final decisions on others pending.

Posted April 9, 2017.

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Former Obama Advisor Calls for Greater Understanding

Robert Malley, former special assistant to President Barack Obama, delivered the keynote address at the 70th annual Borah Symposium at the University of Idaho on April 5, calling for greater understanding between peoples. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (1:10)

Listen:

 

Globalization is nothing new, Robert Malley says. In fact, it’s been around since at least the 1930s. And so, he says, one of the things we can do is have a little perspective about the era we’ve living in:

Robert Malley: “We’ve gone through periods that, in hindsight, look even more crazy, wilder, than what we’re going through today. Both domestically, if you look at the 60s, and internationally, the 70s and 80s, with terrorism, not just what people now call Islamic extremism, but home-grown terrorism in Italy and Germany, and elsewhere. We’re not at the end of the world and this is not a unique moment. There’s a lot here that is not new.”

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However, Malley says the information revolution is something new, the fact that so many people can get information, and the paradox of globalization, he says,  is that people withdraw into much more local forms of identity because of the fear their identities are being stolen away.

In an interview with Idaho Public Radio, Malley said one thing people can do in response is to put themselves in other people’s shoes, to try to understand their motivations, and seeing how others see ourselves. Otherwise, he said, we will just perpetuate the dynamic.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Posted April 6, 2017

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Otter Cites Legislative Actions

Idaho Governor Butch Otter’s office has released a list of 2017 legislative actions which addressed his priorities.

“I started this year’s session by encouraging legislators to continue living up to our shared commitment to education and workforce development. For the most part, they responded positively to that encouragement and I’m grateful for that,” Otter said in a statement.

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Otter also met with reporters on April 3 to respond to the 2017 Idaho State Legislature, which adjourned March 29, at 80 days in length.

Here’s Governor Otter’s list:

  • Fully funding the next phase in the career ladder for Idaho public school teachers.
  • Fully funding the STEM Action Center and its Computer Science Initiative.
  • Approving $1 million for the training of school administrators (Otter had requested $2.5 million).
  • Approving almost $10 million to help school districts pay higher health insurance premiums (Otter had requested $15 million).
  • Approving $5 million in funding for classroom technology (Otter had requested $10 million).
  • Providing $4.25 million teachers’ professional development (Otter had requested $6 million).
  • Providing $2 million a year for expanding and improving college and career counseling in Idaho high schools (Otter had requested $5 million).
  • Approving $35 million for higher education facilities (this includes a U-Idaho agriculture research facility in Twin Falls and a LCSC career technical education building in Lewiston).
  • Approving $2.5 million of the requested $5 million one-time appropriation for the Workforce Development Training Fund.
  • Providing almost $1.9 million for expansion of post-secondary career and technical education programs.
  • Fully funding expansion of residency programs in graduate medical education.
  • Providing $10.3 million to build an adolescent mental health facility in the Treasure Valley.
  • Providing $1.5 million for the remaining costs of standing up behavioral health crisis centers in Twin Falls and Boise.
  • Providing $250,000 for additional foresters to help expand Good Neighbor Authority collaborative forest health projects on federal timberland.
  • Providing $3.1 million for the State’s invasive species program.
  • Providing a 50% increase in funding for the state’s program for protecting sage-grouse.
  • Providing $52 million in emergency funding to address winter weather-caused damage to local infrastructure.
  • The creation of a new division within the Department of Lands on the oil and gas industry.
  • Providing an average 20% fee increase on hunting and fishing licenses for the Idaho Department Fish and Game.
  • Providing for hunting and fishing license fee increases to generate $1 million for prevention of wildlife depredation and higher reimbursements for landowners, and $1 million for enhanced sportsman access.
  • Providing $2 million for the Department of Commerce’s Opportunity Fund to support local economic development efforts (Otter had requested $3 million).
  • Funding for the new position of State Director of Information Security.
  • Providing $100,000 for efforts to convince the Air Force to bring a squadron of F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to Gowen Field in Boise.
  • Authorizing the Department of Administration to enter into negotiations for the state’s purchase of the HP campus in Boise to house the State Tax Commission and other state agencies.
  • Approving bonding authority to finance construction of the proposed Cybercore and Collaborative Computing Center buildings at the Idaho National Laboratory’s Idaho Falls campus.

Posted April 4, 2017

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