Monthly Archives: March 2019

Idaho State Legislature– Week 12

Some Idaho lawmakers had been holding out hope that the legislative session might wrap up by Friday, March 29, at the end of Week 12, but it was not to be.

It is not clear at this point how long the legislative session may go– lawmakers have mentioned perhaps Wednesday, April 3. We’ll see how the remaining work unfolds.

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(Screen grab: ‘Idaho in Session,’ March 29, 2019)

The Idaho House on Friday passed S 1159, the bill to tighten the requirements to get an initiative or referendum on the ballot in Idaho. House lawmakers also passed H 296, a trailer to the Senate bill.

There was extended debate in the House. As examples:

“This is not an action to prevent voters,” Rep. Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay) said in presenting the bill. “It is an action to encourage voters, to make sure that the system of elected representation is working correctly.”

“No government should ever fear a vote by the people,” Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) said on the House floor, debating against the bill.

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(Cheyenne McCurry photo)

In some of the other news:

• H 122, the hemp research and development act, was amended in the Senate Wednesday to clarify interstate transportation of hemp. It is on the THird Reading Calendar in the Senate.

• There were no Senate amendments on Thursday for S 1204, a Medicaid expansion sideboards bill, and it stayed in the 14th Order.

• The Idaho House on Wednesday approved H 289, the FY ’19 supplemental appropriation of almost $10.6 million for a State Capitol remodel designed to give House lawmakers more space, and involving the relocation of the State Treasurer. It is on the Senate Calendar in Second Reading.

• After considerable debate, the Idaho House voted 31-39 to reject HR 6, the resolution from Dist. 7 Rep. Priscilla Gidding calling for an end to Christian persecution.

• The Idaho House State Affairs Committee passed amended legislation creating a federalism committee. It’s on the House calendar.

• The Idaho Senate has approved a concurrent resolution authorizing an interim committee to study the effect of Medicaid expansion on counties. It goes to the House.

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The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Friday approved a new FY ‘20 appropriation bill for the Idaho State Board of Education; it totals about $15.3 million.

A new appropriation bill was needed after the original was defeated in the House.

The bill removes funds for the School Turnaround Act, which was defeated in the House.

JFAC estimates there are four trailer appropriations to come.

 

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Week 13 begins on Monday, April 1, 2019. Monday is the 85th legislative day of the 65th Idaho Legislature.

Reporters Cheyenna McCurry and Glenn Mosley contributed to this report.

Posted March 31, 2019.

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Veto Tour Stops in Moscow

Reclaim Idaho’s ‘Veto Tour’ was in north Idaho this weekend, talking to voters and urging Idaho Governor Brad Little to veto the ballot initiatives bill. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (1:13)

Listen:

The organizers of the ‘Veto Tour’ say they know people are exhausted, especially if they were involved in the campaign that led to Idaho’s new Medicaid expansion law. But the issues around the legislation tightening the state’s ballot initiative process are important, and so they are back on the road in their green bus.

Here’s Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville, speaking in Moscow on Saturday:

Luke Mayville: “We’ve entered into a political crisis in Idaho. That’s really what it is. Because what they’re proposing to do right now in Boise, a lot of it behind closed doors, would fundamentally change the balance of power in Idaho.”

Mayville’s referring to the ballot initiatives bills passed by Idaho lawmakers that have become very contentious this session. One would toughen the requirements to get an initiative on the ballot; a second bill would reduce the requirements, but Mayville told the Moscow gathering the second bill is as bad the first.

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Backers of the legislation have said the bills are needed to give rural voters an equal voice in the initiative process.

In Moscow on Saturday, Reclaim Idaho urged voters to reach out to Idaho Governor Brad Little and call on him to veto the bills.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Previous coverage:

https://idahopublicradio.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/idaho-house-passes-initiatives-bill/

 

Posted March 31, 2019

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#IdahoWomen100 Celebration

by Cheyenne McCurry

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

 

Idaho Women 100 honors the state’s “courageous past, unlimited future” through statewide celebrations of women’s suffrage and success.

The Idaho Women In Leadership (I-WIL) and Idaho State Historical Society partnered with several organizations throughout Idaho including League of Women’s Voters of Idaho and American Association of University Women to create the Idaho Women 100 Campaign.

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(Cheyenna McCurry photo)

“We’re inviting anyone to come together, whether it’s a tribe or a city or a county, everybody together makes this happen,” Janet Gallimore, executive director of Idaho State Historical Society, said in an interview.

2020 will mark 100 years of women’s right to vote by the ratification of the 19th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution on August 18, 1920. Idaho, however, became the fourth state to grant women’s voting right and the first state to do so by constitutional amendment.

The Idaho Women 100 Campaign launched on Thursday, March 28, during Women’s History Month, to commemorate the 100th anniversary and kickoff a yearlong celebration across Idaho.

First Lady Teresa Little opened the event by revealing her great-grandfather, Daniel Gamble, was among the Idaho State Representatives who voted in 1896 to pass the right for women to vote.

In 1898, the first statewide election after women were granted the right to vote, Permeal French was elected as the first woman Superintendent of Public Instruction along with three other women elected to legislature, according to the Idaho State Historical Society.

Since then, Idaho has continued to rank above the nation for percentage of women in legislature. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Idaho reported at 30.5% of women representation in legislature compared to the national percentage of 28.7 in 2019.

Representative Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls) and Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) also spoke at the event, noting Idaho’s historical year of the election of the state’s first female lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin.

“I’m incredibly proud of the women who I have the honor of working with in the Idaho state Senate and the rest of the legislature,” Sen. Stennett said.

Horman says she visits an exhibit in the Idaho State Capitol that honors past Idaho women who’ve served in the legislature when she needs a little extra inspiration.

Idaho Women 100 also recognized on Thursday the Idaho Business Review’s 2019 Woman of the Year, Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb (D-Boise). Buckner-Webb was elected to Idaho’s House of Representatives in 2010 and then to the Idaho Senate in 2012, becoming the first African-American woman in both positions.

Buckner-Webb’s Senate seat replacement at the end of the 2019 session and long-time friend, Yvonne McCoy, spoke at the event on Buckner-Webb’s behalf about how women’s suffrage makes everyone’s vote count.

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(Cheyenna McCurry photo)

“Tell them why their vote does count,” McCoy said. “Tell them that the true equality of women depends on having more women in powerful positions.”

Lori Otter, Idaho’s former first lady and I-WIL CEO, said, “We look forward to more women holding office, running companies, owning businesses and leading initiatives in your communities.”

The Idaho Women 100 plans to commission several legacy projects during the centennial year to honor the yearlong celebration of women’s suffrage in Idaho, including a book, a statute and a documentary.

“We in America must never take for granted our precious right to vote; we must not forget how we got here, and we must not forget the brave women who fought on our behalf,” McCoy said.

If you would like to organize, donate or participate in an Idaho Women 100 event, go to http://www.idahowomen100.com to find out how.

Posted March 30, 2019

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Farmworker Awareness Week

2019 is the 20th annual National Farmworker Awareness Week, a week of action to raise awareness about farmworker issues in our communities and around the country.

Events at the University of Idaho in Moscow were held the week of March 25-31, 2019. Here’s a look at some of those activities.

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(Isabel Robles photo)

The Bandana Project raises awareness of workplace sexual violence against farmworker women.

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(Lauren Fereday photo)

There was a long sleeve shirt, hat, and glove drive. The collected items are donated to help Idaho farm-workers protect themselves against the sun and pesticide exposure.

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The keynote lecture featured Dr. José Moreno Hernández, an engineer and former NASA astronaut. “Thank you for giving me the honor of being able to stand in front of you and share my story,’ Hernández told an audience on March 26. “If you take anything away today, it is hopefully the feeling of empowerment that anything is possible in life.

“Regardless of your socioeconomic background, I am here to tell you anything is possible. The American dream is alive and well,”  Hernández said. “But you know what? It’s up to you. If you’re willing to put in the time, you’re willing to get your education, and work hard, I’m here to tell you you can reach– the sky’s not the limit any more, it’s the stars, and I am living proof of that.”

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(Connor Swersey photo)

 

Other events included a Free Speech Wall display, a blood drive, and “Voces del Campo,” pictured above, which featured performances gathered from local migrant and seasonal farm-workers. Themes included surviving interpersonal violence to empowerment through comunidad.

Posted March 30, 2019

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Reporting, Not Activism

by Mackenzie Lauritzen

Idaho Public Radio

 

With the Green New Deal and other climate related issues being discussed daily, Kendra Pierre-Louis’ University of Idaho Oppenheimer Ethics Symposium lecture Thursday night couldn’t have been more timely.

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(Photo by Analise Salazar)

Pierre-Louis is a climate reporter for The New York Times, and her talk titled “Is Gloom My Beat? Reporting on Our Changing Planet” provided unique insight into the intricacies of climate reporting and her role as a reporter, not an activist.

“I don’t write about policy decisions and I don’t try to sway readers to vote for a certain policy over another policy,” Pierre-Louis said. “That’s not my role. The fact is, my duty is to report the facts and I try to do that as best as I can.”

Reporting about the facts doesn’t always cut it, however, as she says she must always remember she’s writing for the majority of Americans who have a varying understanding of climate change.

To help appeal to the majority of Americans, Pierre-Louis simplifies scientific information into relatable terms, connects with people on a personal level, is honest about uncertainties scientists may offer and is okay with being a little weird.

“Most people don’t know what anthropogenic means, so when I communicate scientific information, I try to simplify it as much as possible,” Pierre-Louis said. “My job is to avoid adding additional hurdles to already dense information. For example, there’s a scientific distinction between global warming and climate change, but for most people that distinction doesn’t matter, so it doesn’t matter to me.”

The majority of people believe that climate change is occurring but, most importantly, accept the science, Pierre-Louis said. People who were born after 1976 have never experienced a normal temperature year, making climate change an issue that impacts everyone, she said.

The Oppenheimer Ethics Symposium is held annually by the University of Idaho’s School of Journalism and Mass Media, and is underwritten by university alumni Douglas F. Oppenheimer, president of Boise-based Oppenheimer Companies, and Arthur F. Oppenheimer, chairman of the board.

Posted March 30, 2019

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Idaho House Passes Two Initiatives Bills

 

The Idaho House today passed S 1159, the bill to tighten the requirements to get an initiative or referendum on the ballot in Idaho.

House lawmakers also passed H 296, a trailer to the Senate bill.

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The vote was 40-30 to pass S 1159.

“This is not an action to prevent voters,” Rep. Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay) said in presenting the bill. “It is an action to encourage voters, to make sure that the system of elected representation is working correctly.”

“This bill provides certainty,” Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) said. “It provides predictability.”

The bill would require that those attempting to put an initiative on the ballot would need to get signatures from 10 percent of voters in 32 of the state’s 35 districts. The current requirement is signatures from 6 percent of voters in 18 districts.

The bill would also reduce the time required to gather those signatures from 18 months to about six months.

“No government should ever fear a vote by the people,” Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) said on the House floor, debating against the bill.

“Are we for the Constitution, or are we against the Constitution?” Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird) said, in opposition.

District 5 State Reps. Caroline Nilsson Troy and Bill Goesling voted against the bill, and its trailer, H 296, which also passed on Friday.

The House voted 47-22 to pass the trailer, which makes some alterations to the Senate bill, and would require that the signatures be gathered from two-thirds of legislative districts, rather than 32 of 35. H 296 would also extend the time to gather signatures to nine months.

Both Troy and Goesling had expressed reservations about S 1159 during a March 23 ‘Coffee with District 5 Legislators’ event hosted by the Moscow Chamber of Commerce.

Opponents have been calling on Idaho Governor Brad Little to veto the legislation.

“Governor Little was elected by the same voters who went to the polls to vote for Medicaid expansion,” House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding said in a statement. “Those voters are counting on him to save their right to have a say in the laws that govern their lives. I hope that he will listen to all the Idaho families who are pleading with him to veto this troubling legislation.”

Opponents are conducting a ‘Veto Tour’ around the state, and will be making stops on Saturday in McCall, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene, and Sandpoint. On Sunday they’ll be in Lewiston and Grangeville.

Posted March 29, 2019.

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Former Idaho AGs on S 1159

Four former Idaho attorneys general wrote an op-ed on S 1159, the bill to change the voter initiative process, and it was circulated to media outlets. Here it is.

 

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Honorable members of the Idaho House of Representatives:

We had the privilege and honor of serving this hallowed body from 1971 to 1991. In doing so, we developed a deep respect for the legislative process, as exercised primarily by the Legislature but also by the people through the initiative and referendum. The initiative and referendum serve as an important part of the systems of checks and balances written into the Idaho Constitution by those who hold all political power in our dear State—the people.

Article I, section 2 of the Idaho Constitution declares: “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same whenever they may deem it necessary.” In 1890, the people approved the Idaho Constitution, which delegated a portion of their power–the legislative power–to the Legislature.

However, 22 years later the people decided to take back some of the delegated legislative power out of concern that legislators might ignore or violate their wishes. A populist movement was sweeping the country, largely fueled by farmers who were being oppressed by railroads, oil monopolies, and other powerful special interests. The oppressors were being aided by legislatures that they essentially controlled.

In order to get around unresponsive legislatures beholden to the special interests, the people adopted two constitutional amendments in 1912. The initiative, which insured the right of the people to enact laws, was approved by 71.92%, and the referendum, which could affirm or repeal laws, got a 76.39% vote.

Senate Bill 1159 would largely nullify the legislative power the people reserved for their protection in 1912. The legislation would make it virtually impossible to qualify an initiative or referendum for the ballot. Its oppressive signature requirements would likely have prevented the Medicaid expansion initiative, and most of the previous initiatives and referenda, from coming to a public vote.

The people of Idaho have not misused the initiative/referendum process.  Although the process was put into the Constitution in 1912, the referendum did not come into play until 1936, when the voters killed a 2% sales tax bill passed by the Legislature. The initiative was not used until 1938, when the voters established the Idaho Fish and Game Commission by a vote of 75.98%. It has been sparingly used since then. But, even if it had arguably been abused by the voters, it is their constitutional power.

When the Legislature failed to limit dredge mining in riverbeds and require restoration of dredged areas, the people approved an initiative in 1954 to get the job done. It passed by a whopping 85.28%. It is doubtful that many nowadays would regard the people’s decision to have been misguided.

The initiative has been used when there is legislative paralysis on tax issues. The voters approved an initiative in 1978, limiting property tax increases to 1% of property value. In 1982, the people approved a residential property tax exemption of 50% or $50,000.

This should not be a partisan issue. The initiative and referendum have been used over the years by members of both parties and others with varied interests. These instruments of people power serve as a safety valve and check on power when the interests of the Legislature fail to align with those of the voting public.

Placing unreasonable restrictions on the initiative/referendum process should be looked upon with skepticism. After all, the Idaho Constitution clearly specifies that the people have the unfettered right to “alter, reform or abolish” the government “whenever they may deem it necessary.” How can the people possibly exercise that awesome power if the Legislature cuts off practically every reasonable means of doing so?

Passage of Senate Bill 1159 will likely be just the first chapter in a divisive fight. It appears that at least two initiative petitions have been filed to challenge provisions of the bill at the 2020 election. There will likely be a court fight over whether the old signature requirements apply or whether the SB 1159 requirements apply. In addition, court challenges to the constitutionality of the bill are in the offing.

The courts may decide that Senate Bill 1159 is an unconstitutional restriction on the people’s legislative power. We urge that you put a stop to the struggle over the right of the people to have their say in the legislative process by voting down SB 1159.

 

Tony Park, 1971-1975

Wayne Kidwell, 1975-1979

Dave Leroy, 1979-1983

Jim Jones, 1983-1991