Idaho Democratic Chairman replies to his GOP counterpart on health reform

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Keith Roark has replied to GOP Chairman Norm Semanko’s statement that voters will remember that Idaho Democrats side with their counterparts in Congress on health insurance reform and make them pay in the November elections.

Roark called on Republicans to “stop grand-standing with their law suit publicity stunt, to stop wasting taxpayers’ money and get to work.”

What the Legislature taketh away, the Legislature may giveth back

Since 1976, Idahoans have contributed about $1.6 million to state political parties with a $1 checkoff on their Idaho income tax returns.

But that practice — which cost the general fund $1 for every checkoff — is on its last legs. Boise GOP Rep. Lynn Luker's bill to end the practice passed the House 64-1 and the Senate followed suit, 35-0.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Lawerence Denney signed House Bill 379 and sent it to Gov. Butch Otter for his likely signature.

Risch: Senate's a lonely place in the snow

WASHINGTON -- The federal government has just about ground to a halt in the nation's capital, where both the House and Senate have given up on getting anything done in the midst of two record-breaking snowstorms.

"It is like a ghost town around here," said Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, who walked from his home near downtown Washington to his office on Capitol Hill. "I walked from my apartment this morning and there weren’t even taxis on the street. In the building where my office is located very few people showed up for work, but we do have some staff in my office answering the phones."

I know exactly what he's talking about. I trekked into the office Wednesday because my laptop had a virus, and I needed it fixed to be able to work from home. I hiked a mile from home through a near-whiteout in unplowed, unshoveled snow, to the Columbia Heights Metro. Once downtown, the streets were deserted. No taxis, no buses, few cars on the road. When I arrived at the McClatchy Washington Bureau, there were just four other people working. One co-worker brought her snowshoes, just in case she could go out onto the Mall for some fun. (More, after the jump.)

Crapo joins effort to curb EPA authority

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mike Crapo has joined a Republican senator from Alaska in fighting the Environmental Protection Agency's move to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, refineries, manufacturers and other large emitters.

Sen. Lisa Murkowksi, R-Alaska, announced last month she would seek to keep the EPA from drawing up such rules. She did it by filing a "disapproval resolution," a rarely used procedural move that prohibits rules written by executive branch agencies from taking effect. Crapo, R-Idaho, was one of the original co-sponsors of the resolution, and Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, has also signed on as one of the co-sponsors. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, backs a similar measure in the House of Representatives.

"Using this law to regulate these emissions would simply be devastating for our economy," Crapo said in a statement. "I am also very much concerned that the Administration and its allies are trying to use the Clean Air Act to force Congress into passing the ill-advised 'cap and trade' bills that have failed to earn the support of the American people."

Last month, Murkowski warned there would be dire economic consequences if the EPA -- rather than Congress -- writes the rules for how to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

On the other side: the Obama administration, environmentalists, clean air advocates and high-profile elected officials such as Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose state had to fight the EPA under the Bush administration to allow California to adopt tougher emissions standards. Schwarzenegger urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to oppose "any effort in the Senate to block EPA's efforts to enforce the Clean Air Act to fight global climate change."

Meet your District 18 legislators

State legislators from Boise's District 18 in South Boise, Sen. Kate Kelly and Reps. Branden Durst and Phylis King, are once again hosting legislative forums during the 2010 session.

The first forum is at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb 16 at Maple Grove Elementary School, 2800 S. Maple Grove Rd. in the auditorium or library.

A second forum is at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 16, at Timberline High School in the choir room again.

All are welcome, and the lawmakers are inviting those who can't come in person to comment or ask a question via email:

Tea Party Boise sets first annual members meeting, RSVP by Monday

Tea Party Boise, Idaho's largest such group with about 2,000 members, is holding its first annual meeting next month in Meridian.

The group will meet March 13 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Courtyard Marriott, 1789 S. Eagle Road. A $5 donation is requested and RSVPs are expected by Monday at

The agenda includes discussion of a recent survey that received about 350 responses from members to questions including whether the group should remain nonpartisan, issue ratings on candidates and host debates.

Budget director: Use the lower revenue forecast

Budget director Wayne Hammon said he and Gov. Butch Otter favor using $2.28 billion as the budget target for fiscal year 2010 — even though Idaho’s chief economist is standing by his revenue forecast of $2.349 billion.

“The governor believes it’s more prudent to budget to the lower number,” Hammon said Wednesday.

Tuesday, Mike Ferguson — the state’s chief economist — told House Democrats that despite a shortfall in December and January revenue numbers he did not see a reason to revise his revenue forecast.

Ward gets another boost from National Republican Congressional Committee

Despite the entry of state Rep. Raul Labrador into the GOP primary for 1st District Congress, the campaign committee run by House Republicans continues to back first-time candidate Vaughn Ward.

On Wednesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee said in a news release that Ward had reached "Young Gun" status, the top level of its three-level Young Guns program.

"By advancing to the program’s top tier, Ward has proven his ability to build a winning campaign and achieve substantial fundraising goals," said the NRCC release.

Idaho GOP Chairman Semanko says voters will punish Democrats backing health insurance reform

Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko says voters will remember that 18 Democrats in the Idaho House "sided with their counterparts in Washington, instead of standing up for the people of Idaho" on a vote requiring the state to sue the United States over any health insurance mandates.

All 52 House Republicans voted for the Health Freedom Act on Tuesday, with all 18 Democrats opposed. House Bill 391 is now in the hands of the Senate.

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Rep. Jaquet suggests 50/50 compromise on Luna's reserve plan

As the Idaho Land Board prepares to meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday on a proposal by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna to draw $53 million from the Public Schools Earnings Reserve Fund, an influential Democrat is proposing splitting the difference.

"If the Land board is reluctant to part with $53 million dollars for schools, how about half of it?," wrote Rep. Wendy Jaquet in her weekly "Legislative Update" to constituents on Wednesday.

Jaquet, of Ketchum, was House Minority Leader from 2000-2008. She now sits on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

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