Prisons, Press and Sex Offenders

Gov. Butch Otter began shopping his plan to begin immediate construction on a privately built and operated prison, but was met with some skepticism from Legislative leaders Wednesday. Funding for a new prison was not in Otter’s budget, but the state would not have to pay immediately if a prison company was contracted for the work. There is a lengthy piece of legislation that would authorize the privately run prison, but it has not been introduced yet.

Also, House and Senate leaders questioned some of Otter’s other spending at an Idaho Press Club luncheon, the annual raft of sex offender bills are getting heard and ACLU chief Jack Van Valkenburgh is moving on in today’s Daily Newsrack. [updates will be posted throughout the morning.]

Trimming of governor’s budget likely. Legislative leaders voice concerns over economy at Press Club luncheon. Speaker Denney: “There’s a lot of nervousness about funding that 3 percent that’s not going to be there.” College scholarship fund, state employee raises on the chopping block. Druzin in the Statesman.

Otter shopping private private-private prison plan around the Annex. Legislative leaders prefer state owned-private operated, but Otter wants “merchant” prison that will be privately built, owned and operated and stocked with out of state inmates. Initial study showed state-owned prison would be cheaper by 2019, but Otter revised the estimate out to 2042. Miller, AP in the Press Tribune. Popkey in the Statesman.

Workplace, housing protections for gays and lesbians will only get a hearing if it has enough votes to pass committee. Senate leader says if there’s enough votes it will be heard. Sen. Bob Geddes: “What I’m worried about is the consequence of adding one more area to that particular law. It’s not really the issue, in my opinion. People get fired for various reasons but you can go to court for any reason.” 63 percent of Idahoans feel it should be illegal to fire someone for sexual orientation. Hopkins in the Times-News.

Governor, law makers skeptical of math initiative. Luna failed to show governor’s office results from last year; didn’t get funding reccomendation. 1+1=2. Roberts in the Statesman.

Measure would limit siting of transitional housing for sex offenders. Boise Rep. Lynn Luker: “There is a definite need for these homes, and this bill doesn’t try to say that there isn’t a need. The hope is that this bill will at a minimum impose a moratorium on new homes until cities and counties set up a procedure.” Simon Shifrin, AP in the Press Tribune.

County clerks want permanent absentees. It’s not quite vote by mail, or “vote by legislation”. Rep. Tom Loertscher: “Voting really ought to take some effort. It’s a responsibility.” Davidson in the Post Register [subscrip].

CWI opens. College of Western Idaho in Nampa starts sampling of classes with little fanfare. Ryan Rasmussen in the Arbiter.

States slow to comply with health data mandate. Otter’s suggestion for a health data exchange system is part of a federal mandate that has not gone so well in other states. Fisher on Governors health care meet up is traveling around the state… who knew? Monti in the Messenger-Index [partial story].

Keough: Let’s study school funding. Bill would fund non-partisan study of Idaho’s school funding formula to determine if it’s fair. Marlisa Keyes in the Bonner Bee.

Rupert school board split on teacher pay plans. Minidoka county school trustees disagree on Luna merit pay plan. Rich Green in the S. Idaho Press.

$20 million aquifer study introduced. Bill would study groundwater across the state with eye to future water needs. Rep. Reybould: “With the huge development in the Treasure Valley … aquifers are going down.” Dvorak, AP in the Press Tribune.

Vending machine exemption stays put. House Rev and Tax votes to keep tax exemption for candy bars, pop machines fearing operators would just jack up the price. Hopkins in the Times-News.

Idaho ACLU chief Van Valkenburgh to step down. Searching for next big thing. Tom Rider, ACLU Board: “He’s fostered civil liberties in this state more than anybody else. But he never did it from a dogmatic standpoint. It was the right thing to do, and he did it.” Kreller in the Statesman.

Another GOP candidate announces race for Craig seat. Not even David in David v. Goliath matchup for Senate. Brian Hefner of Nampa is god fearing, has no political experience, likes English. Press Tribune.

Idaho roadless plan debated in CDA. First of series of meetings around the state. Jim Riley, Intermountain Forest Association: “Our ideal plan … would look quite different. In the spirit of trying to move forward, we are supporting this plan. It focuses on where there seems to be broad agreement, which is treatment of forests that have significant risk associated with wildfires.” Becky Kramer in the Spokesman [partial access]. Rotten Fruit. Suzanne Jacobsen in the CDA Press.

N. Idaho law makers want to limit adjudication. Two or three bills circulating to stop, limit N. Idaho water adjudication. Shoshone News Press.

Caldwell marine killed himself. Caldwell police: Nick Hill, 22, died of self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on Jan 15. Rodine in the Statesman. Idaho ranks sixth in suicide rate, almost dead last on mental health spending. Strauss in the Press Tribune.

Seven poachers sentenced. Mill Creek poaching ring near Council busted. Jessica Keller in the Argus Observer.

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