Friday, March 7, 2014

Starting to Count Down

I think it's a fairly unanimous call ringing throughout the Statehouse - "We're going to be done by the 21st."

Here's a brief update on what's been going on in the Idaho Legislature since my last post. To put it simply -- a LOT has been going on. We've past the "date of no return," in other words, no more new legislation can be introduced, and today is the goal date for the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, the budget-setters, to wrap up the state's 2015 budget.

Here's the update from The Argonaut --

The full House passed Senate Bill 1254, the bill that would allow concealed firearm carry on Idaho college and university campuses, by a 50-19 vote. It will now be moving on to Gov. Otter's desk -- and in the past he said he supports it.

JFAC set the budget for 4-year colleges and universities, giving them a 6.6% increase in funding along with a 2% uptick in employee compensation.

Otter signed the "ag-gag" bill -- Senate Bill 1337 -- the one that would punish activists who surreptitiously gather photos or video of an agricultural production without owner permission. The bill stemmed from a video of employees severely abusing cows at a large southern Idaho dairy. But, Greek yogurt maker Chobani wrote a letter to Gov. Otter requesting he veto. He's one of the key stakeholders in the dairy business, as his $450 million-dollar factory brought over 500 jobs to Twin Falls, Idaho. There have been no statements that Otter will reconsider.

And finally, Otter is officially running for a third term as Idaho governor. That is all.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Session in Review

The 62nd Idaho Legislature will begin its third month of session in two weeks, bringing with it a considerable number of bills moving through both the House and Senate side for further review.

President Pro Tempore Brent Hill said the session is looking to end right on their goal date of March 21, and much business is taking place on the House and Senate floor week after week to ensure ending by that goal.

Two of the state's primary topics – education funding and justice reinvestment – have moved smoothly from each side of the Statehouse.

Funding education
Joint chairs of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, said education is in the forefront of JFAC's mind while setting the budget for fiscal year 2015.

While putting the state's budget together, they said it is very much a piece-by-piece process.

“We either set (the education budget) first to make sure we can put everything we've got into it, or we set it last to make sure we've gathered everything we can for it,” Cameron said.

JFAC has set March 7 as their target date to have the budget completed. The state public education budget is the single largest budget in the state's ledger book.

Reinvesting in justice
Figuring out just how the Idaho State Prisons would change hands from private contracted control to state control has been an issue for select lawmakers since June 2013.

Marc Pelka, program director of the Council of State Government Justice Center has collaborated with lawmakers over the past eight months to create a batch of policies to decrease recidivism and increase responsible spending within state's the prison system. By tweaking programming and establishing a process focusing on treatment and probation, the state is able to save millions of dollars by not having to build a new prison facility.

Senate Bill 1254 – One of the most-discussed issues of the session, this bill would allow concealed gun carry on state university and college campuses. After passing through the full Senate by a 25-10 vote, the bill is currently in review by the House. It is expected to be up for hearing later this week.

SB 1271 – A bill sponsored by one of the newest senators to the Idaho Legislature, Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, in conjunction with 13-year-old Ilah Hickman, to make the Idaho giant salamander the state's official amphibian. Hickman pitched the idea to a House committee last year but never received a hearing. This year the Senate State Affairs Committee voted in favor of the bill, and it will next move to the House for approval before landing on the governor's desk for introduction to law.

SB 1327 – The full Senate voted unanimously to allow schools to supply Epi-Pens and similar allergy-related lifesaving items in case of an unexpected and severe allergic reaction. The bill will now move through the House for continued examining.

SB 1337 – Called the “ag-gag” bill, this would criminalize taking video or photos of an agricultural-based operation without owner permission. The bill was created following the leak of a video containing images of severe abuse to cows at a large southern Idaho dairy. The House Agriculture Committee voted 13-1 in favor of the bill.

SB 1357 – Called the “justice reinvestment bill,” this bill utilizes the study crafted by the Council of State Government Justice Center to reduce the percentage of the prison population that soon re-offends after being released and rework programming and sentencing to save space in the prisons. It received unanimous support from the Senate Judiciary Committee and is currently moving to the full Senate.

House Bill 426 – This bill presented another hot-button bill in this session of the legislature. Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, 426 would protect professional liscensure in the case of violations when citing “sincerely held religious beliefs.” This bill never received a public hearing, and isn't likely to advance.

HB 427 – Luker's companion bill to HB 426, this bill would make it legal to protect individuals who deny services to others if they cite religious beliefs. Following a three-and-a-half hour public hearing largely in disapproval of the bill, it passed through the House State Affairs Committee on a 11-5 vote to general orders, but isn't likely to advance for the remainder of the session.

HB 470 – Gov. Otter listed wolves as one of his main priorities in the State of the State address Jan. 6, 2014. Now, HB 470 is bringing that priority into focus by injecting $2 million into the creation and operation of a state board to manage the wolf population. The House voted 49-16 in favor of creating the board. Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, said the state is increasingly losing control over the population, and 35 to 40 percent the wolf population needs to be harvested each year to maintain balance.

HB 504 – This house bill would grant $15.8 million in leadership bonuses to Idaho teachers, beginning next year. Both the House and Senate Education Committees are working to bring Idaho's teacher salaries and educational programming more in like with the recommendations made by the Governor's Task Force to Improve Education. HB 504 would set up a reward system in which teachers deemed deserving by their district receive the awards. The bill passed through the full House in a 62-6 vote then passed through the Senate Education Committee and will soon be seen by the full Senate. If approved by the full Senate, it will travel to Gov. Otter's desk to become law.

Monday, February 24, 2014

ISU Nuclear Program At Risk

Since the passing of Senate Bill 1254 – the bill allowing concealed gun carry on state university and college campuses – Idaho State University has raised issue with Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter concerning their nuclear research unit.

ISU's nuclear research unit runs on the guidelines set by the national Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has a zero-tolerance policy regarding firearms at licensed nuclear facilities. ISU President Arthur Vailas told Otter the research program is at risk if the legislature continues to support introducing concealed firearms on campus.

Gov. Otter said he had no idea as to the commission's guidelines.

SB 1254 is scheduled for a committee hearing in the House State Affairs Committee Thursday, Feb. 27.

Read Spokesman-Review reporter Betsy Russell's story here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Playing Catch-Up

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, stands to debate Senate Bill 1254 -
the highly-controversial bill allowing concealed weapons on campus
Tuesday, Feb. 18 on the Senate Floor. The bill passed 25-10.
What a whirlwind week! Even if a lowly reporter like me is down with a bad cold, the legislature must go on.

This week we've seen the S.E.C.U.R.E Idaho Campuses Act -- Senate Bill 1254 -- pass through the full Senate by a 25-10 vote, as well as the pulling of Rep. Lynn Luker's highly controversial religious freedoms bills from the House reading calendar. I suspect they're both pulled for the remainder of the session, but we'll see.

Here's a quick update on stories from Boise in The Argonaut:

Breaking barriers to post secondary education, right here.

Campus carry continues, the bill passed through the Senate Floor. Read that here.

Finding fiscal balance, right here.

Read today's edition of The Argonaut right here.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Breakfast with the Governor

Chapter President Clark Corbin is moderating
the "on-the-record" meeting today.
Nearly every reporter in the area is gathered at Beside Bardenay, a downtown Boise eatery, for the annual "Breakfast with the Governor" put on by the Idaho Press Club. Here, we get Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for nearly an hour and all information is on the record and up for grabs.

Here's an update on work in The Argonaut:

Religious protections bill up for hearing, receives negative response

Combining technology, education: Technology to bolster SBOE efforts

Students say no to concealed carry: UI, ISU, BSU student body representatives vote against concealed campus carry

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Friday, February 7, 2014

Update from The Argonaut

UI Interim President Don Burnett sits
next to other state college and
university presidents at the SBOE meeting
Monday, Feb. 3.
Here's a link to an interactive and readable PDF copy of today's Argonaut.

Happy Friday!

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Luker's Bill Receives a Hearing

"Add the Words" organizer Mistie Tolman speaks at the Add the Words
rally Jan. 11 at the Capitol. Tolman testified against HB427 today in front
of the House State Affairs Committee.
Rep. Lynn Luker's religious freedom bill is currently in a public hearing in the House Affairs Committee room at the Capitol here. The crowd was, correctly, expected to be large and organizers set up an overflow room.

There are currently 21 individuals listed to testify, and the group is roughly one-half of the way through the list.

So far, only two individuals have testified in support of the bill. Julie Lynde and a member of the board of directors of Cornerstone Family Council said the bill is a necessary technical update to Idaho's current laws.

You can listen to the rest of the hearing live right here.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

What I'm Reading - Aside from Boise Work

February's Cover Girl: Mallory Faye.
First off, loving Februrary's edition of HaveHeart Magazine. It's a great online publication that just launched on New Year's Eve, created by Moscow, Idaho native Heather Evans. I'm a freelancer for this mag and I absolutely love it! We have the option to write about so many fun topics, all with a great overarching theme: real women, real beauty, real stories. And we have a strict anti-PhotoShop policy to back that up.

Here's my recipe for an incredible Spinach-Walnut Pizza.

A review on the best E.L.F crayon-style lipsticks to travel with.

Find more about HaveHeart:
@HaveHeartMag on Twitter

Adventurous Kate, working from home.

I'm also loving the travel blog, Adventurous Kate. She's a twenty-something who lives in Boston working as a freelance writer when she's not chipping away at her goal to travel the globe. I love the fact that she's just plain practical and, well, adventurous. 

For (brutally honest, applicable and useful) advice on saving money for traveling, look no farther than her blog.

She also writes about balancing work and travel, packing tips and her own international recommendations. What can I say? I think I've got the travel bug.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

In the Argonaut

A photo taken yesterday, another group of
silent protesters stand at the top of the stairs,
blocking entrance to the second floor of the Capitol.
Here are quick links to my stories in the Argonaut.

Right of way for rights bill, on the upcoming service-denial bill - found here.

SBOE votes no concealed carry, on the State Board of Education's decision to reject SB-1254 on allowing firearms on campus -- link found here.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Monday, February 3, 2014

Arrests at the Capitol, "Add the Words" activists create human blockade

A photo taken today by Melissa Davlin from Idaho Reports. Police
reports said  all 43 were arrested as they barred access to the
Senate Chambers. 
It's been an eventful day here at the Capitol. We started off with a special meeting of the State Board of Education in which the unanimously voted to reject Senate bill 1254 - a bill allowing firearms on college and university campuses with few restrictions.

But in the midst of the SBOE meeting, my Twitter began blowing up with reports of protesters being arrested in groups. 43 "Add the Words" activists silently lined up, hands over their mouths, in front of the access to the Senate Chambers.

Judge J. Clifford Wallace addressed the crowd at the Denton Darrington
Annual Lecture on Law and Government today at 4 p.m. in the Capitol's
Lincoln Auditorium.
Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, asked them to step aside and they refused. Within minutes, officers were on the scene and arresting protesters in groups of five and escorting them to a conference room on the fourth floor of the Capitol. They were issued misdemeanor trespassing citations and then escorted out of the building. The protesters were told they were allowed to return as long as they don't disturb further proceedings.

The day was concluded with the first edition of the Denton Darrington Annual Lecture on Law and Government, featuring Judge J. Clifford Wallace of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit as appointed by Nixon.

Whew. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Friday, January 31, 2014

Capitol Report for KUOI

Just posted - here's an update on my stories broadcast on KUOI, the University of Idaho's student-ran radio station.

Link found here.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

LGBT service-denial bill passes in committee

Here's a brief right from the pages of the Argonaut - find the link here.
BOISE — The House State Affairs Committee in the Idaho Legislature unanimously passed a bill that would allow businesses and medical professionals to deny service to gay individuals, as well as unmarried mothers, without losing licensure — as long as they cite religious beliefs.
Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, said the bill would also allow teachers to deny educating a student if they are gay.
Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, is a proponent for the “Add the Words” campaign — a campaign to add equal protections for the state’s LGBT population to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Burgoyne said Luker’s bill is bringing an opportunity to have a conversation in the legislature about the state’s slashing equal rights for gays. He said he is hoping to change minds on the issue before the bill is passed.
There is no date set for the hearing. More information will be available next week.
Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Week in review

Jeff Brooks, chair of UI's Department of Leadership and Counseling
 gives a presentation to educators and students on leadership
and curriculum needs to celebrate the 125th birthday of UI.
Brooks has lived in Boise for six months and Idaho's biggest
problem in education is crafting a connection between curriculum
and the various ways students process information.

Wow - this week has brought with it a lot of rumbling in the Idaho legislature. So much I haven't quite had time to update the blog. Here are a few quick links to my stories in The Argonaut with a bit of a review.

Here's the official Argonaut updated on Campus Carry. Link found here.

Here's a piece celebrating the 125th birthday of the University of Idaho on Vandals working in Boise. Link found here.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Monday, January 27, 2014

Campus carry

(L-R): Sen. Fulcher, secretary Twyla Melton, Chairman Senator McKenzie
prepare to discuss workers' compensation rights, Idaho's draft legislation,
wine manufacturing and campus carry. 

The Senate Affairs Committee is meeting now to discuss multiple subjects, one of them being campus gun carry. The University of Idaho currently allows students to store personal firearms in a lock box in the "police substation," and allows students to check out their firearms for recreational use. 

Campus carry is the last item on today's agenda. I'll be posting the Associated Student's of the University of Idaho, ASUI's, official statement once it's official.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rebooting Otter's executive budget

Here's the full story from the Argonaut on Mike Ferguson's "Responsible Alternative to the Executive Budget."

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Meet the Vandals"

The University of Idaho sponsored "Meet the Vandals" at the Riverside Hotel in Boise yesterday to educate prospective students and their parents. The event offered seminars on financial aid and student life, and also included an opportunity for students to apply to the university.

Here's a shot published in the Argonaut today of ASUI lobbyist Ashley Morehouse answering questions at the event. Morehouse will be living in Boise until the end of the legislative session -- her main duty is to discuss the needs of UI students with state legislators.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

New session, new ideas

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter gives the  State of the State address Monday, Jan. 6  in the House Chambers. Otter said furthering education funding tops  his list of priorities for the 2015 budget.
Update from The Argonaut. Read the full article here. Published Jan. 16.

BOISE — Today marks the end of the second week of the 2014 legislative session, and much has been discussed, beginning with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s State of the State address Jan. 6. 

 In it, Otter said his three primary goals for this year’s budget are education, securing state water and control of Idaho’s wolf population, but other issues including the changing hands of the Idaho Correctional Facility, an increase in state employee compensation and more have crossed the desks of legislators so far.

Otter introduced his “blueprint for going forward,” which will include a focus on K-through-Career education funding and a five-year plan to replenish the state’s rainy day funds.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Monday, January 20, 2014

Also today, the "alternative budget"

(Left to Right): Mike Ferguson, Cindy Wilson, Jerry Evans, Mike Lanza.
Boise high school teacher and member of the Gov.'s Task
Force to Improve Education Cindy Wilson speaks during a press conference
today at 10:30 a.m. about the newly-released "Responsible Alternative
to the Executive Budget" created by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy.
Today also brought with it a press conference announcing the "Responsible Alternative to the Executive Budget" formulated by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy.

Michael Ferguson, director of the policy center, said the budget plan would significantly increase funding for education, educators and public schools - by nearly $70 billion, in fact.

"While (the alternative budget) reflects a vastly different set of priorities than embodied in (Otter's) Executive Budget, it relies on the Executive Budget for basic parameters and framework used in developing a state budget," Ferguson said. "It is intended to show that Idaho does have the resources in fiscal year 2015 to provide meaningful increases to Idaho's public schools."

The press conference included three other speakers.
Jerry Evans: Was superintendent of public instruction for 16 years.
Marilyn Howard: Was superintendent of public instruction for 7 years.
Cindy Wilson: Teacher at Capital High School in Boise and member of the Gov.'s education task force.
Mike Lanza: Organizer of state-wide anti-"Students Come First" legislation and also member of the Gov.'s task force.

The alternative budget would also include an 4% change in employee compensation, $35 million to the Department of Health and Welfare budget, as well as a call for a reinvestment of $30 million into the state of Idaho rather than relinquish the dollars for tax reductions.

Find the complete report and alternative budget plan here.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Education Week at the Capitol

Education week in Boise began at 8 a.m. with a presentation from Idaho State Board of Education President Don Soltman. Here are some quick facts from his presentation:

SBOE President Don Soltman
presented to JFAC today at 8 a.m.
Soltman said Idaho education may be
at a tough place now, but with
further funding will improve.

  • Idaho's high school graduation rate is currently within the top 10 in the country at 84%
  • The state's rate of high school grads next entering into post-secondary education is one of the nation's lowest at 46%, having just fallen from 49% in 2012
  • Here's Idaho breakdown of higher-ed student demographics:
    • Academic Undergraduate: 82,716 students
    • Graduate/Professional: 12,700
    • Professional/Technical: More than 4,000

The SBOE is pushing for reform in what Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter coined "K-through-Career" education to achieve what could be a touch feat - 60% of all Idahoans between the ages of 25-34 to earn a professional or technical certificate by year 2020. The state is currently sitting at 35%, (5% lower than the national average) but Soltman didn't have data on whether that number was influenced by or included students whom have left the state for higher-ed opportunities.

SBOE is aiming for 60% following a survey taken on 450 Idaho business leaders. Following the survey, they found that business leaders project 67.4% of all Idaho jobs will require a professional/technical certificate or diploma.

"Education makes a difference for our economy and our individuals - it's an investment," Soltman said. "I know we have a challenge convincing our population to invest in education."

The SBOE will present again Friday, Jan. 24. More information to come.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Phone Photos, Week 2

From learning about the state's upcoming legislation on criminal justice reinvestment to trail running with Poncho the dog, here photos from Week 2 in Boise.

Poncho is enjoying Boise thoroughly. 

Sen. Patti Lodge, R-Huston, and Rep. Rich Wills,
R-Glenns Ferry, stand for questions following the
presentation of the Idaho reinvestment report,
Thursday, Jan. 15.

Marc Pelka, program director of the Council of
State Government Justice Center, presents
the report to the interim committee and public
Thursday, Jan. 15 in the Capitol's
Lincoln Auditorium.

The dog.

Beautiful 8-mile trail run in Hulls Gulch.

More Hulls Gulch.

Seeing the Capitol while hoofing it in the foothills.

Leaving the Hulls Rec Area.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Thursday, January 16, 2014

'Significant voice of change'

Introducing the "future governor of Idaho," Jill Humble. A resident of Boise for 10 years, Jill is an educator in the field of mental health nursing.

Jill (far right) and her husband Allen gather
signatures to get Jill on the ballot for Idaho
governor in front of the Boise Public Library.
Together they've gathered about
680 vetted signatures and
are looking for their final 300. 
Her husband, Allen Humble, said they have been gathering signatures for three weeks and have successfully vetted more than 680 so far. They're working on gathering their last 300 signatures in front of the Boise Public Library now, where I met them.

"This has been a gift," Jill said. "I feel blessed to be working with people."

Allen said the majority of her signatures have come from Ada and Canyon counties, they're making solid progress toward the ballot presence.

"This is very grassroots. We have no business donations, no corporate donations," Allen said. "She's going to be a significant voice of change."

Allen said they've been putting in between 10 and 12 hour days while gathering signatures.

"Jill will be campaigning for full gay rights, and to remove the government completely from women's health care," Allen said. "If you don't like it, don't vote for her."

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Giving hope, ensuring safety

From the Arg, covering the rally from last Saturday.....

Under Idaho state law, it is still possible to fire a person on the basis of sexual orientation — just as it is lawful to ban a person from renting an apartment or discriminate against members of the LGBT community when they seek public accommodation.
“This is the year to change that,” said Mistie Tolman, organizer of the Add the Words movement, a Boise group working toward the addition of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act.
The activist group put on a rally at 1 p.m. Jan. 11 at the Idaho Statehouse as a message to lawmakers that discrimination needs to end.
Read the full article here.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Friday, January 10, 2014


I just found this out today as a group of four high school students came into the press room at the Statehouse looking for someone to cover their story not long after I arrived. There will be a rally tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Statehouse in efforts to add the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the Idaho Human Rights Act.

I'll be there and tweeting as much as possible with the #idleg and #AddTheWords hashtags. Follow those to get info as it comes available.

Here's the description of Saturday's event, straight from the Add the Words Facebook.

Description of the Add the Words movement from
its Facebook.

An informational piece on tomorrow's event can be read here, and more information can be found on Facebook at

Here is another piece from that discusses the Boise City Council meeting where the non-discrimination ordinance received public testimony.

This photo from the "Add the Words" Facebook page gives the details on
when and where the rally will take place. Follow and use the hashtag, #addthewords, Saturday to
learn more.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Continuing with the CEC

Bryon Welch, principle evaluator at the
state Office of Performance Evaluations
is presenting now to the joint CEC committee
about the discrepancies between
state compensation legislation and
real implementation of salary increases. 
Today is the final meeting of the joint CEC committee, which I noted here, has reconvened for the first time since 2008.

The committee will be hearing a presentation from Bryon Welch, principle evaluator at the Office of Performance Evaluations, a review of the 2013 Hay Group Total Compensation Study, followed by a 15-minute presentation from State Controller Brandon Woolf.

Then, co-chairmen Sen. John Tippets and Rep. Neil Anderson, along with Senior Budget and Policy Analyst Robyn Lockett will discuss and consider motions.

Some notes from today:

According to survey performed by the state Office of Performance Evaluations, 25 percent of responding state employees said they plan to leave their current job within the next two years. Poor compensation and lack of career advancement opportunities were cited as the primary reasons for increasing employee turnover.

Welch, principal evaluator at the OPE, said there is a discrepancy between the legislative intent of compensation policies and their actual implementation.

Updates to come.

From Welch's presentation. While this bit was created a year ago,
employees were polled recently and Welch said this information still
stands true.

Also from Welch's presentation - considerations that the OPE would like to see
the committee take today.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

'Nothing happens until people start talking'

City Club hosted the Idaho Political
Pundits' Predictions today at the
Boise Centre.
The City Club of Boise featured three area reporters today at the Boise Centre for the Idaho Political Pundits' Predictions event - John Miller of the Associated Press, Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman and Betsy Z. Russell of the Spokesman-Review.

Moderator Jim Weatherby took questions from the audience asking for the reporters' opinions concerning whether lawmakers would be considering same-sex marriage, Medicaid expansion, decriminalization of marijuana and more.

Here's a quick list of questions asked today:

- Is Idaho's public defender system broken?
Russell said the state has come under fire for it's poor public defender system, saying some have said the system is "nearly unconstitutional." Groups have come together to attempt to aid the problem, but Russell said the gains of those are incredibly incremental, and may not be sufficient any time soon.

- Will there be a separate CEC for teachers, and are teachers even being considered in the CEC?
It's clear that the governor isn't interested in a wage increase this year, and that includes for teachers. Russell brought up an interesting fact - Idaho law demands the state offer competitive wages despite times of economic downturn. She said that fact has largely been ignored as state wages have suffered. More information on CEC items to come following the end of the forum Friday.

More questions from today coming later this afternoon...

One of the largest questions at the forum consisted of this: Will lawmakers avoid hot-button issues in efforts to speed up the session to get home and start campaigning, while also avoid conflict thus avoid losing popularity? 

Well, that question is on everyone's mind, and many seem to understand that the session itself might truly suffer because of the upcoming election. More will come.

Find more information on the City Club here.


"thriveidaho" is a health promotion
program for Idaho employees
targeted to reward healthy
During the CEC Committee forum yesterday, Director of the Department of Administration Teresa Luna said thriveidaho is going to be the answer to quash rising medical costs for state employees.

After enrolling in thriveidaho, state employees who employ healthy behavior and make healthful decisions as outlined by the site will be given monetary rewards and more.

Luna focused her presentation about thriveidaho on a quote by Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter:

"It's a lot less expensive to keep people healthy than it is to get them healthy after they've had a problem," Otter said in a thriveidaho event at the Capitol Rotunda in October of 2013.

More information about thriveidaho can be found at

In addition to introducing thriveidaho, more changes were made to the state health plan in 2013. According to Luna's presentation, 2014 brings the removal of the $20 in-network co-pay for Wellness Visits on the PPO Plan, as well as the removal of a $250 limit for Wellness Visits on Traditional & High Deductible Plan.

Here's a snap of Luna's slide describing the introduced changes.

In Luna's presentation - changes to the state health plan.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Return of the CEC Committee

The Joint Change in Employee Compensation Committee is meeting now in the Capitol's Lincoln Auditorium for the first time since 2008.

Rep. Stephen Hartgen (R-Twin Falls) speaking prior to the opening of the
Joint CEC Committee forum today in the Idaho Capitol Lincoln Auditorium. 
Jeff Youtz, director of the legislative services office and former member of the CEC Committee, said the committee is an extremely important forum to ensure the state legislature is in touch with the needs of Idaho’s employees.

Youtz described the history of the CEC committee, which in the past met a few days before the beginning of the session to nail out the details of the year’s employee compensation changes. He said he hopes the CEC Committee continues to meet annually in the future, because understanding appropriate employee compensation changes is a vital part of the state’s yearly budget puzzle.

Today's featured speakers included Youtz, Senior Budget and Policy Analyst of LSO Robyn Lockett, as well as Director of the Department of Administration Teresa Luna and also Program Manager of Group Insurance Division Amy Johnson.

The forum started at 1:15 p.m. and will run until 4:45, with a short break from 3:15 - 3:30 p.m. It will continue tomorrow, Jan. 8,  from 1:15 - 5 p.m. and again Friday the 10th from 1:30 - 5 p.m.

Wednesday's session will include public testimonies from state employees from 3:15 to 5 p.m. 

Watch the forum live here:

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Monday, January 6, 2014

Photo Dump | Jan. 6

The 2nd session of the 62nd Idaho legislature convened today following Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's State of the State address. I was there, front and center, (OK - more like just to Otter's right), with a handful of other area reporters. My story will be up at The Argonaut soon - I'll post the link when it is.

For now, here are a few photos from in and around the Capitol building.

a) A high school choir performed in the Capitol Rotunda...and took pictures of themselves on every floor
b) Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter giving the State of the State address in the House Chambers
c) Following the address, waiting in the chambers for closing comments
d) *Butch Otter has left the building*

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

'Blueprint for going forward'

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter met with the media Friday, for a preview of the upcoming legislative session.
Straight from the webpages of the Argonaut...

Despite the 2014 legislative session being just a day shy of its commencement date, Idaho’s Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter spoke with reporters and the public during the Associated Press legislative preview Friday, about what he thinks will be the most important issues to cover throughout upcoming weeks.
In what Otter called his “blueprint for going forward,” the foremost issues the Idaho Legislature will cover include deciphering Idaho’s role in the changing healthcare laws, the state’s takeover of the formerly privately-operated prison, Otter’s five-year plan for refilling the state’s piggy bank, and most importantly, he said, to put more funding into education.
“This year we’ll be able to start out with a very aggressive fulfillment of that agreement (to support education) and that promise,” Otter said.
Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Associated Press Legislative Preview

As of today, we’re simply two days shy of the start of the start of the legislative session – Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s state of the state address on Monday. Until then, he staved off the media by giving a brief tease as to what would be appearing in the address as well as what would be the legislature’s primary issues.
Media set up cameras to hone in on Gov. C.L.
"Butch" Otter during his short speech at
 the  the AP Legislative Preview Jan. 3 in the Capitol.
Instagram: @crchloerambo

He said there would be four areas of focus throughout the upcoming legislative session – what Otter called his “blueprint for moving forward.” Education funding, deciphering Idaho’s role in changing healthcare laws, the state’s plans to begin running the previously privatized Idaho Correctional Center, as well as Otter’s five-year plan for replenishing the state’s piggy bank.

  "The first year -- which we'll be announcing Monday -- will be written in ink, the next four will be written in pencil," Otter said.

Following the governor’s short speech, he took a series of questions from the media. The reporters, while trying to get more information on Monday’s address, asked Otter to touch on a range of topics from the state’s future jurisdiction on same-sex marriage, whether the state’s mild winter would create a shortage of usable water come spring, how the legislature would handle funding Boise's public transportation, as well as how funding education could be this year's biggest issue.

"The state of Idaho is doing great," Otter said. "Could it do better? Yes. Will it do better? We hope so."

 More information will be released on Monday, Jan. 6 following Otter's address.

Twitter: @crchloerambo | Instagram: @crchloerambo | The Argonaut