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The week that was…

April 18, 2014 4:59 p.m. - Updated: 8:45 p.m.

On tonight’s “Idaho Reports” program on Idaho Public Television, I join Jim Weatherby and co-hosts Melissa Davlin and Aaron Kunz for a discussion of current events and election politics. Also, Davlin and Kunz discuss Idaho college tuition hikes and the state Republican Party’s platform survey for candidates, and Davlin and Seth Ogilvie interview two legislative candidates facing off in the primary – both Democrats from District 19, Troy Rohn and Melissa Wintrow. It’s the latest in a series of looks at legislative races around the state. The show airs at 8 p.m. tonight; it re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time, 9:30 Pacific; and plays on Boise State Public Radio on Sunday at 7 p.m. After it airs, you can watch it here online any time.

 

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Poachers killing more Idaho game animals than wolves are, officials say

April 18, 2014 11:51 a.m. - Updated: 11:56 a.m.

Poachers are likely killing far more game animals than wolves are, state wildlife officials in northern Idaho say. Officials tell the Lewiston Tribune (http://bit.ly/1jdj31p) in a story on Friday that last year in northern Idaho they confirmed poaching of 30 elk, four moose, 13 mule deer and 57 whitetail deer, according to an AP report from the Tribune. Officials say a realistic detection rate is 5 percent, meaning poachers are likely killing about 600 elk, 80 moose, 260 mule deer and 1,000 whitetail annually.

“It's real easy for people to blow a gasket about wolf predation,” said Idaho Fish and Game District Conservation Officer George Fischer. “They are very passionate about it, they are very irate about it and they are livid about it. Yet there is a two-legged wolf out there that is probably killing as many or more than wolves. Wolves are causing an impact, there is no doubt about it; I don't want to downplay that at all, but two-legged wolves are probably killing more or stealing more game than wolves. That is the shock-and-awe message.”

Idaho Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler says poachers strike throughout Idaho. “Poaching is an issue throughout the state,” he said. Click below for the full AP/Lewiston Trib report.

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Idaho’s jobless rate falls to 5.2%, a five-year low

April 18, 2014 10:18 a.m. - Updated: 10:19 a.m.

Unemployment in Idaho fell to 5.2 percent in March, the lowest rate in five and a half years, the Idaho Department of Labor reports. That seasonally adjusted rate was the eighth straight month to show a decline; nationally, the rate was 6.7 percent in March, the same as it was in February. You can read Labor’s full announcement here.

County breakdowns showed Kootenai County’s jobless rate was 6.3 percent in March, down from 6.5 percent in February and 7.7 percent in March of 2013. Bonner County was at 7.6 percent, unchanged from February but well below the 9.3 percent from a year earlier. Shoshone County saw a small rise in unemployment from February to March, from 10.5 percent to 10.7 percent, though it, too, had improved from its March 2013 level of 11.3 percent. The city of Coeur d’Alene showed a 5.8 percent unemployment rate in March, down from 7.3 percent a year earlier.

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Otter lauds expanded ‘cloud’ software tax exemption at mock signing ceremony

April 17, 2014 5 p.m. - Updated: 11:05 p.m.

Gov. Butch Otter has been holding a series of mock signing ceremonies for bills he signed into law this year earlier and quietly. This morning, as he celebrated with backers of HB 598, this year’s “cloud services” sales tax exemption bill, Otter was asked why he didn’t just go public when he took the action.

“It was all the timing,” he said. “Quite frankly, every one of the bills, it’s been timing. When we have a mock session, it’s a result of the folks wanting to get together one more time, saying, ‘Job well done,’ and making sure those that worked the hardest on it got the credit for it, and that’s not always possible during the waning days of the session, or the 10 days after.” Otter said if he’d waited to sign HB 598 until all its backers were available, “Then it would’ve become law without my signature, and I was so supportive of this, that wasn’t going to happen.”

The bill expands a law that passed last year to exempt software services delivered through the “cloud” from sales tax, under the argument that those are services, not tangible personal property. This year’s bill is much more broad; the state Tax Commission objected that its fiscal note wasn’t accurate, and its wording could lead to exempting numerous other software sales that could cost the state as much as $40 million a year in lost sales taxes. That would include not only services delivered through the “cloud,” but also downloaded software and so-called “load and leave” software that companies have installed on their systems.

Asked about those concerns, Otter said, “Well, just like with any legislation, it’s going to be a work in progress. And if we’ve got unintended consequences … then we’ll have to make those changes.” He said, “I heard what the Tax Commission was saying. They told me what they were going to say when they went up to talk about it, and I said, ‘Well, then it’s going to be up to you guys to come back and say, ‘Here’s how we achieve what we intended here, but at the same time clean up the unintended consequences that we cause.’”

Joining Otter at today’s ceremony were House Majority Leader Mike Moyle; Idaho Technology Council President Jay Larsen; Kount.com Vice President Rich Stuppy, the council’s chairman; Hawley Troxell attorney Rick Smith, whom Larsen describe as “our tax guru here,” Micron lobbyist Mike Reynoldson; and more. “We had so many industry folks really support this legislation, and we’re so thrilled about this passing and the support we’re getting from our state government,” Larsen said. He said tech folks across the country are “starting to say, 'What's happening in Idaho?'” 

Otter signed the bill into law April 4; it takes effect July 1. Its fiscal note says “the fiscal impact is not expected to be significant and is estimated here at $2 million to $5 million annually.”

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Former Idaho boxing champ Kenny Keene wins $1K a week for a year from state lottery

April 17, 2014 2:39 p.m. - Updated: 2:40 p.m.

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former professional boxer from Idaho who made a name for himself as the “Emmett Eliminator” by smashing his way through the cruiserweight division can add another title: lottery winner. Idaho Lottery officials announced Thursday that Kenny Keene is the Weekly Grand winner and will receive $1,000 a week for 52 weeks. The 45-year-old Keene retired from boxing in 2006 with a 51-4 record. Before retiring, he thrilled fans with a straight ahead brawler style, winning cruiserweight titles from the International Boxing Association, International Boxing Council, and World Boxing Federation. He now runs Kenny Keene's Bail Bonds in Emmett.

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Otter urges Air Force to keep both Gowen and Mt. Home bases, not ‘dither away’

April 17, 2014 2:25 p.m. - Updated: 2:35 p.m.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has sent an op-ed piece out to Idaho news media urging the Air Force to keep both Idaho bases, Gowen Field and Mountain Home Air Force Base. Otter says he'll make that pitch to Air Force Chief of Staff Mark A. Welsh III when he visits Idaho in May, based on “the tremendous value that both facilities represent.” With expansive flight areas over lightly populated terrain, “extraordinary flying weather,” and strong community support, Otter said, the two bases should be “the darlings of Pentagon planners.”

Otter, who is currently facing challenges in both the primary and general elections in his bid for a third term as governor, writes, “Please support our members of Congress and me in fighting to secure the mission and future of Gowen Field and Mountain Home. If we roll over while Idaho's sentinels of freedom are dithered away, the shame and the loss will be our own.” Click below for his full article.

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State Ed Board elects new officers, Atchley to take over as president

April 17, 2014 2:07 p.m. - Updated: 2:08 p.m.

Emma Atchley of eastern Idaho has been elected president of the State Board of Education, taking over from Don Soltman, who finished up his term as president today; he was elected secretary for the coming year. The board also elected Rod Lewis of Boise as its vice president. “Don has done an outstanding job, and we appreciate all he has accomplished,” Atchley said. “The students of our state are fortunate to have such diligent, thoughtful leaders working on their behalf.”

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Former Rep. Trail named new AARP state president

April 17, 2014 2:02 p.m. - Updated: 2:03 p.m.

Former longtime state Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, has been named the new state president of the Idaho AARP. Trail, who served 16 years in the House and is the former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has been an AARP member for 24 years, the seniors group said. He’ll now take on the group’s highest volunteer position, replacing Peggy Munson, who will continue on the organization’s executive council. Munson is a retired geriatric nurse; Trail is a retired college educator with a doctorate in psychology and degrees in education and animal science.

“During my entire career, I served in positions committed to social concerns, education and public service,” Trail said. “This appointment represents a culmination of that work. … I look forward to engaging and energizing volunteers to carry out AARP’s vision, mission and strategic priorities in the state.”

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Terrell to resign from state Ed Board in June

April 17, 2014 10:39 a.m. - Updated: 10:42 a.m.

Idaho State Board of Education member Milford Terrell has announced that he’ll step down from the board on June 30, three years before the expiration of his current five-year term. “I’ve served as a volunteer for 30 years for six governors on numerous boards and committees,” said Terrell, who is in his third term on the board. “My wife and I have decided it’s time to scale back on some of these activities.”

Board President Don Soltman praised Terrell, saying, “His wise counsel and tireless efforts will be greatly missed.” It’ll be up to Gov. Butch Otter to appoint a new member to serve out the remainder of Terrell’s term.

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Tribal casino’s plan to offer poker draws legal objections from state

April 17, 2014 8 a.m.

The Coeur d’Alene Casino in Worley, operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, is advertising a May 2 opening date for its new poker room, saying Idaho’s constitutional ban on poker games doesn’t apply to the tribal-owned casino. The tribe plans to offer Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha games; poker is widely offered at commercial card rooms across the North Idaho state line in Washington and at tribal casinos in that state. But the Idaho Lottery Commission is objecting, and has requested a review from the National Indian Gaming Commission. “Poker is specifically prohibited in Idaho,” said Jeff Anderson, lottery commission director. You can read our full story here by S-R reporter Becky Kramer.

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