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9th Circuit lets Otter file reply, but not 57-page amicus brief

Nov. 21, 2014 3:34 p.m. - Updated: 3:35 p.m.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today granted Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s motion to submit additional arguments in the state’s same-sex marriage case, but rejected without comment his bid to submit a copy of a 57-page amicus brief from a Louisiana case that Otter argued presents “a gold mine of scholarship regarding the practical, real-world impact of redefining marriage.” Otter wants an en banc review, by an 11-judge panel, of the earlier 9th Circuit decision overturning Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, which was made by a three-judge panel. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Idaho since Oct. 15; you can read the court's latest order here.

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Idaho AFL-CIO chief: Immigration action ‘rational and humane’

Nov. 21, 2014 3:16 p.m. - Updated: 3:18 p.m.

In sharp contrast to statements from Idaho’s all-GOP congressional delegation, Idaho AFL-CIO President Aaron White has issued a statement praising President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. Here’s his full statement:

“We have witnessed an important step toward rational and humane enforcement of immigration law.  On behalf of Idaho’s workers, we appreciate the President’s willingness to act boldly on this matter.  With the extension of work authorization to an estimated 4 million people, the Obama Administration has effectively helped to prevent those unscrupulous employers from using unprotected workers to drive down wages and working conditions for all of us. Unfortunately, more than half of those who currently lack legal protections will remain vulnerable to wage theft, retaliation, and other forms of exploitation.  The labor movement will continue to stand with all workers, regardless of status, to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are protected.”

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Mumps outbreak hits University of Idaho

Nov. 21, 2014 12:48 p.m. - Updated: 12:52 p.m.

A mumps outbreak at the University of Idaho has prompted the state Department of Health & Welfare to advise students to use their winter breaks to make sure they're caught up on vaccinations, including the MMR vaccine, which is for measles, mumps and rubella. More than 30 cases of mumps are being investigated at the Moscow campus, including 10 that already have been lab-confirmed. Click below for the full announcement from the state Department of Health & Welfare.

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Idaho unemployment drops to lowest in 6 years

Nov. 21, 2014 11:58 a.m. - Updated: 11:58 a.m.

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in October. The Idaho Department of Labor in a statement Friday says that's the lowest unemployment rate in the state in more than six years. The agency also says last month's drop of four-tenths of a percentage point is the largest one-month change on record for the state. In all, Idaho added 1,200 new jobs in October.

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Idaho delegation responds to president’s immigration proposals

Nov. 21, 2014 9:17 a.m. - Updated: 11:55 a.m.

Three members of Idaho's congressional delegation issued statements after President Barack Obama's immigration speech last night, blasting the president for taking executive action on the issue; the fourth, Sen. Jim Risch, weighed in shortly after noon today. Here are their statements; click below for a summary from the Associated Press of the key elements of Obama's executive action.

Sen. Mike Crapo:

“Rather than listening to the American people and respecting their voices in the last election, the President will instead impose his deliberately divisive action on the important issue of illegal immigration. This unfortunate choice by the President will, most importantly, hurt immigrants in the long run and undercut future prospects for lasting immigration reform.  In addition, the President has done an about-face on his executive role. Just last year, he said ‘I’m not the emperor of the United States.  My job is to execute laws that are passed.’  However, his administration has repeatedly tried to side-step Congress through the use of Executive Order.  The inherent checks and balances between the branches of government are a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy, and these actions set a dangerous precedent by violating our basic Constitutional principles.  

“No one should gain any advantage or benefit toward citizenship or legal permanent resident status because of illegal entry into the United States.  The unilateral legal protections provided lawlessly to millions of illegal immigrants by the President—benefits that legal immigrants must wait years to obtain—pose a profound  threat to our immigration system and rule of law, discouraging those who seek to come to America from doing so legally.  I will continue to press for a solid solution that will secure our nation’s borders and advocate for sound, sensible immigration policies.”

1st District Rep. Raul Labrador:

“Today President Obama conceded his failure as a leader on immigration. Instead of finding common ground with Congress, he chose to bail out his bankrupt presidency through an order he has already admitted he cannot legally take. He violated his promise to champion reform in his first term, sabotaged bipartisan House negotiations in his second and bred distrust by failing to faithfully enforce the law throughout. Now he wants to save face by imposing unilaterally what he could not achieve democratically. Congress must defend its constitutional role to make laws and immediately block his illegal action through all available avenues.”

 “The president’s action not only undermines efforts to achieve real reform – it is directly opposed to it. Real reform starts with enforcing current laws, securing the border and modernizing the visa system. Only a system that works – that drives immigrants into viable avenues for legal entry – will end illegal immigration and protect the rule of law. That is what I will continue to fight for – no matter who occupies the White House.”

2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson:

“Let me be clear, the President's actions tonight are illegal, unconstitutional, and contrary to the way in which the American people expect the President and Congress to interact. They have the potential to throw us into a Constitutional Crisis.”

“Apparently the President didn't get the message the American people sent to him two weeks ago. At the same time, I strongly believe my party's response to this inappropriate executive action should be measured and realistic.  We cannot shut down the government, impeach the President, or allow this issue to impede progress on deficit reduction, tax reform, or other critical priorities for the American people.  Instead, we should fight this edict early next year in any realistic way we can, fight the President in the courts, and move expeditiously to enact a more responsible, effective and lasting approach to immigration reform.”

Sen. Jim Risch:

“These are troubling times for America, when the President of the United States by executive decree seizes the Constitutional lawmaking power that belongs to the first branch of government. Regardless of the issue or who is president, every American should be deeply distressed by this new government the president is attempting to establish.”

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Labrador suggests GOP should cut off all hearings on appointments in response to president’s immigration action

Nov. 20, 2014 4:11 p.m. - Updated: 4:13 p.m.

Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, in an interview airing now on NPR, says he thinks the president’s planned executive action on immigration is illegal, and while shying away from talk of impeachment, had these suggestions on how congressional Republicans might respond:

“Well one of the things, I think, is Mitch McConnell should say first thing tomorrow morning that he will not allow any appointments that this administration has made. So there will be no hearings on the new attorney general, there will be no hearing on judges, there will be no hearing on anything this president wants and that he needs. I think that would be one action that we can take immediately.”

“I think we can look at funding, different agencies, different things, we could look at that. We can do something procedural. We can ask the president to have a comment a period before something like this major change happens. I think we can do that through asking for an administrative procedures act, put that in some sort of funding bill. That would have nothing to do with funding, that wouldn't shut down the government.”

You can see, and hear, the full interview online here.

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Idaho agribusiness, Hispanic Chamber call for Congress to pass immigration reforms

Nov. 20, 2014 3:55 p.m. - Updated: 3:58 p.m.

A day ahead of the president’s speech tonight on executive action on immigration, Milk Producers of Idaho President Brent Olmstead and Ivan Castillo, president of the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, held a press conference in Boise to call on Idaho’s congressional delegation to pass “meaningful immigration reform in Congress as soon as possible.” Olmstead said as Republicans take control of both houses of Congress, “Now is the time for them to live up to promises they made in the election and fix the broken immigration system.”

Castillo said, “When you give people the opportunity to come out of the shadows, you give people the opportunity to help this country.” The event was coordinated with the Partnership for a New American Economy, which ran a special section in the Washington Times yesterday featuring conservatives calling for immigration reform, and sponsored events around the country, including one in Washington, D.C. led by Americans for Tax Reform CEO Grover Norquist.

The Boise Weekly, in its report here on the Boise event, reported that Olmstead said there are permits available for an additional 40,000 head of cattle across the state that aren't being used because of a labor shortage. He called for reforms including a guest worker program, enhanced border security, work permits renewable in the United States through employers, English language learning and an increase in the number of visas available to highly educated or skilled immigrants. You can read the group's statement here. Olmstead said, “There's a visa to bring a ballerina into this country, but there isn't a visa to work on agricultural supply.”

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Lawmakers concerned as state tries to salvage school broadband network

Nov. 20, 2014 3:01 p.m. - Updated: 3:03 p.m.

State Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna told Idaho EdNews today that the state is “exploring all opportunities” to keep broadband in the state’s high schools, as the state contests a court decision earlier this week voiding the $60 million contract for the Idaho Education Network. EdNews reporter Kevin Richert has a report here on what’s next for the IEN.

Meanwhile, I spoke with House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, about it today.  “At the end of the day, this is an important thing,” he said. “We need to get a new contract as quickly as possible and keep the service up and going during the school year.” He said, “You have school districts that are dependent on this service, they’re in the middle of a term, and … the less disruption the better here, on our way to a new contract that addresses the issues that have been raised.”

Two lawmakers who serve on the IEN Program Resources Advisory Council, or IPRAC, that oversees the network, told Richert they have concerns over the state’s motion this week for the judge to reconsider his ruling. “I’m a little frustrated, quite frankly,” said Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint. “It just seems like this is just another chapter in legal maneuvering, as opposed to solving the problem.” Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, doesn’t think the judge will be persuaded. “I think the odds of that are pretty low.” The panel has a special meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning, but the only item on its agenda is a closed-door executive session for a legal briefing on the case.

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, told Eye on Boise, “I think that we sometimes have trouble identifying when the horse we’ve been beating is dead. … My guess is if we want to get the e-rate money flowing back, we have to follow the judge’s rules and get that contract re-bid in some manner. And I think that’s the important thing, is to get the support for the telecommunications and broadband services the schools need.”

Federal e-rate money, which comes from a tax on telephones, was supposed to pay for three-quarters of the cost of the IEN, but the feds cut off the payments because of concerns about the contract issuance, forcing lawmakers to approve an $11.4 million bailout to keep the service from going dark. “Going to the mat to defend a process that’s not clean doesn’t make sense,” Rusche said. “To have that money sitting on the sidelines because we don’t want to do it in a clean manner, I don’t think that makes sense.”

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Idaho ranks middling for percent of legislative races contested in the general election

Nov. 20, 2014 2:09 p.m. - Updated: 2:12 p.m.

The National Institute on Money in Politics reports that 36 percent of state legislative races in this year’s general election, nationwide, were uncontested, up from an average of 31 percent from 2001 to 2012. And in some states, including Wyoming, a large majority of races went uncontested. The group examined the 46 states in which there were legislative elections this year; Idaho had the 25th-most contested races, putting us in the middle of the pack. Sixty percent of Idaho’s legislative races were contested in the general election this year, the group reported. That’s down a bit from Idaho’s average from 2001 to 2012 of 67 percent.

The states with the most contested races, Michigan and Hawaii, both came in at 100 percent, followed by California at 96 percent. The states with the fewest were Arkansas and Wyoming, both at 36 percent; South Carolina, 28 percent; and Georgia at just 20 percent. You can see the group’s full report here.

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Otter files additional arguments to 9th Circuit in marriage case

Nov. 20, 2014 10:27 a.m. - Updated: 10:29 a.m.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has filed a motion with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals asking that the state be allowed to file additional arguments in its motion for an en banc review, a reconsideration by an 11-judge panel of the earlier three-judge panel’s rejection of Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. “Since the Governor submitted his petition, the Sixth Circuit has issued an opinion counter to this Court’s ruling in the case, requiring a reply by the Governor regarding this new circuit split,” Otter’s attorneys wrote. They also cited an amicus brief filed in the Fifth Circuit same-sex marriage case in Louisiana, and submitted a copy, saying it has presented “a gold mine of scholarship regarding the practical, real-world impact of redefining marriage.”

“Plaintiffs … have no answer to Gov. Otter’s showing that by its ‘explicit terms’ Idaho’s marriage laws discriminate facially, not on the basis of sexual orientation, but on the basis of biological complementarity,” the lawyers wrote. “Removing the man-woman definition threatens serious harm to the institution of marriage, and, thus, to the children of heterosexual couples.” You can read Otter's brief here.

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