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Earmuffs on

Marty Trillhaase
March 29, 2013
Lewiston Tribune

JEERS . . . to the earmuff brigade, your north central Idaho lawmakers who went native in Boise.

Exhibit A: Last year, Idaho voters repealed the Luna laws, a set of top-down mandates upon students, teachers, parents and taxpayers foisted upon them by an obstinate Legislature and the arrogant schools superintendent, Tom Luna.

And what has been the Legislature's reaction? Senate Bill 1108 - which may block future initiatives and referenda by making it more difficult to round up the prerequisite signatures.

Why did Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, and Reps. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, and Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, vote for this bill? Last fall, the voters in their legislative district rejected all three Luna laws by tallies ranging from 55.5 percent to 66.2 percent.

Likewise, Sen. Dan Johnson and Thyra Stevenson, both R-Lewiston, voted as if the Luna laws carried at home. Only state Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, respected his constituents, who pulled the plug on Luna's package by margins of 64.3 to nearly 71 percent.

District 5 voters - who turned thumbs down on the Luna laws by 64.8 percent to 74.3 percent - got some respect. Their entire delegation - Sen. Dan Schmidt and Rep. Shirley Ringo, both D-Moscow, as well as Rep. Cindy Agidius, R-Moscow, voted no.

Exhibit B: It's bad enough that southern Idaho lawmakers caved in to special interests and exposed their northern neighbors to trucks that will be 12 tons heavier.

They don't have to consider the overwhelming majority of mayors, highway district leaders or even former state Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, who urged against treating the region's narrow, twisting, two-lane highways like one of southern Idaho's four-lane freeways.

They can ignore the opinion of local truckers, who worry about their own safety and that of the motoring public.

They don't have to deal with roadblocks such as Winchester Grade or Reisenauer Hill - or the prospect of wind gusts, drifting snow and ice-covered roads along the Camas Prairie.

But why would state Johnson or Nuxoll, go along with Senate Bill 1117?

Same for state Stevenson, McMillan, R-Silverton R-Riggins.

The sole Republican to join the region's Democratic lawmakers - Schmidt, Rusche and Ringo - was Agidius.

"Do you have so little respect for those of us from the north that you'd force something on us in a manner that you wouldn't have allowed?" Agidius argued.

Good for her.

CHEERS . . . to Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney. She just burnished her political courage credentials.

As the National Journal's Ben Terris reported Wednesday, Chaney is the only mayor in the entire state of Idaho with the guts to join New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition.

Terris reports Chaney signed up last winter - after initially declining Bloomberg's entreaties in 2007.

That year, Jason Hamilton came unhinged, killing his wife and then unleashing his weapons at the Latah County Courthouse. Before committing suicide, Hamilton killed a Moscow police officer and a church caretaker, and wounded two more officers and a University of Idaho student.

Five years later, former UI professor Ernesto Bustamante murdered graduate student Katy Benoit, then trolled Moscow while armed with 11 weapons before he checked into the University Inn, where he later took his own life.

"I decided it was important to articulate my stance on this," Chaney told Terris. "And a person who has access to lethal force ought not to win every argument."

JEERS . . . to state Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis. She's among 10 House Revenue and Taxation Committee Republicans who, for the fourth time, killed any chance that Idaho might begin collecting sales tax owed on e-commerce.

Even at that, state Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, was making a symbolic gesture. With the Legislature winding down, he merely asked the panel to print a measure aimed at placing Idaho among the members of the Streamlined Sales Tax project. This group of sales tax states wants Congress to require businesses selling products through the Internet to remit tax due to the states.

Idaho is forfeiting an estimated $35 million now and will lose even more as more consumers do more shopping online. Nor is it fair to retailers who have set up shop and hired employees in Idaho.

Barrett still calls this a tax increase. It's not. The tax is due. It's been on the books since 1965.

Barrett is serving her 11th term. Isn't it time she catch on?

CHEERS . . . to Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. He didn't just block Sen. Bob Nonini's barely concealed ploy to spend tax dollars on religious schools. Hill drove a stake through its heart.

Nonini was engineering an end run around Idaho's constitutional ban against using public dollars for religious instruction.

He suggested giving taxpayers a credit when they contribute toward private school student scholarships.

Estimated cost: $10 million.

Not so fast, said Hill. When he's not running the state Senate, Hill is a CPA.

Said Hill: For every $100 contributed to a scholarship, the taxpayer would net "at least $107" and the state would pay another 10 percent for administrative costs.

Down Nonini's bill went on a 7-2 Senate tax committee vote.

Originally posted at

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