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Cheers and Jeers: Making the toughest call of all

Corey Taule
March 29, 2013
Idaho Falls Post Register

CHEERS to an unnamed Jefferson County couple who did something that must have been excruciatingly difficult: turn their son into local police.

As reported by the Post Register's Ruth Brown on Wednesday, the boy, a student at Rigby Junior High School, had a list of students and adults he had apparently planned to kill.

The boy's parents found the list on his electronic tablet. Police, with help from the parents, found a bag filled with knives, at least two handguns and ammunition.

The boy, who is not being named because he is a juvenile, was charged with misdemeanor battery stemming from a fight at school. He is receiving a mental health evaluation and treatment.

At this point, we don't know what compelled this young man to store weapons and make a list of potential victims. Nor do we know whether he was serious or blowing off steam.

But certainly we can be thankful his parents called police, because all too often lately we've seen the worst case-scenario play itself out -- in Colorado, Arizona and Connecticut. And we can all take a few things from this incident:

Know what your kids are doing. Checking their son's tablet led these parents to what must have been a horrific discovery. That's nothing, however, compared to what might have happened to him and others had they not looked.

Safeguard your weapons. The guns this boy had belonged to his parents. Gun ownership is both a right and a responsibility.

We don't know for sure that this boy was bullied, but it seems a distinct possibility. That's something everybody needs to be concerned with, especially since the Internet seems to bring out the vitriol in so many people. A little compassion and kindness may have been all this young man needed.

JEERS to Jefferson County Prosecutor Robin Dunn. As depicted in Sunday's Post Register by reporter Zach Kyle, Dunn couldn't prosecute former Rigby City Councilman Lawrence Blackburn for allegedly ripping off an elderly client. That's because he signed on as Blackburn's attorney.

A District Court judge ordered Blackburn to pay $30,000 to the daughter of the now-deceased elderly woman. Blackburn resigned from the council and left the area. Dunn was correct in saying a small-county prosecutor often wears many hats. But Dunn's first job, the one he was elected to do, is protect the citizenry.

Taking on Blackburn as a client and leaving the investigation to an Idaho Attorney General's Office crippled by budget cuts is not the best way to serve his most important clients -- the people who have continually put him into office.

JEERS to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. Expanding Medicaid to at least 104,000 Idahoans would save county property taxpayers $478 million from 2014 to 2024. It would also save hundreds of lives.

One of Idaho's most ardently conservative lawmakers, Bone Republican Tom Loertscher, sponsored the bills to expand Medicaid and get rid of the state/county fund that pays for indigent health care in Idaho.

The Legislature's doctors, Democrats John Rusche and Dan Schmidt, favor expansion. So does the panel Otter formed to study expansion. Its chairman, Health and Welfare Department Director Richard Armstrong, recently wrote in a letter to Otter that not acting now will cost the state millions.

Legislators from both parties know expansion is the right call; Republicans, however, don't want to get ahead of the governor on this issue. Time remains in this legislative session to get this done, but only if Otter is willing to make the right call for his constituents.

CHEERS to Senate Transportation Chairman Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson. A task force chaired by Lt. Gov. Brad Little determined that Idaho needs to spend more than $540 million annually than it does today to maintain and improve roads and bridges.

Brackett this week introduced four bills not for debate this year, but to send a message that this is something Idahoans can no longer ignore and to inspire a discussion between now and the 2014 session.

Brackett's bills call for increases in the gas tax and registration and other fees totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Those who think this discussion unnecessary need look no further than Rigby, where a bridge used by 3,000 vehicles daily was recently condemned by the Idaho Transportation Department.

CHEERS to Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls. Once again, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee refused to print a bill that would begin preparing the state for that day when Congress finally gets its act together and figures out a way to tax Internet sales. For some reason, the majority on the committee, including several local lawmakers, likes putting Idaho's brick-and-mortar businesses at an automatic 6 percent disadvantage to their online competitors. Not Trujillo. She voted to print the bill. Good for her. Idaho may yet crawl out of the dark ages on this issue.

Just not this year.

JEERS to eastern Idaho Republican state Sens. Dean Mortimer (Idaho Falls), Jeff Siddoway (Terreton) and Steve Bair (Blackfoot). They helped pass a bill that would use public money for charter school construction.

The bill passed the Senate on a 20-15 vote without the help, it should be noted, of Senate President Brent Hill of Rexburg and Majority Leader Bart Davis of Idaho Falls.

Idaho does precious little to help locals build public schools. In fact, the bar is set almost impossibly high. Public school funding remains more than $100 million behind 2009 levels. Using precious resources to help build schools that educate about 5 percent of Idaho's students makes no sense. Let's hope Otter is prepared to use his veto stamp.

CHEERS to Senate President Brent Hill. His argument against a bill that would have provided $10 million in tax credits for donations to private and parochial schools may have just stuck a permanent fork in this constitutionally questionable idea.

A CPA, Hill pointed out that donors would get charitable contribution deductions for both federal and state income taxes. As Hill said: "The donor is going to profit off of making this donation at the expense of the public, and I don't think that's what fiscal conservatives want. ... That's not appropriate. It's just not fair."

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