February 14, 2010
Twin Falls Times-News
A senator's question prompted Idaho Public Television to explain a little more in detail about informational spots with legislators in them - and take them off the air for now.
In a recent hearing at the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, asked IPTV General Manager Peter Morrill if a legislator's appearance on one of the spots might give them a political advantage.
Morrill, unsure which show Brackett was referring to at the time, did some checking around and discovered that the senator had seen a promotional spot with Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise.
State funding didn't pay for the spots.
The spots, which also include participation from Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, were funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and part of a national effort to show the value of public broadcasting, Morrill wrote in a follow-up letter to JFAC.
"They did not advocate for any funding proposal, only for the general public service that we provide," Morrill wrote in his letter. "To avoid any further confusion, I have instructed my staff to take these spots off the air during the legislative session."
The spots included other community members as well, not just legislators.
Bell said her spot was about the value of public television, noting that she was first filmed before the governor made any proposals about IPTV.
Chew said IPTV's role is crucial in keeping Idahoans connected to legislative issues through its filming and video streaming of the session.
Brackett stressing that he's not against public television, said it's important to be sure public funding doesn't pay for things that might have a political benefit to one individual or entity.
Before the State Land Board voted this week to give public education $22 million out of the Public Schools Earnings Reserve Account instead of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's request for almost $53 million, Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, floated an idea to constituents in her weekly newsletter.
"If the land board is reluctant to part with $53 million dollars for schools, how about half of it?" Jaquet wrote.
The land board's $22 million came pretty close to half. When asked, Jaquet said none of the land board members talked to her about that idea. The board's members - all elected constitutional officers - live outside Jaquet's district, of course.
So this appears to be a case of Republican and Democrat minds thinking alike.
Lost his voice
There was plenty of conversation on Thursday at the State Land Board meeting about tapping into the reserve fund for education. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, though, was quiet, letting his chief deputy, Sherm Furey, talk for him.
"He lost his voice," said Bob Cooper, spokesman for Wasden.
It's actually not uncommon for elected officials to lose their voice, especially since the job can require a lot of speeches and talking. For example, in the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton had to take a break from speeches until his vocal cords healed. Early in his career, Clinton was an attorney general himself - in Arkansas. In Wasden's case, he managed to say one hoarse word when it came time to vote: "No."
The Opinion posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.