Printed on: September 21, 2012

Cheers & Jeers

Idaho's MIA congressman

JEERS to Congressman Raul Labrador. The Republican representative from Idaho's First Congressional District hasn't exactly been grinding it out during his first term in office.

According to GovTrack, which researches members of Congress and follows legislation, Labrador has missed 4.7 percent of recorded votes in the House. During the early part of this year, Labrador missed one in 10 votes. That doesn't sound so bad, until you compare Labrador's attendance with the rest of Idaho's congressional delegation and his predecessors in the First District.

Again, according to GovTrack, Second District Congressman Mike Simpson has missed 2.9 percent of the House votes during his seven terms; Sen. Mike Crapo has missed 2.2 percent during his nearly 20-year career; Sen. James Risch, like Labrador a first-termer, has missed just 1.5 percent of recorded votes.

As reported by the Idaho Statesman's Dan Popkey, the man Labrador defeated in 2010, Democrat Walt Minnick, missed 1.9 percent of the votes. Republican Bill Sali, who served one term, was absent for 1.2 percent. And Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, during his three terms representing the First CD, missed 1.7 percent of the votes.

Labrador gets a pass for the votes he missed when his 9-year-old son was hospitalized for a week last year. That's the most legit excuse in the book. But as has been pointed out in the press and by Labrador's Democratic opponent, Jimmy Farris of Lewiston, many of those absences were entirely of the congressman's choosing: to participate in the Idaho Republican Caucus and stump for presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

It's easy for eastern Idahoans to shrug their shoulders at the doings of a man who does not represent us. But keep in mind that Labrador is rumored as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2014. Labrador is cheating the 700,000 people he was hired to represent; we've said it before and we'll keep on saying it; this guy doesn't have the stuff governors are made of.

CHEERS to the Idaho Falls City Club. When it formed, the City Club's founders promised to bring this community informed discussion on vital issues. Today's forum is a perfect example of that.

From noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Bennion Student Union building on the University Place campus, attendees will hear from Mike Ferguson, Idaho's former chief economist. Ferguson served five governors during his tenure and knows the state budget inside out. His talk will center upon public school funding over the last 33 years. Seriously, if you haven't attended a City Club forum and have an interest in this vital issue, today's the day.

Also, on Oct. 12, the City Club will feature Idaho Public Television's Marcia Franklin, who will address the making of a documentary about human rights in Idaho. This is good stuff and worth your time and attention.

JEERS to the Blackfoot School District School Board. The Idaho State Journal reported the board approved a "consulting" payment of $105,428 to someone they have refused to identify. The agreement was apparently hashed out in an executive session between School Board Chairman Scott Reese and "Employee B-2012," who is rumored to be former Superintendent Scott Crane.

Crane abruptly retired about the time this executive session took place. He has since taken over as superintendent of Moab, Utah's, public schools. As one would expect, the lack of an explanation from the board has led to rampant speculation. The board needs to tell the folks who pay its bills who the money went to and why.

CHEERS to State Board of Education member Emma Atchley of Ashton. Recently, the State Board decided not to repeal a mandate that forces Idaho's college students to have health insurance. There's always been something a little shady about a state that sued the federal government over forced health care mandating to a segment of the citizenry that they shall carry insurance. And now that students can stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, the pool is thinning. That's driving up premiums for everyone else.

Within this debate was a request for an exemption from Eastern Idaho Technical College. Idaho's community colleges are exempt from the mandate. EITC argued it more resembles a two-year community college than a four-year university. The school did not receive the exemption, but was supported by Atchley and fellow board member Bill Gosling. That was the right call. We wonder how many potential EITC students are being chased away by that mandate.

JEERS to the Idaho State Police. The Idaho ACLU says its lawsuit over the state's efforts to shut down the "Occupy Boise" protest from the old Ada County Courthouse unearthed a multiagency law enforcement plan called, naturally, "Operation De-Occupy Boise." The state, according to reporting by the Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell, argued against releasing the documents, saying they were subject to law enforcement privilege because they "reflect the planned operations that the Idaho State Police developed to implement 2012 Idaho laws."

Well, those laws allow for the ticketing of violators, not arrests. The ACLU says documents show that "Operation De-Occupy Boise" called for "arrests and detention of protestors."

The hyperbolic overreaction, first by state legislators and now ISP, to a peaceful protest doesn't speak well of a ruling faction that apparently will not tolerate even the most tepid dissent.

CHEERS to Randy Nelson, who has for years been the Legislature's go-to guy for tax facts. The head of the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho is stepping down after 22 years on the job. As the retiring chairman of the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, Blackfoot Republican Dennis Lake, told the Statesman's Dan Popkey, Nelson was the Joe Friday of his time. "He was absolutely factual," Lake said. "It was just information. You could draw your own conclusions."

HEERS to the Idaho Supreme Court. It shot down former eastern Idaho resident Rex Rammell's frivolous claim that the state had no right to kill the elk herd that escaped from his shooter bull operation in 2006. This is a victory for Idaho wildlife and a postscript to a less-than-illustrious career.

Corey Taule