These Are Strange Times …

It was another busy week at the Capitol, but things are just starting to heat up and new proposals are surfacing everyday. Committees have largely focused on reviewing rules, hearing budget proposals and receiving presentations from agencies, universities and others. But once again, some of the biggest developments occurred outside the marble halls of the Statehouse.

Shutdown Drags On, Simpson Stands Up

Rep. Mike Simpson, one of Idaho’s four-person congressional delegation, let his true feelings be known on the federal government shutdown, which has run 35 days before an apparent reprieve was announced today.

As Simpson pointed out, “It is unacceptable to jeopardize the pay of our hard-working civil servants from carrying out their service to the American people.” He’s right – thousands of federal workers across Idaho missed their second paycheck this month. Based on his frustration, Rep. Simpson was one of just ten republicans to cross the aisle and vote in support of a bill to open the government through the end of the fiscal year. It was a bold move that many might call leadership.  The good news, the tide is, potentially, turning as President Trump announced an apparent deal to reopen the government. While Trump praised federal workers for their sacrifices and promised they’d receive back pay, the reopening may only be funded through Feb. 15 …

Idahoans Care About Energy and Endangered Fish

Every year, Boise State University conducts a statewide poll to gauge Idaho’s temperature on a variety of topics. The results seem to demonstrate that Idahoans and their legislative reps are not always in complete alignment. For instance, only 20% of Idahoans feel that taxes are too high, but if you were to sit in on a tax cut debate, you would think the numbers were flipped. On energy issues, Idahoans are big supporters of renewables. Nearly 70% want to see renewables expanded and more than 90% agree that power companies should compensate homeowners who feed solar power back into the grid.

Idahoans are also worried about salmon and steelhead extinction, with more than 90 expressing concern. But don’t take my word for it, check out the 2019 Idaho Public Policy Survey results!

Trapping Rules Take One Step … Literally

In recent years, we’ve heard numerous stories of dogs caught in traps along hiking trails. We’ve encouraged the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and trappers to revise the rules to better protect domestic animals. Current rules allow trappers to set their traps 5 feet from the centerline of a trail. The new rules, approved this week by the House Resources Committee, prohibit traps up to 10 feet from the edge of a trail and 300 feet from the edge of a paved trail. As I testified, this is a step (literally) in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. Sometimes incremental progress is the best we can get in the Idaho Legislature, so we supported the rule and will continue to advocate for stronger protections.

In Other News

The Department of Environmental Quality is proposing to shift $1.5 million to fix the toxic pollution belching from the Triumph Mine, which flows into the East Fork of the Big Wood River near Ketchum.  The issue is being addressed based on ICL action. Two unrelated opinion pieces, one in the Idaho County Free Press and another in the Mountain Express, were written by my colleagues Brad Smith and Josh Johnson. Nice work fellas! Next week we expect to see more new proposals come out of the woodwork, so stay tuned!

Finally, the TOTW!

In recognition of all the federal employees who have felt real pain associated with the 35-day (and possibly more) shutdown. Like so many of you, ICL staff and our members are frustrated by inaction and unwillingness of Congress and the Administration to do their jobs. So, we’ve all got questions: Will the government stay open, if so for how long, what was the point and where are the adults?

These are strange times …