Highlights from 01-13-2013:
House OKs making torture a felony
Lawmakers are looking to toughen abuse laws by making it a felony for anyone convicted a third time of torturing a domestic animal.
The House Agricultural Affairs Committee approved a bill Tuesday that also defines torture. The new provisions, which have the support of the Humane Society, add the torture of dogs, cats and other pets.
The additions don't apply to livestock.
House to consider new bill Wednesday
Negotiations intensified on Gov. Butch Otter's plan to enact an Idaho-run exchange under the Affordable Care Act.
A new bill aimed at capturing votes will be presented at 9 a.m. by freshman Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d'Alene. The bill is on the House Health & Welfare Committee agenda.
Malek deferred questions late Tuesday: "I'll be able to tell you more tomorrow."
Did Senate Dems boycott lunch?
Sen. Branden Durst of Boise said they skipped a legislative luncheon with the Idaho School Boards Association on Tuesday to protest a series of bills covering collective bargaining.
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett said Durst might have misspoken.
"It was not a consensus of the caucus," Stennett said. "I would not have called it a complete caucus boycott."
The ISBA is pushing seven labor bills, including several that contain components of Prop 1 rejected by voters in November.
Stennett said she did not attend the luncheon because she had a longstanding conflict.
Kevin Richert, Idaho Education News
Nez Perce bill has many doubters
Some lawmakers contend that there is a struggle with alcohol on the Nez Perce Reservation that gives them reason enough to block the tribe from getting a liquor license for its new $16 million convention center and hotel.
The Nez Perce Tribe near Lewiston already has a beer and wine license, but now wants to sell cocktails to visitors at the facility near its existing casino on the Clearwater River. Under Idaho's strict liquor laws, the tribe needs a state exemption because its hotel is outside city limits.
The measure is due a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee, but at least five GOP legislators wanted it defeated before that, including Rep. Brent Crane of Nampa, who contends the bill could promote drinking.
"The tribe has struggled with the issue of alcoholism," Crane said.
Other lawmakers said it is inappropriate to apply stereotypes to Native American groups just to maintain restrictions on them
Measure asks for Frank Church fixes
The House Resources and Conservation Committee agreed to debate a resolution urging the federal government to take steps to clean up networks of paths damaged by years of wildfires in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness system.
Republican Rep. Marc Gibbs of Grace says the message to the U.S. Forest Service is simple: Take steps to repair trails or let Idaho volunteers do the job.
Gibbs says hundreds of miles of trails have been damaged, blocked or declared unsafe because of fires.
Defeated GOP rep lands House job
Former Republican Rep. Julie Ellsworth of Boise was hired by the GOP to prepare talking points for representatives on issues to be considered during the session.
Ellsworth has served six terms in the House but was defeated in November by Democratic Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking in District 18.
House Majority Caucus Chairman John Vanderwoude said the caucus hired Ellsworth because she will be a quick study. She's being paid with caucus funds.
Do extra auditors help or harass?
At the Idaho State Tax Commission's budget hearing, Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, questioned the years-long initiative the state has been carrying out to add tax auditors to help close the "tax gap" between taxes owed and those collected.
Vick asked about diminishing returns: "I'm concerned about how many auditors do we have before the taxpayers of Idaho start to feel harassed by the Tax Commission."
"We haven't reached to where we're harassing, but we've tried to build to the level that we could," said chairman Rich Jackson. "The law of diminishing returns will more come from the state of the economy than what we're doing."
Betsy Z. Russell,Spokesman-Review
Handwriting bill goes to Senate
In a 68-2 vote, the House threw its weight behind Rep. Linden Bateman's measure directing the State Board of Education to require cursive in Idaho schools.
Bateman, an Idaho Falls Republican, has argued that instruction will not only help the mental development of students, but also give them a lifelong means of communicating with grace and elegance.
Democratic Rep. Holli High Woodings of Boise said she thinks it's inappropriate for lawmakers to pile mandates on teachers.
Anti-abortion center aid clears House
The measure to benefit Stanton Health Care and clinics like it by giving them a sales tax exemption passed Tuesday on a 58-12 vote.
All of the supporters except one were Republican, with Rep. Carolyn Meline of Pocatello the lone Democratic backer.
Stanton and its founder, activist Brandi Swindell, sought the exemption after they had to pay thousands in back sales taxes.