Updates from the Idaho Legislature

January 16, 2014 

GOVERNOR’S RACE

Fulcher asks backers to dial for support

Idaho Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher’s campaign says this week’s Super Saturday is the “official start of the grass-roots effort” for Fulcher’s push to upset two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter in the May 20 Republican primary.

Volunteers are asked to bring their cellphones and gather in Nampa, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls from noon to 6 p.m. If that’s not convenient, the Fulcher campaign will provide call lists for supporters to make calls from home.

In an email to supporters, the five-term Meridian lawmaker acknowledged the difficulty of unseating Otter, who has held high office without interruption since 1987.

“Going up against an incumbent with virtually unlimited resources will be a challenge, but we’ve got the candidate with the right message and the right vision for Idaho,” said the email. “It’s our job to share that message with fellow voters.”

Dan Popkey

EDUCATION

Luna says new state test is helpful to teachers

The state superintendent of public instruction defended the state’s testing for Common Core, after an Emmett state senator said Tuesday that he no longer backs the exams.

Republican Sen. Steven Thayn said the Smarter Balanced Assessment takes too long — up to 8.5 hours — and doesn’t give teachers immediate feedback on how students performed. Luna said the actual testing time is six to seven hours. He said Idaho would make arrangements for teachers to have results within five days.

“Idaho is finally moving away from a multiple-choice-only assessment to give teachers the tools they need to better measure students’ progress,” Luna said.

Bill Roberts

HOUSE DISTRICT 15

Berch will run for seat he lost in 2012

West Boise Democrat Steve Berch, who lost a 2012 race by 6 percentage points, said Wednesday that he’ll try again this year.

Berch lost to Mark Patterson, who resigned this month. Patterson’s Republican replacement, former U.S. Marshal Patrick McDonald, was sworn in Wednesday. McDonald was campaigning to unseat Patterson and now will run as an appointed incumbent.

Berch spent about $47,000 on his 2012 race, Patterson about $38,500. Berch has since been elected as a director of the Boise Auditorium District.

In a news release Wednesday, Berch connected the District 15 GOP committee, which is chaired by Rep. McDonald’s wife, Sarah Jane McDonald, to Patterson’s rise. The panel elected Patterson as chairman before his 2012 election.

“It is time for a change; a time to elect new people and new voices to represent all citizens, not just the same group of well-connected insiders,” Berch said.

Dan Popkey

ELECTED OFFICIALS

GOP lawmaker wants to forbid dual service

A Boise Republican would bar people from serving in the Legislature while sitting on other elected panels, arguing potential conflicts make it difficult for them to represent different constituencies.

Rep. Lynn Luker said Wednesday that his measure would apply to positions with taxing and spending authority. He said it’s “difficult to serve two masters.”

At least one lawmaker would be affected if Luker’s bill passes. Democratic Rep. Hy Kloc is on the Greater Boise Auditorium District.

Luker argues that his plan isn’t a partisan hit. The bill would affect a House race in District 15, the area Luker represents. Another Boise auditorium official, Democrat Steve Berch, announced Wednesday that he’s running for the seat held by recently appointed Republican Rep. Patrick McDonald.

Lawmakers agreed to discuss the measure further.

The Associated Press

MEGALOADS

Panel gives quick OK to rules on heavy trucks

Encouraged by corporate heavyweights such as Potlatch, Clearwater Paper and Idaho Forest Group, the Legislature last year expanded a Southern Idaho pilot program and allowed the big rigs on other state or local highways.

The Idaho Transportation Department wrote temporary rules to implement the policy for trucks 105,500 to 129,000 pounds. The rules were later revised based on public comments; the Legislature now has to give its stamp of approval.

A House Transportation and Defense subcommittee considered the rules Tuesday and quickly recommended approval.

The only rule that drew much scrutiny was one dealing with revoking permits for violations such as failure to provide the required pilot cars and safety signals, or for traveling in hazardous weather. If convicted of such a violation, the permit would be revoked for 30 days.

Bill Spence, Lewiston Tribune

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