Denney says hes relieved in less powerful role
Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, said hes not having trouble adjusting to being the first Idaho House speaker defeated in anyones memory.
I have a lot less responsibility and its actually quite relaxing, he said. Yes, I dont get to call all the shots, but sometimes its not easy to call the shots.
Denney spent five minutes in friendly conversation with new Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star.
He said the floor conversation with Bedke was the first theyd had since Bedke unseated him a month ago. Ive always appreciated Scott, Denney said. Scott is a very bright guy.
I am relieved. Were moving on to other opportunities. And Ive offered to help Scott in any way that I can because I know its going to be rocky for him.
Bedke seemed pleased with Denneys state of mind, and then said with a laugh, I suspect that some of the phenomenon thats adding to his relaxation is adding to my angst.
Ethics panel, vote-by-mail big deal for minority party
In a response to Gov. Otters State of the State address Monday, the Democrats 13 representatives and seven senators announced plans to again push for an independent ethics panel, a bid that failed last year.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, promised a package of election reforms that could include a vote-by-mail proposal, something voters in Oregon have embraced but that Idaho Republicans have so far rejected.
Democrats also took Otter to task for what they termed lackluster public education support, at the K-12 level and for Idahos colleges and universities. They want more money for state workers and state facilities that need repairs.
They also dont like his plan to sell $70 million in bonds to finance a new 579-bed mental health facility south of Boise, arguing that local programs that help people before they wind up behind bars would be a better use of the money.
Community mental health is sorely needed, but he proposes a mental health prison, said Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum.
Dems: Otter must work for votes on state-run exchange
Gov. Butch Otter must convince more than just conservative Republicans that a state-based, nonprofit insurance exchange is better for Idaho than a federally run exchange, say Democrats.
Sen. Branden Durst of Boise said Tuesday that if the governor is assuming he's got guaranteed support from the minority caucus, hed be wise to reconsider.
Otter has proposed that Idaho create its own exchange, seen by President Barack Obama as an online marketplace for individuals and businesses to purchase insurance.
And hes gotten federal approval for an initial blueprint of how the exchange would work.
But he left the final decision up to the Legislature, and deadlines are looming.
For instance, Idaho likely must hire a vendor to start building its exchange by mid-February.
Rep. Ringo questions Otters balance claim
Idaho Democrat Shirley Ringo is on the budget-writing committee and got his first look Tuesday at Gov. Otters claim of a structurally balanced budget.
The Republican governors new budget director, Jani Revier, repeated Otters assertion that his $2.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2014 is in equilibrium that ongoing expenditures are paid for with revenue thats likely to come in the door annually, not with short-term cash.
Ringo argued that state employees are leaving for better-paying jobs and that theres a backlog of aging highway infrastructure, challenges she says Otters budget does nothing to address.
State financial officer David Fulkerson told her Otters budget focuses on his top priorities, leaving too little money for things like raises for state workers in the next year.
After audit, Crane revamps documentation process
Idaho Treasurer Ron Crane said he has made changes to how he documents some of his offices expenses in response to concerns raised by state auditors last year.
A 2012 audit determined that expenses from Cranes annual bond-rating trips to New York, including limousine transportation, werent properly reported.
Auditors also questioned Cranes use of a state credit card to buy $8,000 in gas for his personal car, and his offices funding of a women's financial conference.
In a report released Tuesday, auditors say Crane buttressed record-keeping for the New York trips, requiring employees to document specific expenses.
He also now tracks gas purchases, reimbursing Idaho for personal trips.
And though auditors contend that Crane is still inappropriately funding the womens conference, he has revamped its nonprofit board to distance its leaders from the treasurers office.