Governor Otter’s State of the State highlights education, optimism under Trump administration

Before a joint session of the Idaho Senate and House of Representatives, in his State of the State address this afternoon, the Governor touted Idaho’s growing national reputation for stability and strength.

Education was a primary theme, with the governor’s pledge of $58 million toward a career ladder pay model for public school teachers, a five-year effort in which the state has already invested $75 in the past two years. He also recommends funding for training principals in low performing schools, for school administrators on Idaho’s teacher evaluation framework and process, and for teachers’ professional development. Another $15 million will help school districts cover the cost of higher health insurance premiums for their employees, and $10 million a year beginning 2018 is earmarked for classroom technology, part of a $60 million statewide initiative.

The governor is looking beyond K through 12 education, with a recommendation aimed at expanding and improving college and career counseling in Idaho high schools, as well as funding for an “adult completer” scholarship for students with some college credits who want to return as part of Idaho’s 60 percent goal of students between the ages of 25 and 34 with a college degree or certificate by 2020. Continue reading Governor Otter’s State of the State highlights education, optimism under Trump administration

Some Facts on Federal Lands in Idaho

 On Tuesday, March 15, the Idaho House Resources & Conservation Committee meeting had 41 citizens ready to testify for and against H582, the Idaho Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act, presented by Representative Judy Boyle.

Representative Boyle said the bill is a preemptive measure to calm fears that a transfer of federal lands to state control would result in restrictions on access to recreation and other uses. The bill does not address whether federal lands transferred to state control would be sold.

Earlier in the session, a presentation to a joint meeting of the Idaho House and Senate Resources Committees that outlined Utah lawmakers’ rationale behind efforts to take state control of federal lands drew a packed house, with some in the audience wearing stickers that said “keep your hands off our federal lands.”

These activities represent the latest foray into the contentious debate on whether federally held public lands should be transferred to state control. A little historical perspective on how we arrived here may be helpful. Continue reading Some Facts on Federal Lands in Idaho

Federal lands bill generates heated testimony

A bill intended to allay fears that state takeover of federal lands would restrict access has passed through the House Resources and Conservation committee on a party-line vote.

Representative Judy Boyle presented House Bill 582, called the Idaho Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act intended to manage public lands for “multiple use and sustained yield in relation to timber production and harvest, livestock range, mineral exploration and development, watershed, fish and wildlife, and outdoor recreation.”

Representative Mat Erpelding said he thought the bill premature. “This is from a single presentation we received earlier this session. We haven’t seen the other side of that legal argument.”

He was referring to a presentation to a joint meeting of Idaho’s House and Senate Resource Committees earlier this year from Utah Attorney George Wentz and Representative Kevin Stratton on the legality of a federal lands transfer to the state.

“I thought the Utah legislator was selling snake oil,” Rep. Ilana Rubel from Boise said, noting that the Idaho Attorney General has weighed in on the issue. “There is no constitutional entitlement that every state has the same amount of land in its borders.” Continue reading Federal lands bill generates heated testimony

Revisiting the possible transfer of federal lands

Idaho’s House and Senate Resources committees held a joint meeting on February 29 to hear Utah lawmakers talk about their efforts to take state control over federal lands – the subject of regular discussions in the Idaho Statehouse for the last few years.

The Lincoln Auditorium was packed, with many audience members wearing stickers that said “keep your hands off our public lands!” as the presenters laid out constitutional arguments for transferring federal lands to state control.

Continue reading Revisiting the possible transfer of federal lands

ICIE’s 2015 Earth Day Art Contest Awards

2nd Place Poster Flora Williams, Timberline High

In April, participants in the ICIE Earth Day Arts Contest, from Boise school district’s junior and senior high schools explored the theme Where Stuff Comes From through art.

1st Place Poster: Kylie Jenks, Borah High

Entries examined the things we use everyday: Computers, skis, bicycles, cars, fuel, paint, paper, and asked students to ponder where the key components of those items come from – A forest? The sea? A mine?

Everything we use comes from the earth at its most basic level. And we were excited to see how the student’s art reflects that.

Sponsors of the event included: The Idaho Mining Association, Idaho Power Company, Idaho Sugarbeet Growers, Idaho National Laboratory, Monsanto Company and Molitor & Associates.

Judging of the artwork is done by a panel selected by the art consultant for the Boise School District.

Best of Show: Adriana Altamirano, Boise High
1st Place Clare Nelson, Boise High
2nd Place Art: Peter Eberle, Boise High

To view more entries by students, visit the album on the ICIE Facebook Page.

Midas VP touts economic, environmental benefits of mining project

On Monday, Anna Labelle, Midas Gold vice president, presented to the House Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee on the Stibnite Gold Project near Yellow Pine, Idaho.

The project is one the company has been working on since 2009, and Labelle says the company has invested more than $80 million into Valley County since they started exploring the feasibility of the project.

Labelle says a large component of the project has been community outreach, as well as producing a project that is economically and environmentally sound. Environment is an important part of modern mining, she told lawmakers, and the two can be compatible.

“We can bring good things to the area,” Labelle said. Continue reading Midas VP touts economic, environmental benefits of mining project

Scientist compares genetic modification process to traditional breeding methods in legislative workshop

Once, a virus threatened to wipe out 95% of the papaya production in Hawaii. A genetic modification halted the spread of the virus.

The papaya ringspot virus, which prevented the papaya plant from producing fruit spread via 60 different species of insect on the big island, making it difficult to find a feasible insecticide regimen. Netting was cost prohibitive, and the species had no known natural resistance to the disease. Finally, a virus coated protein was introduced into the plant to create resistance, much like the process of vaccination.

Dr. Joseph Kuhl, Assistant Professor, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences with the UI Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences gave an overview of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, before a joint session of the Idaho House Agriculture Affairs and the House Environment, Energy and Technology committees on February 12th, a presentation for the Idaho Council on Industry and the Environment Goldroom Workshop.

Kuhl’s work is in plant genetics research, potatoes in particular, and is focused on developing a better understanding of disease resistance. He noted that no product he works with is ever intended to be commercialized.

Kuhl pointed out that the traditional process of plant breeding has created cultivars that are very different from the original plants. Wild ancestral plants that preceded maize, for example, are very different from what they are today. Continue reading Scientist compares genetic modification process to traditional breeding methods in legislative workshop

Nuclear energy commission’s Sayer to Senate committee: INL represents huge opportunity for Idaho

Idaho’s Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission chair told a Senate committee on Monday that nuclear fuel slated to be shipped to Idaho represents a tremendous opportunity for the state.

At the presentation to the Senate Resources and Environment Committee, Jeff Sayer praised Governor Otter’s foresight in establishing and continuing the work of the commission charged with implementing and overseeing progress on recommendations from the original LINE commission in 2012.

Sayer highlighted the economic impact of the Idaho National Laboratory in terms of jobs and state economic impact, noting that INL is the third largest employer in Idaho (factoring aggregate numbers such as contract employees). Continue reading Nuclear energy commission’s Sayer to Senate committee: INL represents huge opportunity for Idaho

2015 State of the State heavy on education, transportation, light on environment

Idaho Learns was the theme of Governor Otter’s 2015 State of the State Address Monday, with the governor citing lessons from the recession, discussions on education, and the recent contract kerfuffle with Idaho Education Network.

A good portion of the address focused on education, with the governor announcing a proposed $20 million in discretionary operating funds for local schools in fiscal 2016. In all, the governor said his total request represents 7.4 percent more funding for public schools.

In the tax arena, the governor spoke to last year’s Tax Reimbursement Incentive, a performance based tool he said is attracting great interest from businesses ready to create thousands of jobs and invest billions of dollars in Idaho’s future. He said TRI requires employers to prove up their commitment to Idaho with jobs and capital investments before their tax payments are reimbursed.

The governor also acknowledged that Idaho faces a need to prepare for legislation now before the US Congress that would clarify the legal authority of states to impose and enforce a sales tax on interstate purchases of goods online.

Otter said he has studied the recommendations of his Medicaid Redesign Workgroup and agrees with its findings – up to a point. He said the collaborative efforts resulted in a successful program in Your Health Idaho, Idaho’s own insurance exchange.

“I especially appreciate the Workgroup’s strong focus on personal accountability, requiring co-payments, and managed care,” he said.

The governor pledged to continue to defend Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban, and worked to that end with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to file appeals of the case to the US Supreme Court.

Otter acknowledged what he called the biggest of the big-ticket items in Idaho’s infrastructure inventory is a long-term, multibillion-dollar investment in Idaho’s roads and bridges.

“The maintenance backlog we already have makes it even more important to figure out now how to pay for the hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements needed to protect Idaho lives and corridors of commerce.”

On environmental issues, the Governor was brief, mentioning potential federal action on sage grouse protection and electrical transmission project siting, and his hope those issues could be resolved in collaboration with local stakeholders. His proposed budget includes $750,000 to help conserve sage grouse habitat to help preclude federal listing of the species.

The Governor also nodded to the completion of the historic Snake River Basin Adjudication process. The largest single-stream adjudication in U.S. history that concluded last summer after 27 years and covering water rights on about 87 percent of Idaho’s land area. Next on the docket: adjudicating all northern Idaho water claims.

Put aside disproven lab studies to find real solutions to bee decline

Beekeepers began reporting the loss of 30 to 90 percent of bees from their hives in 2006. This is called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Considering the importance of honeybees to pollinating crops, this was a serious issue that called for scientific study to find a cause and perhaps a solution.

In 2012, a Harvard associate professor, Chensheng Lu, published a study that concluded levels of neonics in today’s environment could cause CCD.  He set out to prove this by exposing the bees in his study to levels of neonics 10 times higher than they would be exposed to in the field, which did, indeed, poison the bees. He did not, however, prove that the lower levels indicated in his hypothesis would kill bees.

Furthermore, Dr. Lu’s study along with other such studies resulted in dead bees in or near the hive – a clear case of exposure to high doses. But CCD is characterized by the disappearance of the bees. Continue reading Put aside disproven lab studies to find real solutions to bee decline