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Posts Tagged ‘Idaho legislature’

Every decade, the national one-person-one-vote principle needs to be geographically rebalanced. This summer, Idaho will begin redrawing state legislative and Congressional districts to account for migration in and out and around the state.  As one of the fastest growing states, Idaho has more migration to manage. But as one of the more enlightened states when it comes to redistricting, Idaho uses a bipartisan commission to draw district lines, rather than some more baldly political processes used in other states.

The Redistricting Commission is charged with drawing district lines that are reasonably compact, respect city and county political boundaries, respect logical geographic and natural boundaries, and respects the law.  As a bipartisan Commission, it will also need to avoid gerrymandering  and stacking the deck in favor of any particular party or incumbent.  It won’t be easy. (The Redistricting Commission has provided census data and mapping software on its website if you want to give it a try yourself.)

New lines for Congressional districts are not likely to affect north Idaho, as the entire panhandle is expected to remain in the 1st Congressional district. However, new lines in legislative districts are likely to shift significantly. Census data shows a significant migration away from rural areas and into more urban and suburban areas.  Kootenai County and the Rathdrum Prairie cities kept pace with Idaho’s overall growth, but Shoshone and Clearwater Counties lost residents and Boundary, Bonner and Benewah counties grew at a somewhat slower rate than the rest of the state. The result is that the more rural panhandle — consisting of Districts 1 through 8 — has lost about half of a legislative district.

To rebalance, lines in District 1 need to shift south into District 2. But District 2 needs to grow significantly to make up for the population lost. Eventually, somewhere, an incumbent is likely to be squeezed out of his or her current district and into another one.

We don’t have a particular dog in the fight.  But we do understand what an important fight it is.

The Commission will be holding hearings throughout the state, and hearings in North Idaho are scheduled for this Wednesday. (Sandpoint from 2-4 pm at the Sandpoint High School Auditorium, Coeur d’Alene’s from 7-9 pm at Meyers Health and Sciences Building at NIC.)

 

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Idaho and Montana wolves have had a pretty tough week. First, the wolf-panicked Idaho legislature authorized the Governor to take “disaster emergency” actions.  Then, the wolves were a subject of one of the few “policy riders” to survive the government shutdown budget brinksmanship. And on Saturday, even though it may not matter anymore, Judge Malloy in Montana tossed the proposed settlement of the continuing litigation over delisting the wolves from Endangered Species Act protections in the Northern Rockies.

What does it all mean? It’s maybe too early to say, but odds on a wolf hunt this fall are certainly not as long as they were a couple of days ago.

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading about it all:

Idaho legislature passes “wolf disaster emergency” legislation, making westerners look like wimps — Idaho Mountain Express

An editorial about the legislature’s not-exactly-scientific approach to wolves  — Idaho Statesman

Judge Malloy declines to accept the proposed settlement. — Idaho Statesman

The actual Malloy opinion, linked here,  is well-written and fascinating reading. (All the legal arguments, from all the parties, are linked here.)  — via Wildlife News

All that work by Judge Malloy may soon be moot.  The wolf rider is still attached to the federal budget resolution.  — Spokesman Review

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For all of our friends and members who wrote a letter, sent an email, or signed a petition, here’s some moderately good news from Boise. Even though, by all accounts, it is a tough budget year for Idaho, Governor Otter has allocated full funding in his budget for water quality monitoring. Our friends at Idaho Conservation League who have been monitoring the monitoring issue from their offices near the capitol, say that the Governor recommended funding for water quality monitoring in the full amount of $349,000.

However, Otter is proposing to use money from the water pollution control account – an account where DEQ banks revolving funds for drinking water and wastewater facility loans and grants. Typically, the state uses this fund to provide the match to federal funds for these important projects.

Although the DEQ account apparently has a balance sufficient to use on water quality monitoring this year, it is not a long-term solution. As our local municipalities look for help in funding very costly wastewater projects to clean up the Spokane River, for example, taking money from the revolving account for monitoring may prove to be funding one critical water quality program at the expense of another. Unfortunately, the state may be in the same position next year unless additional funding is identified.

In any event, the next step in the budget process will be to get the legislature’s important JFAC (Joint Finance Appropriations Committee) to approve the funding. We will keep you up to date.

 

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