Monday, February 28, 2011

UPDATED: Video and Pictures of Idaho Student Walkouts

Posted By and on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 1:29 PM

Rumors that students have walked out of school this morning in protest of proposed education reforms were confirmed by Dan Hollar, spokesman for Boise School District.

According to Hollar, 100 to 150 kids walked out at Borah High School about 8:30 a.m. Hollar said it's his understanding that those students have been asked to return to class. The Idaho Statesman reported about 100 students from Meridian High School and another 150 from Nampa High School also walked out.

Island Park News reported that American Falls high school senior Madai Montes manages a Facebook group called Students Against Luna's Change in Education, which called for statewide student walk-outs today.

Citydesk will have updates as the story progresses.

UPDATE: From The Spokesman-Review: "About 100 Boise High School students are now gathered in the second-floor rotunda of the state capitol, where they're quietly doing their homework."

UPDATE: From Idaho Education Association President Sherri Wood the walk-outs:

The IEA first learned of the walkouts when local media outlets began reporting them earlier today. While we’re sure that many Idaho educators appreciate the show of support from their students, the IEA had absolutely no involvement in organizing the protests. As we’ve seen for seven weeks now, Idahoans have repeatedly voiced opposition to the Luna plan. The students’ actions today show that they’ve read the Constitution and absorbed its lessons about a government of, by, and for the people.

Given the Senate’s votes last week to pass two of the three Luna bills, students—and many adults—feel they haven’t been heard. It’s no surprise that they’re now acting on their First Amendment rights to speak out and peacefully assemble in an effort to stop the legislation that would hurt them, their siblings and their teachers.

UPDATE: By George Prentice
Tom Luna, who wants to press for more online learning in Idaho classrooms, is getting a bit of a lesson himself on social media today. Fueled by Twitter and Facebook, hundreds of Idaho high school and middle school students walked out of class today in Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Pocatello and Idaho Falls, protesting the Luna's plans to reform classrooms.

Citydesk received a video from Borah High school student Brehnan Jones showing more than 100 of his classmates participating in a walkout at approximately 8:30 a.m.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

Nearly 200 students from Boise and Meridian high schools moved their protest to the Capitol at noon.


Luna, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, has proposed gutting collective bargaining and limiting tenure for Idaho public school teachers. The most controversial plank of his platform would see the elimination of nearly 1,000 teaching positions, an increase in class size and a requirement for online learning.

The State Senate Education Committee takes up the debate on class size on Tuesday.

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JFAC Cuts Funding for Hispanic Commission, Considers Longer Liquor Store Hours

Posted By on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 10:34 AM

The Idaho Legislature's budget writers started the week off with major cuts to the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs. The agency, which employs three full-time personnel and advocates for economic and social equity, saw its budget slashed by 5.5 percent.

"This commission represents 10 percent of the state's population," said Democratic Sen. Nicole LeFavour of Boise. "I'm afraid that we're sending a message of disrespect."

Nonetheless, LeFavour ended up on the losing end of a 14-5 vote to cut the budget down to $246,000. Since 2009, the Hispanic Commission has already seen its funding reduced by 21 percent.

Also this morning, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved $10.7 million in funding for the state's lottery program. The dedicated funds come from lottery ticket sales.

"It's unfortunate that we have a hodgepodge of agencies with dedicated funding," said LeFavour. "And of course, they can go ahead an purchase fancy new laptops or computers. Yet we have agencies that don't generate their own revenue, so they're in an extremely grave situation."

JFAC also considered a new budget for the Idaho State Liquor Division. In a proposed plan for fiscal year 2012, 34 of the state's busiest liquor stores would be allowed to stay open until 9 p.m. (beyond the current 7 p.m. closing time). The move would cost the state approximately $455,000 but could generate as much as $2 million in new revenues. After some debate on the issue, JFAC members decided to delay a final vote on the issue until Tuesday.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

AP: Former U.S. Senator Jim McClure Dead

Posted By on Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 5:28 PM

The Associated Press reported late today that James McClure, who represented Idaho in Congress for nearly a quarter of a century, died Saturday. He was 86.

A native of Payette, McClure spent practically his entire professional career in public life. After graduating from Payette High School, he joined the Navy, serving during World War II. McClure was a graduate of the University of Idaho law school. He served as a prosecutor for the City of Payette and Payette County and then went on to be elected to the Idaho State Senate. In 1966, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served three terms. He was elected to the U.S. Sentate in 1972, where he served for 18 years.

In 2001, the U.S. Courthouse in Boise was named after McClure.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Effort to Ban Texting While Driving to Resurface in Legislature

Posted By on Sat, Feb 26, 2011 at 7:38 AM

The Idaho Legislature is expected to take up a proposal next week to ban texting behind the wheel.

Democratic Sen. Les Bock of Boise told Citydesk he has two bills that are ready for debate. One measure bans cell phone use while driving, making it an infraction with a $75 fine. A second bill would slap a $50 fine on those texting while driving. The fine would double to $100 for subsequent violations. A similar proposal was considered by legislators in 2010 but died on a procedural motion in the final minutes of the session. Then-state Rep. Raul Labrador took credit for killing the bill.

Twenty-nine other states, including Oregon and Washington, have passed some type of restrictions on texting behind the wheel. In August Twin Falls became the first city in Idaho to ban texting while driving. The city of Meridian followed suit in October.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Idaho is Second Most Conservative in the Country

Posted By on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 5:40 PM

A new poll released by the Gallup organization reported Idaho to be the second-most conservative state in the nation, second only to Mississippi.

The survey said 48.5 percent of Idahoans labeled themselves as conservative, 38.5 percent considered themselves as moderate and 14.9 percent were self-identified as liberal. Rounding out the top 10 were Alabama, Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Carolina and Arkansas. The most liberal: District of Columbia followed by Vermont and Rhode Island. Oregon is listed as seventh most liberal. Washington was number nine.

Some other findings in the new Gallup poll:
- 53.6 percent of polled Idahoans lean toward Republicans
- 29.7 percent lean toward Democrats
- disapproval of President Obama is 59.9 percent (up from 46.7 percent last year)
- approval of President Obama is 31.6 percent (down from 43.3 percent last year)

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AEHI's Gillispie Listed as Consultant for Proposed Nuke Plant in Colorado

Posted By on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 4:59 PM

A newspaper story in Pueblo, Colo., reports that Don Gillispie, the controversial CEO of Eagle-based Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. is serving as a consultant for a familiar proposal: building a 3,000-megawatt nuclear power plant, this time southeast of Pueblo.

The Pueblo Chieftain reported today that Colorado attorney Don Banner has a plan, but what he doesn't have "is government approval, community support and someone to build the $5.5 billion plant."

The Chieftain reported that Banner hired Gillispie as his main consultant, touting "45 years of experience in construction, operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants." The line is a direct lift from Gillispie's profile on the AEHI website.

Gillispie recently dodged a bullet when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of a "pump and dump" scheme, alleging that Gillispie "pumped" up AEHI stock values with false or misleading press releases, and then "dumped" shares, accumulating significant profits. On December 16, SEC investigators stalled all AEHI trading and operations, pending an investigation. U.S. Judge Edward Lodge unfroze company assets on February 3, putting Gillispie and AEHI back in business.

Payette County Planning and Zoning commissioners swung open the gate to Gillispie on December 9, approving a rezone from agricultural to industrial for a site of nearly 5,000 rural acres near New Plymouth. A final rezone approval would be necessary from county commissioners. AEHI would still need to launch a multi-million dollar licensing processing, which could take a minimum of four years.

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Nullification Bill Dies in Senate Committee

Posted By on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 11:36 AM

The controversial "nullification" bill, which attempts to declare the Affordable Care Act "null and void" in Idaho, has been defeated in a State Senate Committee. By a voice vote, members of the State Affairs Committee killed the measure following two hours of heated testimony.

Most of this morning's speakers filled the chambers to voice opposition to what they call "Obamacare" and support for nullification. Here's a sample:

"I will not accept or obey the heath-care law. I will go to jail."

"It's going to be worse than Dracula."

"We have strayed so far from the original intent of our founding fathers."

Nullification went down to a 7-2 vote with only Republican Senators Russ Fulcher of Meridian and Chuck Winder of Meridian voting yes.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teachers Mourn Senate Passage of Education Bills

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Symbolically or not, scores of Treasure Valley teachers stood with their backs to the Statehouse tonight in a somber vigil protesting the Senate vote to approve two of Tom Luna's plans to reform education.

Earlier today, the Senate voted 20-15 to approve both bills, which strip collective bargaining and tenure from teachers as well as institute new merit-pay processes into school districts across the state. Eight Republicans joined seven Democrats in voting against the measures. Twenty Republicans voted to approve the bills.

"Today's debate is best characterized as factual opponents versus idealogic proponents," Democratic Sen. Elliot Werk told Citydesk. Werk said he expects a very different vote when Luna's third bill, calling for elimination of nearly 1,000 teaching positions and an increase class sizes, comes before the Senate.

"I know there are a lot of rumblings over class size," said Werk. "No one is really buying Tom Luna's logic that class size doesn't matter."

The vigil outside the Capitol was one of more than a dozen teachers' rallies scheduled tonight throughout Idaho.


The first two bills are expected to be considered by the House Education committee next Tuesday.

"It's a dark night in Idaho," said Werk. "But I would tell teachers that there will be better days."

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Anonymous Strikes Again: This Time, The Westboro Baptist Church

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Ladies and gentlemen: there is an Internet war on. And it's raging with all the maturity of a fourth grade "he said-she said" match. But unlike those conflicts, this one is has the potential for serious and tangible consequences on national and global affairs.

Anonymous—a loose coalition of hackers—rose to international attention late last year with its defense of the website by launching the Internet equivalent of guerilla war against anyone who attacked it or its founder, Julian Assange. Everyone from politicians to web-security companies to Visa were assailed with denial-of-service attacks and defacement of websites.

Continue reading »

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Teacher Protests Scheduled for Tonight Throughout Idaho

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 3:36 PM

The Idaho Education Association, representing some 13,000 unionized teachers across the Gem State, said late today that there will be at least 16 candlelight vigils tonight, protesting the Senate passage of two of three of Tom Luna's bills to reform eduction.

Simply put, Senate Bills 1108 and 1110 strip collective bargaining and tenure and institute new merit-pay systems in school districts across Idaho. A third bill, still being crafted by the Senate Eduction Committee, proposes an elimination of nearly 1,000 teaching positions and increasing class sizes.

In the Treasure Valley, vigils are scheduled for outside the State Capitol in Boise, at the Kuna High School parking lot, outside of Meridian City Hall and at the corner of Karcher and Nampa-Caldwell boulevards in Canyon County.

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