C.L. "Butch" Otter

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

FEMA : Climate Change-Denying Governors Risk Withheld Funding

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 10:00 AM

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the first federal agency that a governor usually calls in time of natural disaster, has gone on record that more Republican governors need to get on board when it comes to climate change, otherwise they risk not getting federal disaster-preparedness funds.

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter has previously said that he doesn't support enacting environmental regulations aimed at reducing the effects of climate change. He joins a list of GOP governors, including Chris Christie (New Jersey), Rick Scott (Florida), Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Greg Abbott (Texas) and Pat McCrory (North Carolina) who have waffled or flat-out denied climate change.

But under a new policy from FEMA, which goes into effect in March 2016, the state's risk assessments must include consideration of the changing of climate conditions that could impact the state vulnerability to hazards. Simply put, if a state wants federal disaster preparedness money, they'll be required to consider how climate change threatens their communities.

"An understanding of vulnerabilities will assist with prioritizing mitigation actions and policies that reduce risk from future events,” the agency said.

The gubernatorial approval clause was included in the new guidelines to "raise awareness and support for implementing the actions in the mitigation strategy and increasing statewide resilience to natural hazards," said FEMA spokeswoman Susan Hendrick.
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Friday, March 6, 2015

Gov. Otter Responds to Former Governors on INL Nuclear Waste Importation

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 9:57 AM

Former Idaho Governors Phil Batt (left) and Cecil Andrus (right) addressed a room full of reporters on Jan. 15, expressing opposition to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's attempt to bring more nuclear waste to Idaho. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Former Idaho Governors Phil Batt (left) and Cecil Andrus (right) addressed a room full of reporters on Jan. 15, expressing opposition to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's attempt to bring more nuclear waste to Idaho.
In January, two former Idaho governors held a press conference where they delivered strong words to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on his recent decision to reopen importation of spent nuclear fuel to the Idaho National Laboratory.

Former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus and Republican Gov. Phil Batt were upset that Otter would break Batt's 1995 landmark injunction against any more nuclear waste to come into Idaho.

Andrus said the decision to receive 50 spent nuclear rods—weighing in at nearly 37.5 tons—was made "in the dark of night." 

"It's a travesty," Andrus said at the press conference on Jan. 15, raising his voice.

Nearly three months later, Otter has replied to the former governors in a news release. 

"The allegation that I am doing anything less than protecting Idaho under the terms of the 1995 Settlement Agreement is simply wrong. No governor has shipped more waste out of the state than me," he wrote.

It continues:

"It seems as if the former governors would be satisfied with cleaning up the INL and shutting it down. Their approach ignores the asset the INL has become to eastern Idaho, the state and nation. Clean up under the terms of the agreement, including removal of ALL (sic) materials by 2035, remains our first priority, but it is not our only priority. Continuing the valuable research at the Lab with its world-class facilities and people is the future and one we should all work towards.

"It is clear the former governors see the Lab as a liability, while I see its possibilities."

Andrus and Batt fear the importation of more nuclear waste to the site will pose a risk for the Snake River Plain Aquifer directly under the repository site. 

"If there was contamination in that water," Batt said in the press conference, "it would cause our potato industry to fold up. It would cause fish farms to fold up in Magic Valley. It would create all kind of problems with municipal water."

Andrus added that "it could gain $10 million in revenue, but that isn't one-tenth of 1 percent of what you're gambling against if any of that waste gets lose in the aquifer."

Andrus called this an attempt by Otter to turn Idaho into a new Yucca Mountain, referencing the controversial nuclear waste repository in Nevada that was closed in 2011 following widespread political opposition. 

"I've been around a long time," Andrus said in January. "But I guess I'm going to have to live a bit longer because we're not going to put up with this."
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Washington State Mulling Its Own Ag-Gag Bill

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 10:31 AM

  • George Prentice
Idaho's neighbor to the west is set to consider a bill that would criminalize unauthorized recordings of agricultural operations, though Republicans at the State Legislature in Olympia, Wash., have said that the bill is unlikely to make it to the floor for a full vote, the Spokesman-Review reports

The bill, sponsored by Washington State Rep. Joe Schmick (R-Colfax), would create the new crime of "interference with agricultural production." Proponents of the bill, including Rep. Dan Griffey (R-Alynn), who sits on the House Public Safety Committee, called it a "no-brainer."

But the bill has little support from Democrats in the legislature, who said the criminal activity addressed the bill is already illegal under trespass and vandalism statutes. House Republican leaders told the Spokesman-Review that they haven't polled members on the bill because they worry Democrats, who are in the majority in the House, are unlikely to send the bill to the floor for a full vote. 

In 2014, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed a similar bill into law. The so-called "Ag-Gag Bill" quickly drew legal challenges that are ongoing based on what critics described as its conflicts with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Otter to Undergo Surgery Tuesday, Jan. 20: Little Will Govern For the Day

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 2:17 PM

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter is expected to be away from the Idaho Capitol and working from home over the next two to three weeks following hip resurfacing surgery, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 20. Otter underwent the same type of surgery on a hip back in January of 2008. Lieutenant Governor Brad Little will serve as acting Governor on the day of the surgery, and Otter is expected to return to duty the following day. But he'll be working from home.

"I have talked to members of legislative leadership about my surgery and plan to stay in touch with them, legislators and directors throughout my recovery,” Otter said in a statement.

Otter said he expected to conduct the majority of his official meetings via phone until his doctors give him the all-clear to return to his Statehouse office.
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Monday, January 12, 2015

State of the State: Otter Calls for More Community Colleges, Tax Cuts, Defense of 'Traditional Marriage'

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2015 at 2:00 PM

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter was escorted into the chambers of the Idaho Legislature at 1 p.m. Monday, nearly one hour after the legislature gaveled its 2015 session into order.

It only took six minutes for Otter to fire his first salvo at a federal government which he said had "neither rhyme nor reason in how the government does or does not do its job."

As for state government, Otter said he looked forward to a session of compromise. "Our process is not designed to satisfy everyone. Nothing ever can," he said.

Otter's to-do list begins with education, he said, which was met by polite applause. In particular, said he was proposing a 7.4 percent bump in public education funding, versus his proposed budget's overall 5.2 percent increase. Otter said he also was calling for a $20 million bump in what he called "discretionary operating funds" for local school districts throughout the state.

In regards to the much-embattled Idaho Education Network, which was crippled by a 4th District Court judge's ruling which found that the state had broken the law when it altered a contract to manage the $60 million program. Federal funds dried up, and makeshift funding to keep IEN going at least a few months into 2015 has left the network in a state of flux. But Otter said Monday afternoon that IEN was "an asset that must be maintained."   

"I'm confident and committed, starting with rebidding the contracts, to have full funding for the operations of IEN for Fiscal Year 2016 (which begins July1)," said Otter.

The governor also had particular praise for the College of Western Idaho. "It's hard to even imagine (the Treasure Valley) without CWI," he said. But now, Otter said he wants to see more Idaho communities explore the possibility of creating their own two-year colleges, and he said it would be a prime topic of discussion as he continues to visit each corner of the Gem State in his "Capital for a Day" tour which will return in 2015.

Also of high priority, Otter said, was what he called "the elephant in the room."

"We already have over 175 bridges across Idaho that are over 50 years old and are structurally insufficient," said the governor. "It's a real problem."

But Otter was short on solutions, referring to "all that I have learned and we have learned in recent years," alluding to his past failures of convincing the legislature to approve funding for Idaho roads and bridges.

"However, I will not entertain proposals that compete for general fund tax dollars for such things as education," said Otter, thus landing the multi-billion dollar problem squarely in the laps of the Idaho House and Senate transportation committees.

On the topic of taxes, Otter said he was proposing a drop of Idaho's top income tax rate of 7.4 percent down to 6.9 percent over the next five years, promising a tax cut for up to 51 percent of Idaho taxpayers by 2018.

He also called for a more robust collection of Idaho sales tax on Internet sales.

"I appreciate your help in continuing to reduce the tax burden on Idaho citizens," Otter added. "Because of your efforts, we've kept $157 million in the hands of Idahoans during the current fiscal year and that number grows to $169 in Fiscal Year 2016."

Otter said he was also calling for an additional $3 million for the Idaho Opportunity Fund at the Idaho Department of Commerce, specifically earmarked for water, power, wastewater treatment and road upgrades in order to expand local businesses.

Otter added that he was also advocating for the creation of an additional behavioral health center for Idaho after already opening one facility in eastern Idaho in 2014. General consensus is that a second mental health center could go in northern Idaho.

Otter also took the opportunity to tell a statewide broadcast audience during the speech that he would continue to defend what he called "traditional marriage" which "represent the intentions and values of the citizens of Idaho." Otter said he would continue to defend Article 3, Section 28 of the Idaho Constitution which was ruled in 2014 to be unconstitutional. Otter's comments were met by silence from Democratic legislators while the majority of the GOP lawmakers applauded.

But as Otter wrapped his 2015 State of the State address, he made no reference to Add the Words, nor Medicaid expansion, nor Idaho's minimum wage.

And so it begins.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Video: Gov. Otter's Inauguration Draws Colorful Cast of Characters

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 2:13 PM

Miss Idaho's Outstanding Pre-Teen, Ashlyn Allen, 11, of Idaho Falls, rehearses the National Anthem prior to the Governor's inauguration ceremony. - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Miss Idaho's Outstanding Pre-Teen, Ashlyn Allen, 11, of Idaho Falls, rehearses the National Anthem prior to the Governor's inauguration ceremony.
For hours ahead of January 9th's Idaho Inauguration Day ceremonies at the Idaho Statehouse, members of the Idaho National Guard had been crisscrossing the grounds of the Idaho State Capitol. Performers in the 25th Army Band cleaned and inspected their instruments at the foot of the capitol steps while infantrymen in military green combat fatigues set up a trio of howitzers in a nearby grassy space, arranging wooden crates of blanks neatly beside each one.

One of them, chuckling with a fellow serviceman on their way to a nearby parked Humvee, told BW that they fire 21 blanks for Presidential inaugurations and 19 for governors. 

Other, non-military personnel hustled about their business near a bank of white plastic chairs arranged before the capitol steps. At podium situated in front of an enormous American flag, Miss Idaho's Outstanding Pre-Teen, Ashlyn Allen, 11, of Idaho Falls, rehearsed the National Anthem. Many of the people bustling about stopped what they were doing to listen.

Soon a crowd began to form. First, it was passersby and warmly bundled attendees in puffy coats, hats and wool gloves. Then it was a string of invited guests destined for the white plastic chairs including members of the Idaho House and Senate, a handful of lobbyists and high-ranking members of the Idaho Republican Party.

Perennial gubernatorial candidate Harley Brown - FARZAN FARAMARZI
  • Farzan Faramarzi
  • Perennial gubernatorial candidate Harley Brown
But one of the guests drew more attention than the others: former gubernatorial candidate Harley Brown, wearing his trademark biker cap, leather vest, and smoking a long, brown cigar, which he put out with a gloved thumb when asked to by a woman offended by the smoke. Brown had received an invitation to attend the inauguration by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, who was sworn into his third term, and drove from Hollywood, Calif., where he said he'd been working on a television show, to attend.

"I figured I'd fly the colors literally and figuratively," Brown said. 

The perennial gubernatorial candidate made headlines during a colorful, televised primary debate against Otter, Russ Fulcher and Walt Bayes. He told BW that his next move will be to run for President. 

"I don't play the game," he said. "I put the bark on."

Meanwhile, Father Len MacMillan of the Holy Apostles Parish in Meridian read a religious invocation, asking for God to give Otter the "spirit of wisdom and knowledge."

Just past the halo of suits and a corona of gawkers was Zachary Jones, who was waving a sign that read, "Save a wolf; educate an Otter." This past weekend, the central Idaho community of Salmon hosted a wolf-kill derby, during which no hunters bagged a single wolf (though local coyotes didn't fare so well). Jones said the derby was a "nationwide disgrace—and I'm speaking as a hunter," and advocated for the re-listing of wolves on the endangered species list.

"At least until Otter's out of office," he said.

Zachary Jones protests Idaho's treatment of wolves - FARZAN FARAMARZI
  • Farzan Faramarzi
  • Zachary Jones protests Idaho's treatment of wolves
One of three howitzers used during the inauguration ceremony - FARZAN FARAMARZI
  • Farzan Faramarzi
  • One of three howitzers used during the inauguration ceremony

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Judge Orders Idaho to Pay Attorney Fees in Same-Sex Marriage Case

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 11:33 AM

  • Harrison Berry
Though Idaho's same-sex couples began receiving marriage licenses through the state of Idaho Oct. 15, the fight over marriage equality in the Gem State is far from over, as Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has told the media that he will continue to fight for the 2006 voter-enacted same-sex marriage ban despite its defeat in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, there remains the possibility that Madelynn Taylor, the veteran who sued Idaho for the right to be buried next to her wife in the Idaho Veterans Cemetery may still be denied that right even after her spouse was interred in the cemetery.

Dec. 19, another installment was added to this long drama when U.S. Judge Candy Dale, who in May declared that Idaho's same-sex marriage ban violated same-sex couples' Constitutional rights, has ordered the state of Idaho to pay a portion of plaintiffs' attorney fees and all of their litigation expenses in Latta v. Idaho.

The plaintiffs—four same-sex couples who sued the state over the ban—requested $463,480 in attorney fees and $4,363.08 in expenses, but the state partially opposed the request and argued for a reduced award of $203,435 in attorney fees and $614.36 in litigation expenses. In the final assessment, Dale awarded the plaintiffs $397,300 in attorney fees and $4,363 in litigation expenses.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Amy's Kitchen to Set Up Shop in Former Pocatello Heinz Plant

Posted By on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM

One of the nation's largest non-GMO convenience food makers is setting up to start cooking in Pocatello.

This afternoon, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter announced that California-based Amy's Kitchen is purchasing the 500,000-square-foot Pocatello production facility formerly owned by Heinz. Prior to the announcement, the governor and the Department of Commerce referred to the purchase by the code name "The Natural."

"Idaho is opened for business and we are prepared to move at the speed that they need," Otter said during an announcement at Pocatello Regional Airport Wednesday.

According to a news release issued by Otter's office, Amy's Kitchen will bring approximately 1,000 jobs to the area, and new total wages will reach $342 million. Over the first 15 years, tax revenues from the facility are expected to be $35.7 million. 
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Saturday, October 25, 2014

State Has Spent More Than $80,000 Defending Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Posted By on Sat, Oct 25, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Earlier this year, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter allocated $1 million to the state's fight to protect its 2006 voter-enacted same-sex marriage ban. But that's considerably higher than what the state has paid so far to defend the ban, the Spokesman-Review reports.

Idaho's legal bill to protect the ban has topped $80,000, and in response to a records request, the office of the governor has released an agreement, made Oct. 7, with Washington, D.C-based attorney Gene Schaerr to compose requests to both the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court for stays of the decision allowing same-sex marriages to proceed in Idaho. The agreement was worth $10,000.

Before that, the state spent $71,477 challenging U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale's ruling that the state's ban was unconstitutional. All-told, the state has spent $81,477 on the ban, including $76,920 on private attorneys. 

Among the private litigators the state hired was Monte Stewart, who engaged in oral arguments before the 9th Circuit and charged the state $250 per hour. Stewart also defended Nevada's same-sex marriage ban, but withdrew from defending Idaho's ban. Stewart was replaced by Schaerr.

The more than $80,000 the state has spent defending its ban may not be the end of its legal bills. Otter has filed a brief with the 9th Circuit for an en banc review—including all 11 9th Circuit justices—of its previous ruling upholding Dale's decision, and could also be responsible for the plaintiffs' attorney fees and court costs in the lawsuit that triggered the ruling, Latta v. Otter.

Marriage licenses began being granted to same-sex couples Oct. 15.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Otter Requests 9th Circuit 'En Banc' Review of Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 4:49 PM

Marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples across Idaho since Oct. 15, but Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, who has steadfastly supported the state's 2006 voter-enacted same-sex marriage ban, isn't done with the issue just yet.

Oct. 21, Otter requested that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals convene for an en banc review of a previous, 9th Circuit three-judge panel ruling upholding U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale's ruling that the ban was unconstitutional. An en banc review would be a judgment by all 11 members of the 9th Circuit Court.

According to a statement released by Otter's office, the governor made the request because the original three-judge panel made "critical errors in its decision, among them failing to apply the correct legal standard to Idaho's marriage laws." 

Specifically, Otter cited The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel's lawsuit against the city of Coeur d'Alene over its nondiscrimination ordinance as an example of the harm presented by same-sex marriages. Coeur d'Alene's nondiscrimination ordinance prohibits housing, workplace and public accommodations discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, and the Hitching Post has sued the city over its nondiscrimination ordinance, claiming that the city will force it to conduct same-sex weddings against the owner's religious beliefs, despite the fact that it's a nonprofit religious organization, and thus exempt from the ordinance's scope. 
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