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New Website for Idaho Chooses Life!

December 26th, 2006 by Halli

The premier Idaho pro-life organization, Idaho Chooses Life, has a brand new website, with enhanced features. This organization has an impressive history of effecting pro-life law in the Idaho Legislature.

Rather than the shotgun, reactive fights engaged in by other groups, Idaho Chooses Life executive director David Ripley first monitors national trends, consults with legal experts, marshals pro-life legislators, and only then proceeds with legislation to save the pre-born.

Do visit this site. Whether you are looking for a pro-life doctor, searching for pro-life resources, or hunting for information on hot topic issues, Idaho Chooses Life has it all. And while the Idaho Legislature is in session, you’ll be up-to-date on the latest developments in the halls of the state house.

While you’re on the site, be sure to sign up for automated email updates. And if you’re looking for a worthy cause for charitable donations, Idaho Chooses Life has a record of using all contributions to the best advantage for unborn children and their mothers.

In the interest of full disclosure, Halli is a member of the board of a sister organization, Idaho Chooses Life Alliance.

Posted in Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues | No Comments »

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

December 24th, 2006 by Halli

We wish you a holiday season filled with love, giving and receiving. May you experience again the wonder of new life – both the new life born on that first Christmas morn, and the new life He promises you and your loved ones.

May you have a truly Merry Christmas!

Posted in General | No Comments »

The Idaho Examiner

December 21st, 2006 by Halli

It is with great pleasure that I add a link to the Idaho Examiner, a wonderful on-line alternative to the local newspapers! Current headlines and news stories are featured, but that’s not all. You will find opinion columns by people you know, and some you have yet to meet. A daily internet broadcast from 1-3pm, MST, is a real highlight, and an archive allows the reader to look back in time for broadcasts that might have been missed. There is far more to this website than I can possibly describe. Enjoy exploring it yourself!

Mike and Becky Ponkow, of Pocatello, are the brains and the brawn behind this wonderful website. These two truly care about their community, Bannock County issues, and the state of Idaho. They are tireless in pursuing the stories that matter. Mike and Becky are not afraid to tackle the tough stories and ask the hard questions, from the city council, to the county commission, to the Idaho Legislature. They monitor taxes, private property issues, encroachments on personal freedoms. You’ll get to know them as you browse IdahoExaminer.com. Keep your eye on this great news source!

Posted in General, Idaho Legislature, Pocatello Issues, Taxes | No Comments »

Senior Judges: Bane or Bargain for Idaho Taxpayers?

December 20th, 2006 by Halli

Recently former Representative Ann Rydalch opined in the Idaho Falls newspaper that the growing use of unelected “assigned” or senior judges constitutes an affront to voters. As the use of these judges increases, she tentatively asks if the electorate is deprived of the right to vote to retain or throw out these judges.

The program Ms. Rydalch refers to calls in these “senior” or retired judges when a magistrate judge goes on vacation, or has a conflict of interest, or when the case load in a district is too great for sitting judges to handle in a timely manner. In most of the cases to which these senior judges are assigned, a judge from outside would have to be called in anyway.

Senior judges are not paid a salary, but instead receive benefits in exchange for their work. That represents savings for the taxpayer, but there is also another. In the 7th Judicial District this program has prevented or at least postponed the need for an additional fulltime judge and a new courtroom, with the accompanying offices, secretaries, etc.

When the Idaho legislature was initially presented with this solution to a growing problem, they balked and declined to approve it. However, they did allow a pilot program to be set up which went on to prove beyond all doubt that the plan would save the taxpayer money while still bringing justice to the courtroom. The legislature appropriated the relatively small amount of money required to put the program in place.

At a recent meeting of legislators and judges, a court administrator displayed the hard numbers. It is indisputable: the senior judge program saves the state, and hence taxpayers, a great deal of money. A challenge is hereby offered to Ms. Rydalch to dig up any examples of abuse of the system by senior judges.

The senior judge program is a winner for both the taxpayers of Idaho and those who find themselves in the justice system. Yes, the legislature accomplished something good when they approved this program.

Posted in Idaho Legislature, Taxes | No Comments »

Bonneville School District 93: Another Bond Election Coup

December 19th, 2006 by Halli

Bonneville District 93 has a long history of strategizing to thwart the responsible taxpayer by passing excessive bonds. They’ve just executed another landslide approval of a school bond. Yes, they’ve shopped the districts in the state for these ideas, but they’ve raised their implementation to an art form.

Are you surprised that a school district may have an actual scheme for extracting every cent possible from property owners within its boundaries? If I were a betting woman, I’d wager a fair sum that the plan is actually written and kept at district headquarters.

There’s no need to keep it a secret, however, as any observer can quickly deduce it’s structure each time a bond is proposed and put to the vote. In case you haven’t had the opportunity to observe District 93 at its finest, here are the main points of the plan.

  • First, the school board solicits the most inflated projections of future school building needs and population growth (usually from developers who think they’re building the next Gilbert, AZ).
  • Public board meetings are held at which members solemnly consider the projections and invariably conclude that building now will save taxpayers in the long run. Note to board members: it is of the utmost importance to give the appearance of earnest deliberation while in front of the public.
  • The board (behind closed doors) assigns the district business manager to crunch the numbers in a manner that proves taxpayers will never pay more taxes if a new bond is passed. (It’s not the board’s fault if property valuations go up and raise taxes and they’ll tell you that if you ask.)
  • The board closely examines the school calendar, searching for a date that is neither too close to a general election, nor too far from a holiday, or alternatively, a parent teacher conference.
  • Assure that every school in the district sends home a flood of propaganda promoting the passage of the bond. Be sure to include dire predictions of portable classrooms, overcrowded classes, famine and pestilence should the bond fail. (This step necessitates foregoing – at least for a few weeks – the usual claim of paper shortages caused by stingy patrons.)
  • Somehow fail to inform the usual news outlets of the bond election. If they’re doing their job, they’ll get wind of it before the date on their own. Under no circumstances attempt to promote the bond election in the mainstream media.
  • Oh, all right – finally mail out a district newsletter that arrives in mailboxes the day before the election. Buried in the newsletter (never in the headlines) include an impassioned pitch for more money. Now the district patrons who don’t have children in public school have been informed, as they should be. The day before the election.
  • Remember that many patrons do not have children in traditional public schools. They have grown children, home school, or place their children in charter or private schools, so will not have received the deluge of pro-bond propaganda sent home from public schools. Under no circumstances is it desirable to mobilize this segment of the electorate, as they are less likely to vote “yes”. Keep them in the dark about the election date and the details of the bond. The less they know, the less likely they are to show up and vote “no”.
  • On election day, either parent-teacher conferences or all-school holiday programs will bring the maximum number of parents to the schools, where voting is held. If all goes well, crowded parking lots and side streets will actually deter non-school-parent voting.
  • It goes without saying that all school employees living within the boundaries of the district will vote, and they will be checking the “yes” box.
  • As district policy, do not utilize county elections voting procedures. Instead, have voters sign a made-up, copied form stating they have not and will not vote more than once at other district schools. Never cross-check the forms for possible multiple voting.
  • Make covert use of “special ops” voting. This includes assigning the high school principal to determine which senior government class students are of voting age, marching them down to the office and forcing them to vote on the bond, absentee. Of course, this exercise passes as a civics lesson. (Assigning detention to students who refuse to show the principal their “yes” vote is considered excessive.) Remember, if the news catches wind of this procedure and calls the district office, the secretary must be prepared to admit that this is against district policy and the ballots will be discarded. Not to worry – no one will ever know if the ballots are destroyed because there is no oversight of any kind.
  • Never allow any poll watching during voting, or observation during ballot counting.

By now you are thinking I’ve made this all up. Sorry, every point is actually true. OK, I made up the part about famine and pestilence. Other than that, every one of these strategies is used by District 93. They may not have written the book, but they certainly perfected the final edition. If any District 93 official, elected or appointed, disputes my list, I challenge them to prove me wrong. My only fear is that other districts will read this post and “improve” their own assault on unsuspecting patrons.

Does a reasonable taxpayer of District 93 stand a chance against this kind of onslaught? Find your answer in the figures from the just-completed bond election: 76.53% approval. The bond required a 66.66% majority to pass, and received that or better in every school except one, which still voted 63% in favor.

What percent actually voted? According to Bonneville County Elections, 16,874 voters were registered in District 93 at the time of the election, with more using same-day registration. Only 2411, or less than 15% (of the total before same-day registration), showed up to vote. Exactly the results the school board so carefully planned and worked for.

What can be done to stop this kind of sabotage, obstruction and obfuscation by school districts? The school board will tell you that everything they have done is within the law, and there is the problem. This must be addressed by the legislature, and the next session is none too soon. Expect another post in the near future detailing some possible fixes.

Posted in Education, Idaho Falls Issues, Idaho Legislature, Property Rights, Taxes | 2 Comments »

House Highlights – Pre-session

December 18th, 2006 by Halli

By Tom Loertscher

With the first session of the Fifty Ninth Legislature a couple of weeks away, I am frequently asked what I think will be on the agenda. If this next session is like others recently you can bet that the issues that do come to the House will be more complex than ever. Some things are quite predictable and I wouldn’t be normal if I didn’t make some predictions, so here goes.

Budget: I have been told that Governor Risch has proposed a very austere budget to the tune of a twelve percent increase over last year. Austere? Details are not abundant at this point but I have a long memory of the last time an increase of that magnitude was passed and it was not pretty. Going to town with a $200 Million surplus developing, will make for extended wish lists from agencies and other pet project seekers. A more significant number to watch is what the increase in revenue is projected to be. A more prudent approach will be not to exceed revenues with our spending habits.

Water: With the Supreme Court now holding a pivotal case in its hands there will undoubtedly be reaction. The water issues will more than likely be centered around recharge and the mess generated by conjunctive management of surface and ground water. Another controversy was generated by legislation passed in 2005 that mandated who and how much would be paid by water users for monitoring of ground water. Sound complicated? I just hope we don’t make it more complicated than it is.

Education: This could be one of the most interesting issues this year since removal of the Maintenance and Operation Levy from the property tax. I have long been saying that because of this change the Legislature will have to become honest about how we fund education. We will no longer be able to pass or not pass the buck, as the case may be, by hiding behind the ability of local districts to pick up the slack with property taxes. The number crunchers will be working overtime as every legislator including myself, makes sure their districts are not adversely affected by the change.

Roads: With GARVEE now in full swing the next shoe to drop will be that there is not enough money to keep up with other highway needs. As I recall that was one of the arguments opponents used not to pass the program in the first place. All of this can be fixed of course by increasing gas tax and registration fees. I have been hauling grain this past week and as I filled my truck with fuel, I just shuddered at the cost. One idea being floated is to impose a sales tax on fuel. That way every time the cost of gas went up you would pay more tax as well. Don’t get me wrong, I like good roads, but just where do all of these increases fit into a family budget?

Corrections: More inmates, more prison space, more cost per day will be the buzz words. Crime really doesn’t pay, it costs. One solution that will be sought is a pilot project being proposed by Rep. JoAn Wood to provide sentencing alternatives to prison.

Medicaid: The Feds didn’t buy the reforms passed last year and that leaves us with laws on the books that will certainly have to be reviewed at a minimum. The Bush administration is proposing sweeping changes to Medicaid and somehow I suspect that will mean the states picking up more of the cost with new mandates attached. Change seems to never mean flexibility so this black hole could get even deeper. And if this year is like most other years several expansions of various kinds will be sought, all at a cost of course.

And if all of these issues were not enough, there will be minimum wage increase legislation, a list of changes sought by the courts to correct mistakes in previously passed laws, mail-in voting replacing election day, and various and sundry enhancements to retirement benefits. If you couple that with the need to meet a schedule imposed by a deadline necessitating moving out of the building, it could be quite a session indeed. As my Uncle would instruct me in this situation, “Do your best, and the best ain’t none too good.”

Posted in Education, Guest Posts, Idaho Falls Issues, Idaho Legislature, Property Rights, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

To-Die-For Jell-O Salad

December 18th, 2006 by Halli

Step One:
2 3-oz. packages raspberry or strawberry Jell-o
2 T lemon juice
2 ¼ cup boiling water
2 pkgs frozen berries (use fresh strawberries or raspberries in the summer.)

Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water. Then mix all together and set aside.

Step Two:
2 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (crumbs of 15 crackers)
6 T powdered sugar
½ cup melted butter

Mix together and set aside.

Step Three:
1 pint frozen whipped topping
¼ cup milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 8-oz pkg cream cheese

Beat cream cheese with milk until creamy and smooth. Add frozen whipped topping and powdered sugar. Cream together.

Step Four:
Layer 2/3 crumbs in bottom of 9×13 pan. Spread half of cream cheese mixture over crumbs. (Make sure to seal it all the way. If there are holes, the Jell-o will leak through and soak into the crumbs and it’s not so good!) Pour Jell-O mixture on top. Chill until firm. Spread the rest of the cream cheese mixture on top of Jell-o. Sprinkle remaining crumbs over all. Enjoy!

Posted in Recipes | No Comments »

House Committee Conundrums

December 15th, 2006 by Halli

Along with leadership positions, the Idaho House has also settled on committee assignments. A quick inspection of the lists is not very instructive. But when you take time to start counting, adding, and cross-checking, a few surprises pop up.

First and foremost among those surprises is the fact that the three members of House leadership (all except the Speaker, Lawrence Denney, who has no committee assignments) serve on the same four committees. Mike Moyle, majority leader, Scott Bedke, assistant majority leader, and Ken Roberts, caucus chairman, all serve on Revenue and Taxation, Ways and Means, Transportation, and Resources.

This is a first, at least in recent memory. Apparently, House leadership considers these the four most important and powerful committees. (Otherwise, it seems safe to assume they would sit on all 14 committees!) It appears they feel no remorse at depriving other House members of these positions. And, it seems they are not concerned that frequent conflicts between leadership responsibilities and committee meetings will result in the neglect of important duties.

Other capable legislators such as Bob Nonini and Mack Shirley have only 2 committee assignments. Have they, and others, done something to displease House leadership? Do they have less capacity for work, including reading, comprehension, and simple mental ability? Or are we to understand that House leadership is composed of supermen? If we dig deeply enough, there must be an explanation.

A dispassionate observer might conclude that missteps have been made, and that the Idaho House has been poorly organized and headed for trouble. Only time will tell. We’ll be watching.

Posted in Idaho Legislature | No Comments »

Interest: School Districts Pay It, or Earn It

December 13th, 2006 by Halli

While Bonneville School District 93 continues to ask for more and more money to build more and more schools (which will almost certainly be empty in a few years when the district population goes through the natural aging cycle), let’s look at an Idaho district that has a different approach.

West Side School District 202, just a few miles from Preston, has been handling their financial responsibilities very well. As a result, they have earned the trust and confidence of their patrons.

Eight or nine years ago District 202 told their patrons that they needed a new building, but preferred to save up rather than bond for it. The proposal: if voters passed an extended plant facility levy, the district would put the extra money in the bank and save until they had enough to build, and would not ask for a bond.

Voters accepted the proposal. After 7 or 8 years, the money in the bank was sufficient to pay for the new building outright. Instead of paying interest on a bond, the school district and its patrons earned interest in the bank. The result: a beautiful new school that was paid for before construction began.

We’ve already discussed school district consolidation. This post raises one of the reasons this idea will be opposed. With their fiscal responsibility, why would West Side District 202 wish to consolidate with nearby Preston District 209, which has considerable indebtedness? Similar situations exist across the state.

Consolidation still makes great sense, but the legislature will have to intervene to address unequal indebtedness.

Meanwhile, what’s stopping other districts from saving up for future needs instead of bonding? Answer: only their myopia.

Posted in Education, Idaho Falls Issues, Idaho Legislature, Taxes | No Comments »

Cinnamon Apple Trail Mix

December 13th, 2006 by Halli

This is so pretty! You can use it for extra energy along the trail, or as an attractive gift. And you can feel good about eating most of it, too! The recipe makes about 4 quarts.

2 c mini pretzels
2 c dry roasted peanuts
3 c Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
1 ½ c Apple Cinnamon Cheerios
1 ½ c Frosted Cheerios
1 ½ c yogurt covered raisins
¾ c apple-flavored green jelly beans
¾ c cinnamon red-hots, or red jelly beans
6-oz dry apple chips

Combine all ingredients in large container. Store in airtight container. Makes approximately 4 quarts.

Posted in Recipes | No Comments »

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