Video of President Obama’s speech

We’re not in the breaking news business at Idaho Reports. We have the luxury of taking a couple days to analyze most political events that happen around the state. The president’s speech in Boise was no different. We’ll have a thorough run-down on his remarks and his visit on this Friday’s show, but until then, here’s the speech if you didn’t have a chance to watch it.


State takes first step in rebidding IEN contract

On Tuesday, the state put out a request for information (RFI) to broadband providers on continuing IEN services.

RFIs are the first step in the state’s bidding process, preceding the requests for proposals, or RFPs. It allows providers to submit questions before writing their proposals. Those questions and answers are then posted anonymously on the state’s website.

The governor and lawmakers have called for rebidding of the broadband contract after a judge voided the original contract last year.

For background on the Idaho Education Network’s ongoing contract issues, read Idaho Education News’s IEN coverage. 

Update, 11:02 a.m.: One interesting note: While the RFI is geared toward expanding the current system, the state is also leaving the door open for other set-ups, specifically regarding hardware vs. software/cloud video teleconferencing, fiber ethernet alternatives, bandwidth and private managed networks. Still, those alternative proposals would have to fit general requirements, such as two-way interactive media between schools.

(Clarification, 3:37 pm: The blog originally said the post would be up for five days. The RFI will be up until Feb. 15, which is the deadline for response, and will be on the IPRO website as a courtesy for five days.)


A familiar fight on tax cuts

Gov. Otter’s proposal to reduce taxes — and the early stand-off forming in the Senate — is all too familiar.

In 2012, then-Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, oversaw the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee when Otter proposed a $35 million tax cut for corporate and top income taxes. Corder and other Senate Republicans opposed it from the beginning, with Corder saying he’d rather the money go back into the state’s depleted rainy day funds. 

Three years ago, Siddoway was initially opposed to the tax cut, but ultimately voted in favor of it on the last day of the session (though I remember him looking pained during the committee vote). Corder voted against it in the committee and on the floor, though he changed his vote to “yes” at the last minute.

Reducing those same tax rates even further is back on Otter’s agenda, with this year’s proposal costing an estimated $17.8 million. Siddoway now heads the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committe, and told Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review he wants to see increased teacher pay before considering tax cuts. 

Will that hard line last throughout the session? We’ll see.


Some background on the Gov. Otter interview

In November, Idaho Reports producer Seth Ogilvie got the idea to do an extended interview with Gov. Otter. We wanted to focus less on the issues that dominated the election and recent news cycles (there will be plenty of time for hard-hitting questions as the session progresses), and talk more about his life, his political philosophies and how he makes his decisions.

We weren’t sure we’d get an interview at all, much less the amount of time we asked for, but we were thrilled in early December when the governor agreed to sit down with us for two hours, two days before Christmas.

Two hours might seem like a long interview, but when you’re discussing a life as eventful as Otter’s, it’s no time at all. (And regardless of how you feel about the governor, you can’t deny the man has had an interesting life.)

Seth and I spent hours combing through archived Otter interviews and footage and put together a list of questions. We wanted to make the most of our time, because we knew 120 minutes would fly by.

And it did. While we discussed Otter’s time at Simplot, his relationship with his father, his faith, growing up in poverty and his DUI conviction, we also weren’t able to spend much time discussing his time as lieutenant governor or even the last eight years he spent in the governor’s office, much less many of the controversies that the Otter administration has had to defend.

While editing, we also knew we had to walk a fine line between creating a thoughtful, documentary-style piece and creating an Otter campaign video. We didn’t set out to make Otter look like a hero or a villain. Rather, we wanted the governor to discuss his life in his own words.

Seth spent hours putting together the piece, and I’m proud of the work he and I did (though, like any journalist, I’ll always think of things I could have done better or questions I wish I’d had time to ask). In the process of getting a two-hour interview down to a 30-minute segment, a lot of interesting footage inevitably ended up on the cutting room floor.

So here’s the unedited, raw interview with Governor Otter.


Stricter rules for Idaho midwives

The Idaho Board of Midwifery has updated its rules on newborn care.

The administrative rules, which must be approved by the Legislature, say midwives must immediately transfer newborns to the hospital for emergency care if they have any signs of distress, including respiratory distress, an Apgar score of 6 or lower, seizure-like activity or skin lesions. The rules also require midwives to consult physicians for certain conditions, including any birth-related injuries, jaundice, murmurs or congenital abnormalities.

In 2010 and 2011, three babies died at one Meridian midwifery center, resulting in license suspension for two midwives. The Idaho Midwifery Council supports requiring licensing for midwives, saying it brings the practice into the open and improved care for babies and mothers, according to the Northwest News Network. 


On firing squads, public records and agency rules

If you haven’t seen it, Betsy Russell’s Sunday column mentioned the Idaho Department of Corrections exploring adding the firing squad as a method of execution in Idaho.

IDOC got as far as drafting legislation on firing squads, but ultimately abandoned the idea, Russell reported.

Idaho Reports had also obtained a copy of the draft legislation through a public records request. Included in the proposal: Putting into code a public records exemption for the names of those participating in or assisting in the execution, including the on-site physician, consultants, members of the escort team and members of the medical team.

While the names of those individuals are already exempt from public records requests in the Board of Corrections rules, this would put that exemption in code, said IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray. And though the department is dropping the firing squad proposal, it will continue to pursue codifying that exemption. “The reason is just to provide further clarification and add greater protection by having it in statute,” Ray said in an e-mail to Idaho Reports.

In addition to Idaho’s public records statute, state agencies sometimes make administrative rules to clarify which of their public records are exempt. Those agency rules, approved by the legislature each year, must stay within the boundaries of state code, but sometimes give added clarification on the agency’s interpretation of the statute.

Speaking of rules, I’m digging through some of the proposed rule changes that lawmakers will soon consider. So far, the most interesting thing I’ve found is on cow brain testing, but I’ve only just begun and I’m sure there will be more. Stay tuned to the Idaho Reports blog for all your rule updates concerning domestic cervidae (and everything else).