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Primary election tests Idaho GOP

May 27, 2014

According to political scientists, when a political party becomes superdominant and its opposition effectively neutralized, deeper divisions will emerge from within the party itself.

That dynamic was on display in this year’s primary elections. The Republican Party, which has long dominated the state, has seen divisions brewing for several years and they were especially pronounced on May 20, 2014. Steve Shaw, political analyst at Northwest Nazarene University, called it “an internal battle for the soul of the Idaho GOP.”

With contested primary races in all statewide positions, and with a large number of strong incumbent opposition races for legislative positions, the pundits were pondering if this would be a viabilit test for the Tea Party in Idaho. According to Chuck Todd, political analyst for NBC, Idaho was one of six states where the Tea Party power was to be determined, in addition to Oregon, Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

In a nutshell? In Idaho, “the Idaho GOP establishment seems to be the big winner,” according to Shaw, as is the establishment in the other five states. From the top down in Idaho, incumbents and mainstream republicans ruled the roost: Governor Butch Otter won handily over single-issue Obamacare foe Russ Fulcher, Lieutenant Governor Brad Little over anti-federal government Jim Chmelik, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden over abolish-the-EPA Chris Troupis, former Idaho Speaker of the House Lawrence Denny over a crowded 4-way race, and Controller Branden Woolf over Todd Hatfield.

The highest profile race was between 2nd District U.S. House Congressman Mike Simpson and his opponent Bryan Smith. The “conservative” cash floodgates were opened to irrigate the campaign of Smith by such groups as Club for Growth, The Madison Project and American Conservation Union. Smith, accusing Simpson of working with Democrats, lost by a wide margin.

Legislative incumbents around the state who fell in the primary included Tea Party conservatives: Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, losing to Merrill Beyeler; Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, falling to challenger Abby Lee; and freshman Rep. Doug Hancey, R-Rexburg, losing to Ron Nate.

As is no surprise in republican-dominated Idaho, most races are decided in the primary; a few general election races will be competitive.

Chatter: If you didn’t see it — and it went viral — two fringe gubernatorial candidates received their 15 minutes of fame at the one and only debate for Governor; read the story and watch the video here. Out-of-state friends believed they were watching a Saturday Night Live skit!

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2014 Idaho legislative session roundup

April 28, 2014

Last month’s conclusion of the Idaho Legislature, at 74 days, was the shortest since 2004. At the very end, there was little debate on one of the biggest budget bills of the session in the House, as the Medicaid budget passed on a 44-26. That measure, SB 1424, was the next-to-last bill of the session for the House.

On behalf of our clients, three pieces of legislation were passed this year, dealing with juvenile justice, scrap metal theft and hazardous waste. In addition to these bills, we were supportive of three other pieces of legislation and opposed to a rule proposed by the Idaho Tax Commission. Our efforts now will be to enact the legislation, focus on the primary elections, and to develop unincorporated associations to benefit our clients.

One of the more controversial bills this year was a bill allowing people to carry guns on college campuses. It passed over the opposition of leaders in higher education and law enforcement. In case you haven’t read it yet, here is a link to Boise State biology professor Greg Hampikian’s pungent satire in Thursday’s New York Times exploring the impacts of the Guns on Campus bill, which was signed by the Governor and will become law July 1st. All universities in Idaho opposed the bill and State Board of Education Member Rod Lewis told the committee the bill would mean open carrying of guns at Boise State football games, sending fans away in fear. “It is an open carry bill. It is dangerous and will, if passed, do harm to our colleges and universities,” Lewis said. Hampikian’s editorial asks, “When may I shoot a student?”Hampikian said he “thought it would be a good idea” to begin carrying his own firearm, “since many of my students are likely to be armed.”

On the same day as the end of the session, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney stumped for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, Sen. Jim Risch and Congressman Mike Simpson in Boise, saying he was endorsing the three because they are good conservatives and because they were early endorsers of his presidential campaign. Romney said GOP-dominated Idaho is a good example of how conservative principles can lead to economic prosperity.

Speculation was that there would more primary candidates filing before the March 21 deadline, but the results weren’t overwhelming. Just a year ago last week, Republicans who voted for Gov. Butch Otter’s state-run exchange were warned they’d pay the price in 2014 for defying an angry electorate. But the proportion of those who voted for HB 248 who have primary challengers is identical to that of those who voted no. Fifteen of the 42 Republicans who cast “yes” votes have primary opponents, or 36 percent. Thirteen of the 36 who voted “no” have challengers – also 36 percent. “This is the ultimate reality check,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke, whose unseating of former Speaker Lawrence Denney cleared the way for passage of HB 248. “I understand Republican Party leadership had been trying to make this a bigger deal than it is – it is a big deal, I don’t mean to downplay it – but it looks like a wash to me.”

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Idahoans host Basque delegation for trade, culture

February 19, 2014

For more than 20 years, EF Partner Roy Eiguren has been at the forefront of efforts to foster closer ties between Idaho and the Basque region of Spain. Periodically, he is honored to help host an official delegation from the region. As in past years, Roy spent some time last week participating in an official Basque delegate visit.

Ander Caballero, the Basque government’s delegate to America and Canada, was in Boise to discuss the Euskadi-Idaho Friendship Agreement, signed by Lt. Gov. Brad Little in 2012 to promote exchange between Idaho and the Basque Country in culture, education and commerce. For the Basque Country, Idaho can be the entry into the NAFTA market and for Idaho businesses, the Basque Country can be the entry to the European Market.

In addition, Dr. Gloria Totoricagüena facilitated Mr. Caballero’s visit, as she has done on previous occasions. Totoricagüena is the Idaho Coordinator for the committee that implements the Friendship agreement and is the consultant to bridge Idaho and Basque Country businesses interested in joint ventures, knowledge transfer and relocation. Totoricagüena gave an update on the group’s efforts to the House and Senate Commerce and Human Relations Committees. Basque visitors also included Mr. Asier Vallejo, Director of Relations with Basque Communities Abroad and Mr. Benan Oregi, an assistant in the same office, and Mr. Pablo Fano, Director of Basque community efforts for Basque businesses wishing to internationalize.

The Basque country, with a population of about 3 million, is a semi-autonomous region in Spain, bordering France. Basques have a long tradition in Idaho, having first come in the 1880s as shepherds. Now, Basque institutions in Idaho include the Basque Studies Program at Boise State University, the Cenarrusa Foundation for Basque Culture, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, the Jaialdi Basque Festival and more.

The Cenarrusa Foundation for Basque Culture, (of which Roy is President) hosted a reception for Legislators and the Basque visitors in the Capitol Rotunda on the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 13, with tapas provided by Stan Zatica of Paul’s IGA Food Stores and also attended by Mrs. Freda Cenarrusa. Please enjoy the photo gallery!

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Idaho lobbyists assist with juvenile justice reforms

February 7, 2014
Roy Eiguren introduces our client, Donald Ross (of the John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation) to Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and retired Idaho Judge Jack Varin. The Foundation has retained Eiguren Fisher to help refine juvenile justice laws in Idaho. Judge Varin is assisting with invaluable guidance as he presided over juvenile justice cases for many years.

education juvenile justice reforms idaho

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Stop by and visit our new office

January 27, 2014

We just moved into our office on the 8th story of the historic Hoff Building in downtown Boise, after workmen spent some time making a conference room and offices. We think it’s a great location – stop my sometime to talk in business or friendship.

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Support Our Troops® helps Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy

January 20, 2014
boise lobbyist donates

L to R: Martin Boier, Roy Eiguren, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and others commemorate a donation that will help a school for struggling teenagers purchase a generator.

At Eiguren Fisher, we donate a portion of our services to worthy clients like  Support Our Troops®, a nationwide nonprofit that operates a variety of programs serving America’s troops and their families worldwide. Partner Roy Eiguren is the Idaho director for SOT and successfully lobbied for license plates to raise money for SOT.

We are pleased to announce SOT is donating $5,000 to the Idaho National Guard to allow them to purchase a backup 30 kW generator for the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy. Thanks to the generator, the school will be able to open with its first group of 140 high school students, assured the school will remain running even in the event of power outages.The Academy in Pierce, Idaho. SOT teamed up with Live Laugh Love®, one of their Patriotic Partners,  to raise just enough more to purchase the generator.

IDYCA  is a volunteer program for 16 to 18 year old teens who are at risk of dropping out or have already dropped out of high school. The program is open to all students and incorporates a highly structured format, with an emphasis on student discipline and personal responsibility, to provide a positive, safe, and secure learning environment. A division of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, the IDYCA was established under authority of both federal and state law.

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Predictions for the 2014 Idaho Legislature

January 10, 2014

As we’ve done in past years, we’re going to offer an analysis and foreshadowing of what may happen in the coming legislative session, now finishing its first week.

In his State of the State address, Gov. Butch Otter said he expected a fairly short and to-the-point legislative session in 2014, and we concur. Hopes remain high the Legislature will adjourn by March 21, about three weeks earlier than typical. However, there will still be a number of significant issues to decide, including:

  • Education: There will be much discussion of the Common Core Standards, the consensus-reached program formulated by Gov. Otter’s task force. The bill for the program is estimated at $350 million of the next six years. Legislative leaders have voiced their support but it remains contentious among some segments of the public.
  • Energy: In his State of the State address, Gov. Otter called for adding $1 million to the Center for Advanced Energy Studies.
  • Rainy Day Fund: Gov. Otter is recommending that $35 million be set aside in fiscal 2015 for the Budget Stabilization Fund, another $29 million in the Public Education Stabilization Fund, and an additional $7 million in our Higher Education Stabilization Fund. A large portion of this funding will be used to support what the Governor calls our “K-through-career” goals.
  • Transportation: There is an estimated $500 million shortfall in maintenance and repair on Idaho highways. The Motor Fuel Tax has not been increased since 1996 and industry supports safe and reliable business routes. Legislation may be introduced to increase the motor fuel tax and/or vehicle registration fees.
  • Economic development: There will be a request for $1.5 million to replenish the Idaho Economic Opportunity Fund. This provides financial assistance to local government infrastructure for new or existing companies.
  • Local option taxation: Legislation will be introduced this year, but may not go far due to the anticipated short session.  Legislation would allow a voter-approved, local option sales tax to fund regional public transportation and other transportation improvements. Sen. Chuck Winder is expected to introduce several options of the bill. This legislation will have a decidedly larger challenge in the House.
  • Water Quality. The business community will support legislation which seeks state “primacy” of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES). Idaho is one of a small number of states which do not have this authority and the business community believes the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality would be more timely and responsive than the US Environmental Protection Agency on water quality issues.
  • Obama Care and Medicaid expansion in Idaho: Medicaid is off the table, at least for this year. According to Otter, “My concerns continue to be with the stability of that federal support and the risk of leaving Idaho taxpayers holding the bag for growing an entitlement that we simply can’t afford as it’s no structured.”
  • Personal property tax: Property tax played a prominent role in the 2013 Legislature and more is expected in next year’s session. H315, which became law, repealed the business personal property tax by exempting the first $100,000 of taxable value. There may be a push for a higher exemption of $200,000 or more.  In a recent twist, on Nov. 19, Idaho’s State Tax Commission refused to extend the tax break to operators of railroad tracks, pipelines, cell towers and underground tanks, despite the urging of a roomful of representatives of those industries. According to the Commission, H315 didn’t specify where the line fell dividing personal from real property, so the Commission made that decision by developing tow rules. The railroads, pipeline and cell towers were classified as real property, ineligible for the new break. Stay tuned for next Session.
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