Some thoughts on a few, random, topics...
State of Idaho Moves to Dismiss Common Core Lawsuit. As I predicted, the State of Idaho, through the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Governor, has moved to dismiss the Common Core lawsuit filed by former 2014 GOP attorney general candidate Christ Troupis and former 2014 GOP congressional candidate Bryan Smith.
The lawsuit alleges that Idaho’s implementation of Common Core is an unconstitutional interstate compact and that it violates the right of parents to educate their children. The state’s response argues that the testing Idaho uses is not an agreement between the states, but one between Idaho and the University of California-Las Angeles, the administrative body for the test. Idaho alleges that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring the suit because none have claimed to have children in Idaho schools. The last major point is that there is no constitutional right by parents to dictate the curriculum in public schools.
The matter will be resolved by Idaho’s sole federal district judge, Lynn Winmill. Based on my review of the case law, I predict the State of Idaho will prevail on the motion to dismiss.
Look for Effort to Create Community College in Idaho Falls. Gov. Butch Otter, in his State of the State address, offered $5 million in startup funds if Eastern Idaho moved forward to convert Eastern Idaho Technical College (EITC) to a full-fledged community college. This is significant because it will dramatically reduce the cost of launching such an institution, making voter approval of the creation of a community college district more likely.
Many don’t know that Idaho Falls is the largest community in Idaho without a freestanding institution of higher education. EITC offers non-degree courses and professional certificates. Several Idaho universities offer courses in the Idaho Falls area. And, College of Southern Idaho has a rapidly growing facility in Idaho Falls (my sons attend). Many travel an hour south to Idaho State University or a half hour north to BYU-Idaho. But, there is no local public degree granting institution of higher education.
The local effort to change that goes back to Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper’s campaign in 2013. She advanced the idea that East Idaho should revisit the idea of creating a community college. A ballot initiative in 1991 failed badly. Casper has received an enthusiastic response when she has raised the issue. Since then she has been having discussions with a wide variety of community leaders, exploring how to proceed.
With the governor’s announcement, expect further developments on this issue. (Disclosure: I am part of the effort to move the issue forward).
Initiative to Cut College Tuition by Raising Tobacco Taxes May Be Over. I just saw a very interesting Facebook post by the group behind the ballot initiative to raise tobacco taxes and then use a significant portion of the revenues to reduce student tuition at Idaho’s colleges and universities. The measure would also fund anti-tobacco programs.
Bill Moran, the driving force, indicates that he plans to shutter the effort “due to concerns of continued viability”. He, in particular, blames the governor’s office and the PCAP plan to deal with those in the Medicaid gap because it uses the same revenue source and has diverted the attention of health care groups which have so far declined to actively embrace the measure.
An Idaho Politics Weekly poll in October, showed the proposed measure leading 65% to 32%.
The biggest hurdle for the measure has always been getting on the Idaho ballot this November. It is unclear how many signatures have been gathered.
I am writing this on Thursday, January 21st and things may change before this goes to print.
Viability of Lawsuit to Claim Federal Land. A few weeks ago, I discussed the fact that Utah is contemplating a lawsuit against the federal government to force turnover of federal land. You can review my article here. Since then, I’ve been asked by several folks to review a legal analysis prepared by a group of legal consultants that were retained by Utah. I’ve been recovering from surgery and have had some time to go through the citations and the related case law.
After review, my take is this: The legal basis for reclaiming federal land is pretty shaky. It would require the Supreme Court to reverse or alter a series of lines of cases. The Court will often reverse a line of cases, but rarely multiple lines at once. I think a lawsuit has a high probability of failure. I personally would not advise a client to pursue that approach. In Utah, the final decision to go forward will rest with the Utah Attorney General. I am hearing reports that he concurs with my take on the issue. It will be interesting to see if he files suit or not, given the political pressures in Utah.
I really think if Idaho or another western state actually wants to obtain federal land, the better approach is the political process, ie. through Congress. I would start by finishing the consolidation of Idaho’s state lands (most of which are for our schools) into larger, more manageable chunks. We still have lots of scattered, relatively small Idaho state lands surrounded by BLM property throughout Southern Idaho. These are natural candidates for consolidation, ie. Idaho gives up its scattered pieces to the feds and Idaho gets larger pieces of federal lands. This would make it easier for both to administer lands under their responsibility. And, such an effort might provide a boost in funds for Idaho schools. By focusing on practical arguments, the chance of success would be greater. Sounds like a good project for Idaho’s congressional delegation.
Rep. Heather Scott, Again. Last week I drew attention to Blanchard State Rep. Heather Scott’s posting on one of her Facebook page of a ridiculous claim that the Chinese were going to grab land and businesses in the United States to pay off their owned debt. If you missed it, you can find the story here.
This week, I noticed she posted the following quote from George Orwell: “The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” As one who is willing to spread untruth, I wonder if she realizes her role in the drift away from truth??