In Brief


Old Civil Rights Argument Rekindled For New Legislative Session

Senator Maryanne Jordan (D-Boise) has introduced the so-called Add the Words legislation as a personal bill in the state Senate’s fledgling 2020 session. Specifically, Senate Bill 1226 seeks to add “sexual orientation” and “gender discrimination” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act to protect those of the LGBTQ community from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation. Currently, the law has protections for race, religion and sex, but not for sexual identity.

All Senate and House Democrats are co-sponsors.

“Protection from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation for all is a human right,” Jordan explained. “While several cities across Idaho have ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, all citizens should be protected from being kicked out of their home or being fired from their job regardless of their gender or who they love.”

LGBTQ activists have been lobbying the legislature for years to add the verbiage to the law. In recent years, those efforts have led to peaceful protests that led to numerous arrests. The protests were in the form of silent sit-ins at the Capitol where activists dressed in black and held their hands over their mouths to symbolize what they described as their voice being ignored.

Is Idaho Readying For Legalization Of Marijuana?

Plausible, but not probable—that might be the fairest way to describe the Gem State’s chances for legalizing marijuana or other controlled substances, recreationally or otherwise. And legislation proposed early in the 2020 legislative session could take the temperature for this conservative state’s willingness to consider such bills.

Last week, Senator Grant Burgoyne (D-Boise) introduced drug decriminalization legislation as a personal bill in the Senate. The bill would:

  • Decriminalize the unlawful use of controlled substances in private places
  • Repeal the current prohibition on civil commitments for drug abuse 

Sen. Burgoyne introduced the legislation with the purpose of starting a conversation about shifting the focus from prosecution and punishment to treatment of drug abuse in Idaho.

“I have heard from many of my constituents that there are too many people in Idaho prisons,” Sen. Burgoyne explained. “Idaho has a drug addiction problem and we cannot arrest our way out of it.” 

To be clear, the senator noted that he is not seeking to legalize drug use, but to consider decriminalization which, in theory, would lead to treating drug addiction with robust rehabilitation rather than incarceration. 

The bill, as it stands now, repeals the current prohibition on civil commitments for drug abuse to remove one of the current barriers to effective treatment. The bill does not excuse crimes that might be associated with illegal drug use, and it retains prohibitions in Idaho law on:

  • Using and being under the influence in a public place
  • Drug trafficking 
  • Driving under the influence

Sen. Burgoyne plans to bring another criminal justice bill in the form of a constitutional amendment. The proposed amendment would allow law enforcement officers to make warrantless misdemeanor arrests based on probable cause when the offense in question is not committed in an officer’s presence. 

“Last June, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled in State v. Clarke that such arrests are unconstitutional unless the crime was witnessed by law enforcement,” Sen. Burgoyne said. “The legislature needs to have an open and thorough discussion about the significant changes that Clarke will cause. As long as I can remember, law enforcement was able to make warrantless misdemeanor arrests based on probable cause even if the officer did not witness the alleged crime.”

‘Billy Goat’ Event Hosts 70 Racers

Close to 70 Wood River Valley—and beyond—Nordic skiers gathered at the Sun Valley Nordic Center on a sunny but cold Saturday morning, Jan. 18, to compete in the annual Billy Goat Loppet, sponsored by Backwoods Mountain Sports. The skiers were greeted to a 12-, 10-,  5- and 1-kilometer course impeccably groomed by Sun Valley Nordic Center. The 1k course was created for the enthusiastic kids that turned out to race—all ending up with big smiles on their faces. 

What follows is a rundown of the winners and other accomplishments worth noting:

  • Oldest skier in men: Charley French
  • Oldest skier in women: Shauna Thoreson
  • Youngest boy: Bailey Kurtz and Duncan Fryberger
  • Youngest girl: Piper Renner
  • Overall winners for the men’s 12k were Peter Holmes, Sam Wood and Chris Mallory; and in the women’s category were Katie Feldman, Alexia Turzian and Betsy Youngman
  • Overall winners for the men’s 10k were Tom Liby, Willy McSlowpants and Ralph Johnson; and in the women’s category, Jill Norton, Toni Ramey and Jennifer Oliver
  • Overall winners for the men’s 5k were Sam East, Mel Dyck and Charley French; and in the women’s category, Linda McClatchy and Aurelie Boloix
  • Overall winners for the boys’ 5k were Bailey Kurtz, Nicholas Gardiner and Duncan Fryberger; and in the girls’ category, Mazzy Conners and Zoe Liberatore
  • Overall winners for the 1k boys was Charlie St. George; and in the girls’ category were Stella St. George, Josephine Renner and Sadie Guss 

A Show Of ‘Gratitude’

The Wood River Valley’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-WRV) is encouraging local artists to submit their work for its fundraiser, “Gratitude”—an ongoing part of the organization’s four support groups for teens, adults and families.  

“We invite all artists to share in their own creative style, a piece of art, large, small, whatever medium, with a title (preferably) and focused on the theme of GRATITUDE, and suggesting the manifestation of health and wellness from a mentally challenged life,” the art show committee said.

Timeline for submissions and the show is as follows:

  • Feb. 17–28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: art submissions drop-off at NAMI office at Community Campus
  • Feb. 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: art submissions drop-off at Ketchum Innovation Center (KIC)
  • March 2–5: art displayed on NAMI website
  • March 5: 2020 NAMI-WRV Journey to Wellness Art Show at KIC

 For more information, please contact the NAMI office at (208) 481-0686 or 

NAMI-WRV is a nonprofit organization committed to improving the lives of people with mental illness by providing education, support and advocacy. Since 2017, the organization has been hosting art shows to help support the NAMI cause. 

I-84 Sees Multiple Crashes Due To Low Visibility

On Friday, Jan. 17, Idaho State Police investigated multiple crashes on Interstate 84 between mileposts 222 and 233, in Cassia County.  

There were high winds in the area that caused drifting snow and low-visibility conditions.  Due to the road conditions in the area, SH81 was closed from mileposts 0-14 in Cassia County for approximately one-and-a-half hours. SH77 was closed from mileposts 8-15 in Cassia County for approximately two hours. I-84 was closed from milepost 222 in Cassia County to milepost 269 in Oneida County for approximately four hours.   

Idaho State Police was assisted at the scene by the Cassia County Sheriff’s Office.

Fiscal Policy Report: Idaho Spends A Lot On Prisons

Over the last 25 years, prison spending in Idaho increased by 207 percent, the sixth-highest increase in the nation, according to a new report released by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy. The growth in Idaho’s correction budget far outpaced growth in education investment in Idaho (94 percent for public schools and 39 percent for higher education). 

Idaho’s spiking incarceration rates are among the highest in the nation, even as crime rates remain low.

“After decades of low crime rates, policymakers could consider common-sense policies being enacted in other states that reduce incarceration rates and the need for prison beds,” said Alejandra Cerna Rios, policy director at the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy.

The report finds several drivers for the incarceration and budget spike: policies that lengthen prison sentences (mandatory minimums, three strikes, and truth-in-sentencing), unaddressed mental health and substance abuse treatment needs among Idahoans involved with the criminal justice system, and barriers to successful completion of parole or probation and reentry into the community. 

The Center’s report found that of 4,700 people who entered an Idaho prison in 2019, 35 percent entered for drug possession. At an average maximum sentence of 5.5 years, it could cost Idaho an estimated $203.8 million to keep people in prison for drug possession. 

“Strategies to reduce recidivism such as substance abuse and mental health treatment could go a long way toward preventing the need for prison time and associated costs,” Rios said.

Obesity, Diabetes, Mental Illness Among Top Local Health Concerns

Obesity and mental illness are among the most significant health needs in communities across southern Idaho, according to the new 2019 Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs) released by St. Luke’s Health System. 

St. Luke’s conducts comprehensive research every three years to understand the most serious health issues and trends in the communities where St. Luke’s hospitals are located. Those locations include Boise, Elmore, Jerome, McCall, Meridian, Nampa, Twin Falls and Wood River. 

Addressing obesity and improving behavioral health services rose to the top of the list’s most significant health needs in every community. More than 60 percent of adults and 25 percent of children in Idaho are overweight or obese, a trend that’s steadily risen for 10 years. 

When it comes to mental illness, Idaho has one of the highest percentages (21.6 percent) in the nation, with suicide rates consistently higher than the national average. Idaho is also near the top of the list when it comes to a shortage of mental health professionals. One out of four people with mental illness are unable to get the treatment they need. 

The other top health issues vary by community and include diabetes, death by suicide, substance abuse and tobacco use, along with access to affordable healthcare, health insurance and dental care.  

Following the research and publication of the CHNAs, St. Luke’s community health department creates implementation plans to address the high-priority health needs. These plans include programs that take place inside the hospitals and in communities, as well as programs led by nonprofit organizations and supported or co-facilitated by St. Luke’s.

“St. Luke’s and our partners are making major investments in order to address these high-priority needs and achieve healthier communities,” said Lyle Nelson, St. Luke’s community health administrator. “Success means nothing less than improving the mental and physical health of people living in our communities now and into the future.”

The Center Pulls In $25K NEA Grant 

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts has been approved to receive a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in support of its upcoming BIG IDEA project, “From the Colour of Its Bloom: Camas Prairie” (May 22–Aug. 8, 2020). 

The Center applied for funding through the Arts Endowment’s “Art Works” funding category, which supports projects that focus on public engagement and the integration of the arts into the fabric of community life. 

In its first round of fiscal year 2020 funding, the agency approved 1,187 grants totaling $27.3 million to support arts projects in every state in the nation as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Surrounding the town of Fairfield, the Camas Prairie stretches for 15 miles along Highway 20 as it cuts across the southern part of the state. The prairie takes its name from the camas lily, which blooms each spring to create ribbons of a periwinkle blue flower that, in the words of American explorer Meriwether Lewis, “from the colour of its bloom … resembles lakes of fine clear water.” 

Taking place at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum, the exhibition features commissioned artwork by contemporary artists Daniel Gordon, MK Guth, Anthony Hernandez and Sopheap Pich; a commissioned essay by novelist Judith Freeman; and a variety of related programming that includes free exhibition tours and artist talks, a dinner performance, a field trip to the Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh and a day of free activities for families.

“These federal funds will also serve to leverage other financial support to help realize Sopheap Pich’s public sculpture of the camas lily, which will be situated in an open space in Ketchum,” said Kristin Poole, artistic director at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. 


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