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Latest Idaho news, sports, business and entertainment at 9:20 p.m. MST

ABSENTEE VOTING

Senate OKs bill to make permanent absentee ballot changes

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Legislation to make permanent changes in Idaho’s absentee ballot counting procedure has passed the Senate and is headed to the House. The Senate voted 35-0 on Thursday to approve the bill intended to speed absentee vote counting. It was used in the last general election and spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers during an August special session approved a law allowing the opening and scanning of absentee ballots beginning seven days before Election Day. But that law expired on Dec. 31. Election officials say the change allowed county clerks to quickly report the November election results after receiving about 400,000 absentee ballots.

OUTSIDE ATTORNEYS-IDAHO

Bill to bypass attorney general’s lawyers advances to House

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A proposed law to allow state agencies, boards and commissions to go around the Idaho attorney general’s office to hire private-practice attorneys is headed to the full House. The House State Affairs Committee on Thursday approved the measure despite opposition from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and five former attorneys general. The bill removes a requirement that outside attorneys be screened by the attorney general and a board of statewide-elected officials that includes the governor. Backers say the attorney general frequently interprets laws contrary to what lawmakers want to hear. The former attorneys general say the proposed law would revert the state to a system they describe as wasteful and disjointed.

TARGETED PICKETING BILL-PROTEST

‘Targeted picketing’ bill prompts protest at lawmaker’s home

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho lawmaker who introduced a bill to prohibit targeted picketing outside officials’ homes found torch- and pitchfork-wielding protesters gathered outside his own house Wednesday night. Rep. Greg Chaney, a Republican from Caldwell, posted about the demonstration at his home on social media accounts Thursday morning, calling it an intimidation tactic. Chaney’s bill is co-sponsored with Rep. Brooke Green, a Democrat from Boise. It comes in response to targeted protests that occurred last year outside health officials’ homes by people angry about coronavirus-related orders. Opponents of the bill say it would violate their First Amendment right to free speech. 

AMAZON-SPOKANE VALLEY

Amazon to open fulfillment center in Spokane Valley

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. (AP) — After months of speculation, Amazon has confirmed it will open a fulfillment center in Spokane Valley that will bring 1,000 new full-time jobs to the area. The 1.3 million-square-foot facility is slated to open later this year. It will fill orders for larger items such as bulk cleaning supplies, paper goods, patio furniture, pet food and outdoor sports equipment. Amazon will begin hiring for a wide range of roles involving receiving and stowing inventory, shipping customer orders and supporting network logistics at the fulfillment center later this year. Pay will start at $15 an hour and include a comprehensive benefits package. 

IDAHO POWER STRUGGLE

Senate advances measures to call Idaho special sessions

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A Senate panel of lawmakers has approved a constitutional amendment allowing the part-time Idaho Legislature to call itself into a special session. The panel also Wednesday approved companion legislation that would create the legal process to make that happen. Currently, only an Idaho governor can call a special session. Both measures now head to the full Senate. The legislation stems from lawmaker dissatisfaction with restrictions Republican Gov. Brad Little put in place last March to reduce coronavirus pandemic infections and deaths. The Republican-dominated Legislature had adjourned for the year by then. If the full Senate approves the amendment, it would go before voters in November 2022.

WRONGFUL CONVICTION

Bill to compensate wrongly convicted heads to House

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Legislation to compensate people wrongly convicted of crimes in Idaho is headed to the full House. The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved the measure that would pay $62,000 a year for wrongful incarceration and $75,000 per year on death row. Republican Sen. Doug Ricks says Idaho is one of 15 states that doesn’t compensate people sent to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. A similar measure cleared both the House and Senate last year, but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brad Little. Ricks says he worked with Little on the latest version that has already passed the Senate.

The Associated Press

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