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Iraq veteran wins award for first work of fiction

An Iraq war veteran will be recognized with an award for his first novel.

Kevin Powers, author of “The Yellow Birds,” has won the 2013 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for a distinguished first book of fiction. The award comes with a $10,000 prize and a residency for visiting writers in a University of Idaho creative writing program.

Powers served in the U.S. Army, working as a machine gunner and with bomb disposal squads.

His novel looks at the bond between two privates and the traumas they suffer in battle.

Patrick Hemingway, son of late author Ernest Hemingway, will present the award on March 24 at JFK Library and Museum in Boston. Author and playwright Colm Toibin will be the event’s keynote speaker.

The Associated Press

Bill would redefine machinery as real property

Machinery and other equipment that’s bolted down could soon be subject to real estate taxes, under legislation making its way through the Idaho House that seeks to intervene in the debate over repealing personal property taxes.

Items like ventilation systems, plumbing and machinery wouldn’t be eligible for proposed personal property tax breaks, under the measure introduced in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee Feb. 4.

Former Republican Rep. Dennis Lake said his bill includes permanent additions, called “fixtures.”

Lake said he aims to help legislators “solve the conundrum” of personal property tax repeal.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has made the repeal a top priority for the 2013 Legislature.

No bill has been introduced, but Otter’s draft proposal has received praise from industry — and criticism from counties and school districts.

The Associated Press

Lawmakers could remove sales tax on Girl Scout cookies

Selling Girl Scout cookies could become a little sweeter in Idaho. On March 4, a panel of state lawmakers agreed to introduce legislation to remove the 6 percent sales tax on the cookies. That would net the organization $140,000 a year.

Julie Hart, a lobbyist for the Girl Scouts, said 48 other states exempt Girl Scout Cookie sales from sales taxes. That includes five states, including Oregon and Montana, that don’t have a state sales tax. Taxes make up 22 cents out of the $3.75 purchase of a box of cookies, Hart said. If the tax goes away, she said prices would stay the same, with the nonprofit organization keeping the additional revenue.

The measure now faces a full hearing from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. The sponsor of the committee, Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, joked that he could have a perceived conflict of interest since he does eat Girl Scout Cookies.

Brad Iverson-Long 

Micron clears hurdle in Elpida acquisition

Micron Technology Inc. has passed a major milestone in its months long quest to purchase Elpida Memory Inc. of Japan. The Tokyo District Court announced Feb. 28. approval of Elpida’s plan for bankruptcy reorganization.

The Boise-based memory chip maker has offered to make Elpida a wholly-owned subsidiary. Micron reached a $2.5 billion agreement with Elpida in July to buy the Japanese memory chip company’s equity with a cash payment of $750 million and $1.75 billion in future installments. An attempt by a group of Elpida bondholders to stop the sale was rejected and creditors had until Feb. 26 to vote on the deal. Creditors decided to approve the sale.

Micron CEO Mark Durcan said in a news release, “This is an important milestone that brings us a significant step closer to Micron and Elpida becoming the world’s second largest memory company with the strongest product portfolio in the industry.”

The deal is subject to further court approvals in Japan and the United States. Micron expects the acquisition to be complete in the first half of 2013.

IBR Staff 

Idaho is tops for percentage of minimum wage jobs

New Department of Labor statistics show Idaho has the nation’s highest percentage of workers earning the minimum wage or less.

The agency reported Feb. 28 that the share of Gem State employees making $7.25 per hour jumped to 7.7 percent last year. That means an estimated 31,000 of the state’s 404,000 hourly workers were paid at the minimum rate – up from 12,000 in 2011.

Nationally, 4.7 percent of hourly workers made the minimum wage last year, down from 5.2 percent the year before.

The Labor Department reports that three of every four jobs created in Idaho came from the service sector, where most of those lower-paying jobs are held.

Idaho was also among 16 states and the District of Columbia that posted increases in workers earning the minimum or less.

The Associated Press

Idaho Senate backs rodeo liquor bill

A measure to win a liquor license for the Caldwell Night Rodeo hasn’t been bucked off yet.

The Senate Feb. 27 backed the bill, 27-8, sending it to the House for further debate.

Here’s how this legislation materialized:

Serving booze on some nights at the annual August event has been done for years.

The only problem is, the event’s organizers have been doing it via a local restaurant’s catering permit, which state liquor regulators say isn’t proper.

Consequently, the outfit that runs the rodeo and donates thousands yearly to charity including cancer research sought Republican Sen. Patti Anne Lodge to spearhead the effort to win it a specialty liquor license.

Lodge argues this new liquor license is a necessary part of helping the event make money and continue its charitable activities.

The Associated Press

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