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Bill would ease grazing permit process on public lands

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, along with other Republican senators from western states, co-sponsored a bill introduced in the Senate Feb. 7 that would ease the process of acquiring or renewing grazing permits on public lands for cattle ranches.

The bill, called the Grazing Improvement Act, would extend the length of approved permits from 10 to 20 years if the process includes meeting the National Environmental Protection Act – or NEPA – standards and allows the federal government to waive the NEPA standards in some cases, among other provisions.

Risch said in a news release that it would protect cattle operations from environmentalists who fight against grazing permits.

“It will keep groups who don’t like grazing from crushing the renewal process with lawsuits,” he said.

IBR Staff

Idaho State Tax Commission guards against identity theft

The Idaho State Tax Commission changed the way it identifies business owners on certain forms this year. Instead of Social Security and federal Employer Identification Numbers, the state agency now uses a unique account number. This change protects taxpayer information.

On Jan. 1, 2013, the commission upgraded its equipment to read scan lines, or a line of numbers, on preprinted tax returns and payment vouchers it mails to Idaho business owners. The scan line appears on the bottom of these forms.

As part of this change, the commission decided to stop printing sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers, on these forms. That data could be used maliciously by identity thieves.

According to Doreen Warren, a commission administrator, the change affects Idaho business owners. Individual income tax forms are not mailed out with preprinted Social Security numbers.

IBR Staff

CWI adding faculty positions

The College of Western Idaho is adding 14 new faculty positions after seeing a 700 percent increase in enrollment since 2009, according to a CWI news release.

The move comes after a Feb. 6 CWI Board of Trustees meeting, where members approved “a reorganization of its General Education instruction,” according to the release.

Some programs that will be receiving new faculty include English, math, life sciences, business, education and modern languages.

The community college offers two-year associate degrees and technical education for a variety of fields.

The new faculty will be in place by the Fall 2013 semester, according to the release.

Sean Olson

Conference on women in agriculture planned for March

The Idaho Department of Agriculture and the University of Idaho are holding a conference on women in agriculture March 2 in Twin Falls.

The proportion of women in farming increased 19 percent between 2002 and 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. The conference also focuses on women who are working in agriculture in universities, agencies, and other organizations.

Conference speakers will address marketing trends and tools, agritourism, loans and other creative financing, and successful social media strategies.

“We wanted to help women in agriculture get together, celebrate commonalities and get to know each other,” said Cinda Williams, U of I Latah County extension educator in Moscow.

The conference is the first of its kind in Idaho. Idaho Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, will be a keynote speaker. The conference is supported by a grant from the Western Center for Risk Management and hosted by the Idaho Barley Commission and University of Idaho Extension.

The conference will be held at the College of Southern Idaho.

IBR Staff

Wevorce plans to expand nationally

A Boise company that aims to change the nature of divorce from an adversarial, legal process to one that’s amicable and involves mediation will open at least three offices in the coming weeks.

Wevorce used to be known as Family Architects. Its CEO and co-founder, Jeff Reynolds, said the company’s Seattle office will open the week of Feb. 11. Offices in North Carolina and San Francisco will follow by the end of the month.

Reynolds and co-founder Michelle Crosby are in Mountain View, Calif. immersed in events sponsored by Y Combinator. The Silicon Valley tech accelerator runs two three-month sessions a year to mentor and fund startups like Wevorce.

Reynolds said the two accepted Y Combinator’s invitation because of its reputation and ability to help their business grow.

“We started the business in Boise and it was having success but we were having trouble seeing how we were going to be able to scale it to go national,” he said. “And we felt like this was an opportunity to get the insights to help do this.”

Reynolds said moving the company headquarters out of Boise is “not in the plans right now.” Wevorce has five employees in addition to mediators that work on a contract basis in markets outside Idaho.

By Scott Ki

Boise Cascade underwriters buy more shares

Shares of the Boise Cascade Company’s stock rose about 25 percent during the first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The underwriters of the initial public offering decided to exercise their options to purchase an additional 1,764,706 shares, according to a Feb. 11 news release.

As a result, Boise Cascade’s total IPO offering was 13,529,412 shares with net proceeds of about $262.9 million. Of that amount, $25 million will be used to repay debt tied to a revolving credit facility.

The lead underwriters of the IPO are Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., and Goldman, Sachs & Co.

According to Boise Cascade’s prospectus, IPO investors and underwriters own 13.5 million shares and hold 31.3 percent of the company’s common stock. Madison Dearborn Partners LLC, owns the rest, or nearly 69 percent, through an entity called BC Holdings.

Madison Dearborn took the Boise Cascade Corporation private in 2004. Boise Cascade LLC, Office Max, and Boise Inc. resulted from Madison Dearborn’s acquisition. Boise Cascade LLC is now called the Boise Cascade Corporation as a result of the IPO.

By Scott Ki 

After dry January, another dry month could cause concern

Most of Idaho had a dry January. The latest water supply outlook report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows precipitation was less than normal across most of the state. Snowpack shrunk by up to 30 percentage points from a month earlier.

Idaho’s system of water storage and irrigation provided a buffer against the drought during the 2012 water year. But another dry year could raise concerns about water shortages for agricultural irrigation. Water years run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

“Most basins started the season with good soil moisture and snowpack conditions,” NRCS water supply specialist Ron Abramovich said in a news release. “We’ve learned from the past that we can usually get by with one month of below normal precipitation, especially after a good start like this year. When we get two dry months in a row, negative impacts on the water supply start to occur.”

Idaho’s snowpacks are the same as or less than they were last year at that time, with the exceptions of the headwater streams in Idaho’s central mountains and the Owyhee, Bruneau and Salmon Falls basins. Low-elevation snowpacks are below normal, while snowpacks at higher elevations are faring better.

The Surface Water Supply Index, which indicates predicted surface water availability within watersheds, is not showing widespread predictions for agricultural water supply shortages, according to the report. For watersheds where data is available, shortages could be possible at the Little Lost, Oakley and Salmon Falls basins.

Hydrologists will be watching closely in February.

“If February is dry, we’ll see the snowpack and streamflow percentages decrease like they did in January and users may have to re-examine their decisions,” the report said.

IBR staff

New U.S. Senate subcommittee focuses on bankruptcy, courts

The Senate Judiciary Committee has created a new subcommittee focused on federal courts and the bankruptcy litigation system.

The new Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts is one of the new subgroups created by splitting up the former Administrative Oversight and the Courts Subcommittee. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., chairman of the new subcommittee, said the new configuration will allow lawmakers to better address the needs of people in the bankruptcy system and help them resolve their disputes “fairly, efficiently and at a minimum of cost and inconvenience to all concerned.”

He said he also plans to focus more broadly on the large number of judicial vacancies in many areas of the country and other issues with the federal court system.

“Our federal courts have traditionally been the last bastion for many Americans to assert their civil rights, but recent federal court decisions have made it harder to not only enforce federal civil rights, but also rights that people may have as a consumer or as an employee under state law,” he said in a statement. “That has to change.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., was named ranking member of the subcommittee.

Dolan Media Newswires

Bankruptcy filings continue to decline

In a continuation of the downward trend that began in 2011, bankruptcy filings in federal courts declined during calendar year 2012, according to data released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

According to the data, 1,221,091 bankruptcies were filed in 2012, a 13 percent drop from the year before.

Most of the filings (1,181,016) were not business related. They also decreased 13 percent from the year before. Business filings fell 16 percent to 40,075.

Filings under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code were down 15 percent to 843,545, according to the data. Chapter 11 filings fell 10 percent to 10,361, while Chapter 13 filings dropped 10 percent to 366,532. The 512 Chapter 12 filings represented a 20 percent decline.

Dolan Media Newswires

FBI names new special agent in charge in Salt Lake

The FBI has appointed a woman with nearly three decades of agency experience to oversee operations in Utah, Idaho, and Montana.

Mary Frances Rook was named special agent in charge in Salt Lake City after recently holding the same title in the Anchorage, Alaska division.

Rook started with the FBI as a lab technician in 1984. She’s worked in several posts, including assistant special agent in charge roles in Salt Lake City and in Helena, Mont.

FBI officials say that in her most recent role in Alaska, she oversaw several high-profile investigations, including the prosecution of extremists plotting to murder state and federal law enforcement officials and a federal judge and his family.

Rook is a native of Montana and has a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Colorado State University.

The Associated Press

Idaho tribes: Tell counties not to tax Indian land

Idaho tribes want the Legislature to tell counties to quit taxing tribal government land on the state’s reservations.

Helo Hancock, a lobbyist for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in northern Idaho, told the House Revenue and Taxation Committee Monday the issue first arose in 2006.

Then, Idaho tribes received a “flurry of assessments” on land that had once been homesteaded, but later re-acquired by tribal governments.

Hancock says land owned by tribal governments should be treated the same way as county-, state- and federal land and exempted from property taxes.

He says the Coeur d’Alene Tribe has failed to work out a solution with Kootenai and Benewah counties, so far, so it wants legislators to intervene.

The total at stake is about $303,000 in assessments annually, for all five Idaho tribes.

 The Associated Press

ITD director: ‘Start discussion’ on road funding

Transportation Department Director Brian Ness isn’t proposing plans to boost his agency’s revenue this year, but he wants to “start having the discussion” about funding for improvements and repairs to Idaho’s aging road and bridge system.

Ness spoke with budget writers on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Feb. 11, telling them he has “no specific proposals” to boost ITD funding.

The last time the agency brought a plan to boost revenue was 2009, when proposed hikes to gas and registration fees failed.

While outlining his agency’s 2014 spending plans, Ness also told the budget panel he’s heard discussions at the federal level about a one-time stimulus package for the nation’s highways.

He’d prefer a steady revenue stream from Washington, D.C., because that’s more sustainable than a frenetic one-time boost to resources.

The Associated Press

Former Idaho Falls bank official sentenced for embezzlement

A former Idaho Falls bank executive has been ordered to serve 15 months in prison for embezzling more than $142,000 during a two-year period.

Sixty-three-year-old Deanne Marie Cottle, of Swan Valley, was also sentenced Feb. 11 to two years of supervised release and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.

She pleaded guilty in November to one count of embezzling the money from Bank of Commerce between January 2009 and September 2011. Cottle is the bank’s former vice president for security and the director of human resources. Federal prosecutors accused her of converting 31 checks from health insurance carriers into cashier’s checks she then deposited into a personal account.

Under her plea agreement, Cottle has already made full restitution to the bank.

The Associated Press

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