Legislative leaders share contrasting views on session

Illana Rubel

JEERS ... to Leon Black of New York City.

Why should you care about the world’s 252nd richest person, whose net worth — according to Forbes magazine — reached $8.7 billion Wednesday?

The man whose cover story on this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek was headlined “Ruthless” is one common denominator behind this odious tactic: Squeeze another business for more money by holding hostage the poor consumers caught in the middle.

You’ve seen that negotiating style employed in the three-month standoff between St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and Regence BlueShield. Since last week, more than 15,000 Regence customers have been shunted to out-of-network status — which means they either pay St. Joe’s more or go elsewhere.

The hospital says it’s underpaid.

Last week, DISH customers found themselves out of another network — FOX — which just happens to be carrying the Feb. 2 Super Bowl match up between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.

Local affiliate KAYU-TV FOX-28 of Spokane says DISH is being selfish.

And, of course, KAYU’s dispute with DirecTV inconvenienced other viewers from late February until mid-October.

As the late Idaho columnist Chris Carlson used to say, “Coincidence? There ain’t no such thing.”

Here’s how the Lewiston Tribune’s Elaine Williams connected the dots:

l Cox Media Group of Atlanta owns FOX 28. Lurking in the background of that financial transaction are private equity funds managed by elements of Apollo Global Management Inc., of New York City.

l  St. Joe’s is owned by Lifepoint Health, a for-profit company based in Brentwood, Tenn. And Lifepoint is tied to certain funds of Apollo Global Management.

According to Forbes, Apollo manages more than $300 billion in assets. Black owns about 23 percent of the company he founded in 1990. Among his holdings is one of four copies of Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream,” for which he paid $120 million in 2012.

So in other words, Black and his colleagues don’t want you to see your doctor or watch the Super Bowl.

Which is more important? Do you even have to ask?

CHEERS ... to House Democratic Leader Illana Rubel of Boise and Republican Sen. Dave Lent of Idaho Falls.

Give this bipartisan partnership credit for pursuing a just cause.

Start with the case of three truck drivers — Andrew D’Addario of Colorado, Erich Eisenhart of Oregon and Denis Palamarchuk of Portland, Ore.

Under instructions from their employers, they got caught up in Idaho’s hemp standoff last year. While most of the country was on its way to legalizing the crop, Idaho continued to treat it like marijuana. So when these three hauled their product across the state line, they got busted.

Initially charged with — and in the case of D’Addario and Eisenhart, convicted of — felony drug charges, the three were allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanors and given probation.

But here’s the deal: Since Gov. Brad Little’s Nov. 19 executive order, hemp can be transported across Idaho. So it’s no longer a crime. Just the same, these three will carry that court record around with them for the rest of their lives.

That’s an extreme case but it exposes a flaw. Unlike 41 other states, Idaho has no means to expunge or seal an adult’s criminal court record. Why should someone who committed a minor offense — an infraction, a misdemeanor or even a non-violent felony — and has since led an exemplary life face a lifetime of punishment and scrutiny from potential employers or landlords?

Rubel and Lent want to eliminate that injustice by passing a “clean slate” bill. It would allow people who have not committed new crimes for three years after completing their sentence, including probation and parole, to ask a court to seal their records.

“ ... It is time to consider different approaches to enable those who have paid their price to society (to) move forward,” they write.

Good for them.

JEERS ... to U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho.

The 76-year-old Idaho Republican arrogantly made up his mind months ago to acquit President Donald Trump of impeachment charges brought in the House. So he’ll sit in the Senate throughout the trial ignoring evidence that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine as part of a plot to strong-arm that country’s president to announce an investigation into Trump’s leading rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I know evidence when I see it, and the Democrats are going to need more than this if they want to build an impeachment case,” he said four months ago.

Just the same, the Constitution says he must sit in his seat and attend Trump’s trial.

So what did he do Tuesday? He took a catnap.

Four hours into the proceedings — at about 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time — Risch dozed off.

What got the Washington Post’s attention about Risch’s slumber — described as “eyes closed and head slumped against his right hand” — was not only that he was first to check out, but that his snooze went on and on and on — until 5:52 p.m.

That was just long enough for New York Times courtroom sketch artist Art Lien to depict the scene.

What was going on at the time?

Just something you’d think might stimulate the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — a Democratic motion to subpoena State Department records. (The GOP majority said no.)

Since then, Risch has been wandering out of the chambers even though he’s supposed to remain at his desk, according to Bloomberg News.

Surprised? Don’t be.

As far as Risch is concerned, being in the Senate is not exactly heavy lifting.

In an interview with the Idaho Statesman seven years ago, he relished the perks of the job — nights on the town in Washington, D.C., and taxpayer-paid foreign junkets. Nor did he break much of a sweat — compared to the seven months he served as Idaho’s interim governor in 2006.

“You know, I really enjoy this job. I really like this job,” he said. “Governor will wear you down. You can’t do that job permanently. This you can do ad finitum.”

Translation: “This is such an easy job, I can do it in my sleep.” — M.T.

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