“I think I’ve always been pretty good at spelling,” says Zachary Hunsaker, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Declo Junior High School.
Zach doesn’t give himself enough credit.
On Monday, he won the Times-News regional spelling bee and will represent southern Idaho at the national bee in May in Maryland. As his sponsor, the newspaper will pay for the trip.
Zachary correctly spelled “lumen” to win the bee, beating out 47 other students from 19 Magic Valley schools.
Wesley Lind, a student at White Pine Elementary School in Burley, finished in second place, slipping up on “serval.” In case you’re wondering, it’s an African wildcat with long legs and ears and a spotted coat.
Competitors studied word lists for months in preparation for the regional bee. Congratulations to all the Magic Valley spellers for all their hard work.
Senate Health and Welfare Chairman Lee Heider, a Twin Falls Republican, said he’s not getting any pressure from Idahoans to pass a bill that would a block legal exemption for parents who believe in faith healing and whose children get seriously ill or die.
He must not be listening to Emily Walton, a Capitol lobbyist and College of Western Idaho trustee who grew up in Declo and whose sister is gravely ill today because her parents denied her medical care as a child.
Or Paul McPherson, a doctor at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital who was a member of the state’s Child Fatality Review Team, which studied child deaths statewide and found two in 2012 that could likely have been prevented had medical care not been denied for religious reasons. Both children, he said, suffered “prolonged and agonizing” deaths.
Or Joshua Durham, a family practice physician at St. Alphonsus, who said changing the law could help parents who belong to faith-healing religious groups and want to seek medical care for their children but are deterred by social pressure.
Or Rep. John Gannon, a Democrat from Boise, who dropped off a bill three weeks ago to remove the exemption.
In January, Heider promised Gannon a hearing for the bill. This week, Heider changed his mind. And so the exemption will stand another year, and more Idaho children may die.
Gov. C.L. “Butch Otter has called for a working group of lawmakers to study the issue, but the facts are already out there. Children are dying because their parents believe in allowing God to determine their sick children’s fate.
What more do lawmakers need to know?
“I’m a First Amendment guy,” Heider said. “And I believe in the First Amendment, which gives people freedom of religion.”
We love the First Amendment, too. But we also believe it can’t be used as a shield to allow children to die preventable deaths.
Are you listening, Sen. Heider?
Very smart people all across the Magic Valley work hard to attract, promote and sustain the region’s growing business community. And at the top of that list is the director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization, the area’s most influential economic development group.
SIEDO landed Chobani, Clif Bar and a slew of other companies large and small that are fueling the Magic Valley’s economic prosperity. Needless to say, the SIEDO director is an important job.
So it’s big news that the group has chosen a new leader to replace Jan Rogers, who left in the fall to take a similar position in eastern Idaho.
SIEDO’s new director is Jeff Hough, the director of work force training at Idaho State University.
On paper, Hough appears to be a perfect fit. With all the new business growth in the Magic Valley, work force development is now the region’s No. 1 priority. Hough also has a background in marketing, which should prove useful in SIEDO’s efforts to showcase the Magic Valley as a great place to work, play and raise families.
We wish Hough all the best.