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Govt-and-politics
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Idaho House tries again to limit governor's emergency powers
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BOISE — Three pieces of legislation intended to curb the authority of an Idaho governor during declared emergencies passed the House on Tuesday, and a short time later passed a Senate committee.

Lawmakers passed the three bills that combined are watered-down versions of previous legislation Republican Gov. Brad Little vetoed. Lawmakers might recess without officially adjourning, potentially coming back next week for potential vetoes, assuming the Senate approves the measures.

The bills are intended to limit an Idaho governor’s ability during declared emergencies to alter laws, prevent gatherings and limit people from going to work.

Lawmakers are angry at actions Little took last year at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that included a temporary stay-at-home order as COVID-19 patients threatened to overwhelm hospitals.

Unlike the previous measures, the latest bills do not insert the Legislature into the decision-making process during emergencies. The latest measures also don’t put time limits on restrictions associated with emergencies.

The previous vetoed bills would have allowed a governor to declare an emergency and extend it past 60 days, but only to ensure federal funding. Both of those earlier bills would also have required any restrictions accompanying a governor’s order to expire after 60 days unless renewed by the Legislature.


Outdoors
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Not your backyard pump track. Bike skills park coming to Auger Falls soon

TWIN FALLS — A proposed bike skills park at Auger Falls Park is one step closer to becoming a reality.

All members of the Twin Falls City Council voted yes Monday evening on approving a donation request from the Magic Valley Trail Enhancement Committee (MaVTEC) for the installation of a skills track on about 2 acres of land within Auger Falls Park.

JONATHAN INGRAHAM, TIMES-NEWS 

This space in the Auger Falls Park is set to become a new bike skills park.

“We are really excited to donate to the city of Twin Falls on behalf of MaVTEC and the Dirt Trails Alliance,” Jaime Tigue, MaVTEC director said in opening remarks to the council.

From the past to the present

The vision for a bike skills park at Auger Falls had been on MaVTEC and the DTA’s radar for many years, but only recently did pieces of the puzzle start moving with help from community members pedaling it into high gear from idea to action.

Small fundraisers initially held by previous DTA members yielded some money, but work on building the park sat idle and the group then more or less dissolved.

“That group kinda fell, everybody got busy, and the person I was having run it got injured and work took over,” Tigue said.

Enter Mike Young, Outdoor Recreation program manager at the College of Southern Idaho.

Young has been instrumental in keeping a new group of DTA members together, Tigue said, including trail builder Tristan Greaves, on moving the idea forward.

Greaves has been working on Tristan’s Trail, a downhill flow trail on the west end of Auger Falls Park, to enhance it for more skilled mountain bikers to ride faster and hone their skills.

JONATHAN INGRAHAM, TIMES-NEWS 

Dirt Trails Alliance member Tristan Greaves shovels dirt on the landing spot of a jump on Tristan's Trail Thursday in the Auger Falls Park. Greaves is working with Titus Trails of Hailey and other members of the DTA to help coordinate a bike skills park build near the parking lot at Auger Falls Park.

Combining the flow trail with bike skills park sets up a full step-up progression system or an all-in-one system at Auger Falls.

“The mountain bike skills park came from a desire to be able to develop multiple levels of challenge for riders in the valley to develop their skills,” Young said at the City Council meeting. “We have an opportunity at Auger Falls to build some features in a controlled environment where people can slowly progress in their skills.”

Features at Auger Falls Park and Indian Springs are pretty significant for new riders to hit as they come through, he said.

“Twin Falls has a middle school development team, two high school mountain bike teams, riders at the college, and five different bike shops in town,” Young said.

Securing the money

Tigue, who will be stepping down in her role and passing the torch to Kami Grandeen Beukers later this year, was part of a Blue Cross Foundation for Health team. She helped write a Community Transformation Grant to help fund the build of the bike skills park.

The grant’s purpose, as written out in October, is meant to promote physical activity and access to healthy and nutritious food for youth in Twin Falls.

In November, a request for proposal was released looking for local organizations that could use the grant funds to help kids get active and eat healthily. MaVTEC and the DTA submitted such a proposal for the bike skills park at Auger using those funds.

In December the $30,00 grant was awarded, with MaVTEC contributing $10,000 to the project in form of a sustainable maintenance plan. Along with a private donor supplying an additional $30,000, the total amount set to be used is $70,000.

“I put in at the beginning, that’s what I wanted to do was use the money for this bike skills park because the grant is only for kids, and use in the Magic Valley or Twin Falls area,” Tigue said.

Speaking during the City Council meeting, Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce President and City Councilperson Shawn Barigar said, “As the Impact Team has been looking at the requests for proposals at looked at this, this is another great opportunity to not only create a new amenity for Twin Falls.”

“As we’ve heard, there are lots of new folks moving here and really create that opportunity to train, educate, provide that environment that is safe and sustainable to build a mountain bike community, is very exciting,” he said.

Speaking from the Visitor Center’s perspective, Barigar said the amount of people bringing in their mountain bikes to the area in the last 12 months is “insane” and promoting the great amenities we have is a good opportunity for young people in the community to build skills by creating the bike skills park.

Build it, and they will come

MaVTEC and the DTA are collaborating with Titus Trails out of Hailey on building the bike park. Titus Trails has been designing and building trails since 2009, including projects at Croy Canyon, Bald Mountain and Alden Gulch in Blaine County, and recently the downhill trails at Soldier Mountain in Camas County.

“Having seen first hand how trails with poor planning and lack of vision turn out, we know how important the planning stages are,” Brian Vaughan from Titus Trails said. “Trails that are sustainably built with long-term vision and community support, impact the surrounding population for years to come.”

The bike skills park would be about 1,000 feet west of the parking lot at the junction of Treb’s Trail and Porcupine Trail.

The park is to be 6,000 square feet, including a 200-foot jump line with small and medium-size jumps, skinnies at a variety of heights, widths and lengths, drops from short to tall, and improved access trail from the road.

  • The construction will initially need Porcupine Trail to be widened for access to allow earth-moving equipment to bring in dirt. The trail will be improved to Americans with Disabilities Act specifications.
  • The pump track and jump line will require a clay/sand mix to allow shaping, compaction and durability, and the skinnies will be built from dimensional lumber and/or milled logs ranging from on the ground to 18 inches tall.
  • The drops will be built with dimensional lumber and no more than 18 inches off the ground. Lands will range from eight inches to three feet in height.

“The general hope for starting the work is in the fall,” Young said.


International
AP
Biden boosts vaccination goal

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday set a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by July Fourth as he tackles the vexing problem of winning over the “doubters” and those unmotivated to get inoculated.

Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their available doses unordered. Aiming to make it easier to get shots, Biden called for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and he will direct many pharmacies to do likewise.

His administration for the first time also is moving to shift doses from states with weaker demand to areas with stronger interest in the shots.

“You do need to get vaccinated,” Biden said from the White House. “Even if your chance of getting seriously ill is low, why take the risk? It could save your life or the lives of somebody you love.”

Biden’s goal equates to delivering at least the first shot to 181 million adults and fully vaccinating 160 million. It’s a tacit acknowledgment of the declining interest in shots.

Already more than 56% of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 105 million are fully vaccinated. The U.S. is currently administering first doses at a rate of about 965,000 per day — half the rate of three weeks ago, but almost twice as fast as needed to meet Biden’s target.

“I’d like to get it 100%, but I think realistically we can get to that place between now and July Fourth,” Biden said of his new goal.

He said the administration would focus on three areas as it tries to ramp up the pace of vaccinations:

  • Adults who need more convincing to take the vaccine.
  • Those who have struggled or are in no hurry to obtain a shot.
  • Adolescents aged 12-15, once federal authorities approve vaccination for that age group.

Acknowledging that “the pace of vaccination is slowing,” Biden predicted the inoculation effort is “going to be harder” when it comes to convincing “doubters” of the need to get their shots.

He said the most effective argument to those people would be to protect those they love. “This is your choice: It’s life and death.”

Biden’s push comes as his administration has shifted away from setting a target for the U.S. to reach “herd immunity,” instead focusing on delivering as many shots into arms as possible. Officials said Biden’s vaccination target would result in a significant reduction in COVID-19 cases heading into the summer.

To that end, the Biden administration is shifting the government’s focus toward expanding smaller and mobile vaccination clinics to deliver doses to harder-to-reach communities. It is also spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to boost interest in vaccines through education campaigns and greater access to shots through community organizations that can help bring people to clinics.

Biden touted creative efforts to make it “easier and more fun” to get vaccinated, such as grocery stores offering discounts to shoppers who come to get shots and sports leagues that hold promotions to gets shots for their fans.

Ahead of the Food and Drug Administration’s expected authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 12-15, the White House is developing plans to speed vaccinations for that age group. Biden urged states to administer at least one dose to adolescents by July Fourth and work to deliver doses to pediatricians’ offices and other trusted locations, with the aim of getting many of them fully vaccinated by the start of the next school year.

While younger people are at dramatically lower risk of serious complications from COVID-19, they have made up a larger share of new virus cases as a majority of U.S. adults have been at least partially vaccinated and as higher-risk activities like indoor dining and contact sports have resumed in most of the country.

Officials hope that extending vaccinations to teens — who could get the first dose in one location and the second elsewhere, if necessary — will further accelerate the nation’s reduced virus caseload and allow schools to reopen with minimal disruptions this fall.

The urgency to expand the pool of those getting the shots is rooted in hopes of stamping out the development of new variants that could emerge from unchecked outbreaks and helping the country further reopen by the symbolic moment of Independence Day, exactly two months away. Though White House officials privately acknowledge the steep challenge, Biden sounded an optimistic note.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is actually growing brighter and brighter,” Biden said.

Biden’s speech comes as the White House announced a shift away from a strict allocation of vaccines by state population. The administration says that when states decline to take all the vaccine they have been allocated, that surplus will shift to states still awaiting doses to meet demand.

Governors were informed of the change by the White House on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 infections and deaths are mounting with alarming speed in India with no end in sight to the crisis and a top expert warning that the coming weeks in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people will be “horrible.”

India’s official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000. Staggering as those numbers are, the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent reflection of the troubles in the health care system.


Filer seniors Kathleen Hale, left, and Jazmyn Smothers, right, laugh with coach Mike Amaya as they sign their letters of intent Tuesday at Filer High School in Filer. Hale signed to play basketball with Linn Benton Community College and Smothers signed with Treasure Valley Community College.


Politics
AP
Cheney could be 'toast' in Trump fight

WASHINGTON — House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy wants his party to stand firmly with Donald Trump, despite his false claims about the election being stolen from him.

No. 3 GOP leader Liz Cheney is trying to steer the party far from the former president’s claims about his defeat, charting a future without him.

The party, it became more apparent Tuesday, does not have room for both.

Cheney’s political future was increasingly in peril as McCarthy signaled he would no longer protect his lieutenant from those seeking her ouster from House GOP leadership, opening the possibility of a vote to remove her from the job as soon as next week. One Republican aide granted anonymity to discuss the situation said simply, “She’s toast.”

What could be seen as a skirmish between minority party leaders trying to find a way back to the majority has become a more politically profound moment for Republicans and the country. The party of Abraham Lincoln is deciding whether to let Trump’s false claims about the election of Democrat Joe Biden go unchecked — or to hold him accountable, as Cheney does, by arguing the country cannot “whitewash” the former president’s role in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“This is a much bigger issue than the future of the Republican Party,” said Timothy Naftali, an associate professor at New York University and founding director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. “This is about the future of our democracy.”

The standoff has been intensifying ever since Cheney led a group of 10 House Republicans voting with Democrats to impeach Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection over the Jan. 6 siege, the worst domestic mob attack on the Capitol in the nation’s history.

Not only was her effort an affront to Trump, still president at the time, but it was out of step with most House Republicans, including the 138 who voted against certifying the Electoral College vote for Biden’s victory. However, others, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who voted to impeach Trump, see Cheney as the “truth-telling” GOP leader the nation needs.

Some fellow Republicans tried to oust her from her leadership position, but they failed in February in a secret party ballot, 145-61, in part because McCarthy urged his troops to remain unified against Democrats.

But the divisions have now widened into a fight for the party’s future as it navigates a post-Trump world.

McCarthy and Cheney are offering their colleagues two theories of the path forward.

McCarthy, who would be in line for the speaker’s gavel if the GOP wins House control, wants to keep Trump voters active in the party and attract new supporters. He believes this is accomplished by keeping Trump engaged, dashing down to the former president’s private club in Florida for support and drawing on his connection with the man who referred to him as “My Kevin.”

Cheney takes the opposite approach, arguing the GOP must rid itself of Trump’s brand of politics with its nationalist, authoritarian overtones if it hopes to return to its conservative roots and attract the voters who fled the party for Biden.

“We can’t embrace the notion the election is stolen. It’s a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy,” Cheney said at a fundraising event with the conservative American Enterprise Institute at Sea Island, Georgia, according to a person familiar with the event and granted anonymity to discuss it.

“We can’t whitewash what happened on Jan. 6 or perpetuate Trump’s big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on Jan. 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.”

Then, as lawmakers often do when they hope to speak indirectly to Trump, McCarthy appeared on Fox News Channel early Tuesday, and spoke of Cheney a day after Trump leveled fresh claims of voter fraud.

“I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out her job as conference chair, to carry out the message,” he said. “We all need to be working as one if we’re able to win the majority.”

Trump himself issued a fresh statement Monday renewing his desire to see Cheney defeated by another Republican in next year’s Wyoming GOP primary.

Meanwhile, the fight between the two is viewed by other GOP leaders as a distraction, and many rank-and-file Republicans blame her for prolonging it rather than simply letting the former president’s claims go unanswered.

One top Republican congressional aide said McCarthy had weeks ago urged Cheney to stop talking about Trump, and her failure to do so has boosted frustration with her.

McCarthy, who delivered a speech supporting her when House Republicans privately voted to keep her in February, will not do that this time, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal conversations. A vote on whether to remove her could occur as early as next Wednesday, when House Republicans are next scheduled to meet.

Interviews with a half dozen lawmakers and aides from across the party’s ideological spectrum found none saying it’s likely she will survive the challenge. They cited her abandonment by McCarthy and her persistence in criticizing Trump.

Cheney isn’t backing down.

Asked about McCarthy’s comments on Tuesday, spokesperson Jeremy Adler said in a written statement, “This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan 6. Liz will not do that. That is the issue.”


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