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House races to oust Trump

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House rushed ahead Tuesday toward impeaching President Donald Trump for the deadly Capitol attack, taking time only to try to persuade his vice president to push him out first. Trump showed no remorse, blaming impeachment itself for the “tremendous anger” in America.

Already scheduled to leave office next week, Trump is on the verge of becoming the only president in history to be twice impeached. His incendiary rhetoric at a rally ahead of the Capitol uprising is now in the impeachment charge against him, even as the falsehoods he spread about election fraud are still being championed by some Republicans.

The House convened Tuesday night to vote on urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump with a Cabinet vote. But shortly before that, Pence said he would not do so in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

He said that it would not be in the best interest of the nation or consistent with the Constitution and that it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”

Meanwhile, three three Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, announced they would vote to impeach Trump on Wednesday, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Two Republicans, Reps. John Katko of New York, a former federal prosecutor, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran, announced they, too, would vote to impeach.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that influential Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks Trump committed an impeachable offense and is glad Democrats are moving against him.

As lawmakers reconvened at the Capitol for the first time since the bloody siege, they were bracing for more violence ahead of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Jan. 20.

“All of us have to do some soul searching,” said Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, imploring other Republicans to join.

Trump, meanwhile, warned the lawmakers off impeachment and suggested it was the drive to oust him that was dividing the country.

“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Trump said.

In his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence, the outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying, “I want no violence.”

With Pence’s agreement to invoke the 25th Amendment ruled out, the House will move swiftly to impeachment on Wednesday.

Trump faces a single charge — “incitement of insurrection” — in the impeachment resolution after the most serious and deadly domestic incursion at the Capitol in the nation’s history.

A handful of other House Republicans could join in the impeachment vote, but it’s not clear there would be a two-thirds vote needed to convict from the narrowly divided Senate, though some Republicans say it’s time for Trump to resign.

The unprecedented events, with just over a week remaining in Trump’s term, are unfolding in a nation bracing for more unrest. The FBI has warned ominously of potential armed protests in Washington and many states by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration and Capitol Police warned lawmakers to be on alert. The inauguration ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol will be off limits to the public.

Lawmakers were required to pass through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters. Some Republican lawmakers complained about it.

A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot a woman during the violence. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.

In the Senate, Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, did not go that far, but on Tuesday called on Trump to address the nation and explicitly urge his supporters to refrain from further violence. If not, he said, Trump “will bear responsibility.”

No member of the Cabinet has publicly called for Trump to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment.

Biden has said it’s important to ensure that the “folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage — that they be held accountable.”

Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down Biden’s first days in office, the president-elect encouraged senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID relief while also conducting the trial.

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Investing in innovation: New facility could grow Magic Valley's ag renown

TWIN FALLS — The Magic Valley is already one of America’s biggest agricultural hubs, but a new project could take the region’s food innovation capabilities to the next level.

A team representing economic development groups, colleges and the dairy industry has commissioned a feasibility study to see if the Magic Valley would be a good place for a food innovation center and business incubator.

The food innovation center would give entrepreneurs a physical space to test their ideas. It would include specialized equipment — picture a commercial kitchen and rooms for research and development. It could have office space, and come staffed with specialists able to provide marketing guidance, scientific expertise and more.

People could design new foods, tackle food safety challenges or design new food packaging. The site could help people get their foods in front of taste panels or focus groups. A downtown Twin Falls restaurant owner could use it to create a new entree, or a dairy processor could use it to invent a new way to package cheese.

Individuals and small businesses with ideas indirectly linked to food — a logistics solution, or a new way to use drone technology for instance — could use the innovation center, too. The building could be a sort of Swiss Army knife for food innovation.

The business incubator component would provide money to turn those ideas from mere concepts to marketable products.

Economic leaders from Region IV development, Southern Idaho Economic Development, Dairy West, the Idaho Small Business Development Center, the College of Southern Idaho and the University of Idaho have teamed up on the project.

Southern Idaho Economic Development Executive Director Connie Stopher said she thinks the innovation center and incubator could attract food businesses to the Magic Valley. She pointed out that the Magic Valley has a ton of big food processors. The region does big ag really well. But an innovation center and incubator could bring new kinds of food businesses and help the region produce the next big thing in food.

A small food-based business can’t afford its own large research and development facility, Stopher explained. If there were a funded, communal one, it could foster creativity, give food entrepreneurs a chance they wouldn’t otherwise have had.

The project is still in the early stages. The feasibility study will determine whether or not a food innovation center and business incubator could be sustainable here long term.

If it happens, the project could help Magic Valley agriculture expand and diversify.

“How do we grow the next Chobani?” Stopher said. “There are people out there in our community that have wonderful food ideas, but they don’t know how to take them to the next level. They know that they can make a product that can be on store shelves, but they either need the business help, they need the food science help, or they need both.”

An overdue idea?

Jeff McCurdy was excited about the food innovation center and business incubator idea when he took the Region IV president and CEO job about a year ago. But he was a bit surprised to find out a bunch of people seemed to have come up with the same idea already on their own. He realized it might be possible to get the project started relatively quickly, rather than five or six years down the road. So he put together a team to see if an innovation center and business incubator would be possible.

Is the Magic Valley market big enough to support it? Would there be enough interest? The feasibility study — paid for by a $25,000 Chobani grant, a $20,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and $5,000 each from Region IV, Southern Idaho Economic Development, Dairy West and Business Plus — should answer those questions. The study is expected to have some answers in February and it should wrap up by June.

Right now it’s unclear exactly what the facility would look like. KRNLS, the Pittsburgh-based firm conducting the study, will have to figure out what kind of equipment the center would need and how big it would have to be.

There are three potential sites for the facility so far. It could be in downtown Twin Falls, on the CSI campus or part of the planned Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) facility in Jerome at the U.S. Highway 93 and Interstate 84 intersection.

McCurdy said the innovation center cost won’t be known until the project committee has a better sense of what it’ll include.

KRNLS Principle and Co-founder Olga Pogoda said that a food innovation center affiliated with Rutgers University in New Jersey cost $15 million (the plant-based meat substitute used in the Impossible Whopper was developed there). She said she hopes the Magic Valley facility won’t cost as much.

The benefits

Adding a food innovation center and business incubator would check a lot of economic development boxes.

Stopher noted that it could convince foreign companies to come to Idaho. Maybe an international company has been thinking about coming to the U.S., but isn’t ready to build a 1-million square-foot facility. The innovation center would solve that problem by giving the company the tools it needs to do testing, allowing it to prepare its products for the American market.

It would also be a boon for small businesses trying to expand or try something new, Stopher said. A home business, or a business with a small facility, could use the expensive, specialized equipment to prepare its products for wider distribution or benefit from the expertise of the facility’s staff and educators.

Providing small businesses with those resources would give the local economy a boost.

“Attraction (of outside businesses) is the big, exciting thing in economic development,” Stopher said. “But really the heart of economic development is growing your existing businesses. Seventy to 80% of job growth comes from existing businesses.”

Jenn Nelson has wanted a food innovation center in the Magic Valley for years. The Dairy West senior vice president of innovation partnerships sees a lot of ways south-central Idaho’s dairy industry can grow, diversify and make its products more attractive to consumers.

“How are we showing up in the market?” Nelson said. “How are we showing up in the dairy space? How are we showing up in WinCo or in a convenience store or food service?”

The Magic Valley dairy industry is huge, with nearly half a million cows, but it’s primarily known for cheese and powdered products. Nelson sees opportunities for new marketing strategies. Is there a way to reinvent the gallon milk jug, or create new packaging that helps dairy sales? The food innovation center would help entrepreneurs come up with answers to those questions.

“I think consumers are asking for new things every day,” Nelson said. “Without innovation, we really don’t have new products.”

McCurdy emphasized the job growth potential of the food innovation center and business incubator. If this space helps mom and pop shops innovate, develop new ideas and hire a few more people, that improves the region’s quality of life, he said. He added that more job options will help keep Magic Valley kids from moving away after college, too.

Diversification of the Magic Valley’s agriculture industry could be beneficial, too. For instance, the Magic Valley dairy processors primarily produce cheddar and different milk-based powders. And adding new non-dairy products, made out of staple Magic Valley crops, could help the region as well.

“More outlets for what (farmers) can produce is great,” University of Idaho College of Ag Director of Development and Capital Projects Analyst Jim Miller said. “Developing a new type of food out of a current product — that’s a good way to increase the producer’s outlets.”

The food innovation center and business incubator would simply fill a lot of the Magic Valley’s needs, Stopher said.

“Hamdi (Ulukaya) from Chobani said that we are the Silicon Valley of food,” she said. “And I believe that to be true, but for us to actualize that we have to have innovation.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include more information about the groups that funded the feasibility study. 

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Scholar of the week
Scholar of the week: Wendell High School's Maria Guadalupe Jimenez

Nomination from Counselor Terri Webberley

Maria is one of those students who shines brightly in all she does but does so in a calm, unassuming manner. Academically, she’s one of our star students. Currently, not only is she working toward high school graduation, but will also complete her associate’s degree through the College of Southern Idaho. Athletically, she has lettered every year in soccer. She is a valuable player on the team for her skill set, her dedication to the team, and her positive support of her teammates. Family is very important to her. She is always willing to go the extra mile for family members. Her work ethic is impeccable. She’s not above working at any job and willing to learn on the job and take on more responsibilities.

Words from her soccer coach: She is kind, considerate and willing to listen to her fellow teammates. She is dedicated to practice and the team. When a player is down she is there to pick them up. She is a hard worker at practice and also during the games. She has received a letter in soccer every year she has played. She sets goals and works hard at accomplishing them. I am proud to have her on our team.

Words from her mom: This is hard because I’m her mom and I’m so proud of everything she does. Maria always amazes me she is such a hard worker. I could never do many of the things she puts on her plate. When schools closed last spring because of COVID she went to stay with her grandparents to work cleaning onions in the fields. Not because she needed to, but because she wanted to be there for her grandpa who at 80 years old is still working in the fields. In July when they finished that field work, she started working at the dairy with her dad. Since then she has learned to drive tractor, give medication to cows (given by shots or pills), works with the dairy veterinary (at two different dairies), keeps track of the dairy medications and manages the computer program that keeps the cows’ records. In November, her dad tested positive for COVID and got really sick. She tested negative and because her job is outside she was able to keep working. From home, her dad gave her instructions and she coordinated the workers with the daily tasks. Their supervisor told her dad that thanks to Maria, the daily operations of the dairy ran very smoothly. This made Maria come out of her comfort zone because at 17 years old she was giving instructions to men that were a lot older for her. When she was 15, out of nowhere her shoulder started to bother her. After many orthopedic visits and months of physical therapy, we ended up at the Huntsman Cancer Institution in Salt Lake City. They found Maria had a mass called chondrosarcoma or a tumor made of cartilage. Thank God it was non-cancerous, but it was very painful. It took doctors close to a year to figure this out. Throughout this year, Maria never stopped playing soccer, going to school or was ever complaining of the pain. She started Idaho Digital Learning Academy classes her seventh-grade summer. Since then, the only summer she didn’t take her IDLA or college classes was this past 2020 summer. This semester alone she is taking three college classes through CSI plus her high school schedule. Her goal is to graduate from WHS and CSI with an Associate in Liberal Arts in the spring of 2022. She is undecided if she wants to go into the engineering field or if she wants to be a lawyer. During her freshman year, she volunteered at Mary’s Pantry on Fridays. She has tried bowling and basketball, but her true passion is soccer. She loves her five cats. She always puts everyone before herself.

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Idaho changes vaccine timeline, with more doses now expected

BOISE — Idaho Gov. Brad Little said Tuesday that people 65 and over will be able to get the coronavirus vaccine starting Feb. 1.

The Republican governor said he adopted the recommendation of his COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee, saying the state was in the “final stretch of our pandemic fight.”

The 65-to-74 age group previously hadn’t been expected to get the vaccine until April. Those 75 and above had previously been ahead of them in line.

State health officials also on Tuesday announced that they are immediately transitioning from limiting vaccinations to frontline healthcare workers to also vaccinating frontline essential workers. That group includes firefighters, police, K-12 teachers and staff, daycare workers and prison workers.

Officials said the changes to the Idaho vaccination timeline are due to an expected boost in vaccination doses coming into the state from the federal government. The previous timeline had been based on 20,000 doses entering the state each week.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced earlier in the day a series of major changes to increase supply of vaccines, extend eligibility to more seniors and provide more locations for people to get shots. Administration officials describing the new policies conveyed a notable sense of urgency.

Idaho officials said they hadn’t yet received from federal officials the number of weekly doses the state will receive now.

The group first in line to get the vaccine are front-line healthcare workers. They number about 130,000, and they have been getting the shots since last month. Nearly 40,000 doses of the two-shot vaccine have been administered.

Officials said there will be overlap among the groups getting vaccinated based on supply, demand and the ability to administer vaccinations around the state.

“It’s really going to be an ongoing daily, if not hourly, planning exercise,” Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said.

The second group now also eligible for the shots, as announced Tuesday, are the frontline essential workers, including firefighters and others.

The third group to get vaccines are those age 65 and over starting Feb. 1. Also eligible for vaccinations beginning Feb. 1 are food and agriculture workers, grocery and convenience store workers, food pantry workers, Idaho National Guard members not already included in the healthcare group, manufacturing workers, public transit workers and U.S. Postal Service workers.

That group now adds up to about 500,000 with the addition of people 65 and over.

“The 65-and-older population is enormous, and there is still work actively being done to build up capacity among our providers to take on this population,” said Little, who is 66.

Next up starting in March, according to the current timeline, are people ages 16 to 64 with medical conditions that make them more susceptible to severe illness or death from COVID-19, and essential workers not included in earlier groups.

The final group to start getting the vaccine in May is listed as the general public age 16 and over. So far, there is no COVID-19 vaccine authorized for those ages 15 and below.

Steven D'Antuono, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Washington field office, left, listens as acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin, speaks during a news conference Tuesday in Washington. Federal prosecutors are looking at bringing "significant" cases involving possible sedition and conspiracy charges in last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol.

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Lawmakers seek to curb Idaho governor's emergency authority

BOISE — A power struggle between lawmakers and Republican Gov. Brad Little has begun.

Republicans in the House brought forward three pieces of legislation Tuesday aimed at increasing the part-time Legislature’s authority while limiting the governor’s regarding emergency declarations. Public hearings on the legislation are expected in the coming weeks.

The move comes amid lawmakers’ dissatisfaction with being left out of the decision-making process concerning coronavirus restrictions that started March 13 following Little’s emergency declaration that remains in effect. Among the current restrictions is a limit on public and private group sizes to 10 or less, excluding religious or free-speech gatherings.

Lawmakers say they should also have had a say in spending decisions concerning the $1.25 billion Idaho received in 2020 from the federal government in coronavirus rescue money. Little divvied up the money based on recommendations from his Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee, which includes a number of lawmakers.

Republican Rep. Jason Monks told lawmakers on the House State Affairs Committee that the current system is a relic from the Cold War-era that failed this year by concentrating too much power with the governor.

The legislation is “an attempt to help restore some balance that we have between the legislative branch and the executive branch,” Monks said.

Currently, a governor’s emergency declaration is limited to 30 days, but the governor can renew it. The legislation put forward by Monks requires the declaration to expire unless the legislature renews it. The legislature could also extend the emergency declaration.

Republican Rep. Steven Harris introduced legislation seeking a constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers to call themselves back into session. Currently, only the governor can call a special session. Specifically, lawmakers could call themselves back into session if 60% of members in each the House and Senate approve.

The cost of a special session would be $21,300 per day, according to the proposed legislation.

“A high cost, but if we’re in session we will make it worthwhile on whatever agitation might be causing us to act,” Harris said.

A constitutional amendment would have to be approved by voters in the November election, and it wouldn’t give lawmakers the ability to call themselves into special session until 2022.

Finally, Rep. Heather Scott put forward legislation to immediately end Little’s coronavirus emergency declaration. If lawmakers were to pass the legislation, it would cost the state millions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, that the state is eligible for with the emergency declaration in place.

Little in March issued the emergency declaration and later a stay-at-home order as the coronavirus threatened to overwhelm the healthcare system by sickening doctors and nurses. The order gave healthcare facilities and the state time to get needed supplies such as masks and other personal protective equipment.

The stay-at-home order contained a provision defining workers as essential and allowed to travel to their jobs.

“I found that quite offensive when I was told some jobs were considered essential and some jobs were not,” Monks said. “I asked to who? If that’s your source of income and you provide for your family that way, then that job is pretty essential regardless of what that job is.”

The restrictions put in place in March were gradually lifted over the summer, but some have been put back in place as virus infections and deaths rose in recent months.

Idaho joins at least 17 other states currently considering enacting limits on executive powers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says that 150,000 Idaho residents have been sickened by the virus, and more than 1,500 have died.