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BOISE — When the Legislature’s Committee on Federalism met at the state Capitol last week, it heard an extensive presentation from Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, about his work with ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

ALEC is a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and corporate representatives who draft and share model state-level legislation for distribution among state governments. Dixon chairs the Federalism Subcommittee of ALEC’s task force on international relations.

Dixon told his fellow Idaho lawmakers that while “it may seem a little bit incongruous to have international relations and federalism” lumped together, “there was no other spot” for ALEC to locate the new subcommittee among its nine task forces. “They found there was a lot of crossover between members interested in federalism and members interested in international relations,” he said.

Dixon said he’s been involved with ALEC for four years, and the subcommittee’s work has focused mainly on the “Article 5 movement,” a push to call a convention of the states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution to trim the powers of the federal government; and “the federal lands issue, and the return of federal lands to control of the states.”

“That is still an ongoing issue that we’re looking at,” he said. Dixon cited the work of Ken Ivory, a former Utah legislator who long has been an advocate for state takeover of federal public lands.

Dixon said his work with ALEC has touched on opposition to ballot initiatives.

“Are we going to be ruled in a strictly democratic way, or are we going to be ruled by representation … so everyone … has their say?” he asked. “When it’s strictly majority rule, you just have major population centers that are then controlling everybody else.”

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, who serves on the Committee on Federalism, challenged that assertion, saying the Constitution says that the people are sovereign, not the “bureaucrats and politicians.”

Dixon said he’ll soon be traveling to Munich, Germany at the invitation of a German foundation to speak at a conference on federalism.

BILL OPPOSES ANTI-SEMITISM

Idaho 1st District GOP Rep. Russ Fulcher announced he’s co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to counter the rise of anti-Semitism. The “Never Again Education Act” has 290 House co-sponsors; 2nd District GOP Rep. Mike Simpson is a co-sponsor.

The Holocaust happened, the Nazi regime was responsible, and false propaganda or fake ‘anti-Zion’ campaigns do not change the fact that there are hostile governments in the world who attack people because of their religion. We have an obligation to use the realities of history to teach our children that discrimination of any kind has no place in America,” Fulcher said in a news release.

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The bill, introduced on Jan. 31, would authorize the U.S. Department of Education to provide grants for teaching about the Holocaust, with emphasis on the treatment of people of Jewish origin by the Nazi government before and during World War II. Its lead sponsor is Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York. A companion bill in the Senate has 16 co-sponsors from both parties; neither of Idaho’s senators is among them.

Fulcher’s news release was issued Sept. 23, just days after the Idaho Press reported that a Holocaust denier from California had filed to run for a city council seat in Garden City on an openly anti-Semitic platform. Patrick Little is one of five candidates who filed for two seats on the council.

LABOR TO LAUNCH AD CAMPAIGN

The Idaho Department of Labor will soon be launching a public education campaign, including ads in local newspapers, on radio, social media, billboards, direct mail and email, to let Idahoans know how to access employment services after more than half of the state’s local job service offices closed in September.

“We are continuing to perform the same job and provide the same level of service, but we’re finding innovative ways to bring that service directly to our customers,” state Labor Director Jani Revier told legislative budget writers last week.

She announced in July that the department was launching a “new service model” that would shrink the number of local offices statewide from 25 to 11. In the 14 communities that no longer would have local offices, traveling teams will come to town for appointments and office hours at local libraries or other facilities.

Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, told Revier, “Many of us were taken by surprise that this was put into place and not discussed while we were in session. … Was there any consideration to try this as a pilot project to prove that it would work more effectively?”

Revier said the department faced deadlines for a federal grant, along with local office leases expiring and ADA compliance costs for local office upgrades that were unaffordable.

“We were not trying to do anything in secret here,” she told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “We were just trying to meet our deadlines.”

Revier said she expects the move to save Labor $380,000 in rent and $103,000 on network connections, but there won’t be large overall savings; instead, the spending will be reallocated.

“We are spending more money on personnel instead of leases,” she said.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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