It was no surprise when Idaho voters picked Republican Mitt Romney by a wide margin over Democrat Barack Obama in the race for U.S. President. Months earlier, Romney emerged as the winner in Idaho's first-ever Republican caucus held on Super Tuesday. Results from November also helped pave the way for a change in leadership in the Idaho House, where Oakley Republican Scott Bedke toppled Lawerence Denney in the race for House Speaker.
Idaho ended the 2012 fiscal year in June with more revenue than forecast in January, allowing the state to replenish reserves to nearly $90 million after slowing draining rainy day funds after the economy began to slide in 2008. State officials counted $2.59 billion in revenue through June, amounting to about $35 million more than anticipated and a 5.9 percent increase over the 2011 fiscal year. In another positive sign for the state economy, a 950,000-square-foot, $450 million Chobani yogurt plant opened Dec. 17 in Twin Falls.
Roughed up renewables:
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said in 2011 Idaho was open for renewable energy business, but 2012 turned out to be a bust year for many companies seeking their fortunes from the sun, wind and even cow dung. A sparkling new $400 million polysilicon plant in Pocatello sits lifeless; Exergy Development Group idled $323 million in wind projects and wants out of obligations to build dairy biogas-to-power plants; and the light went out on Micron's twin alt-energy ventures, solar panel panels and energy-efficient LED lights.
Some, like Exergy, blamed uncertainty over rules governing their projects in Idaho for scaring off financiers. Others, like Hoku Corp., the owner of the Pocatello polysilicon plant, and Micron had Chinese rivals and intense global competition to thank for hard times.
During the 2012 Legislature, Senate Republicans introduced a bill requiring women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound. Sen. Chuck Winder said his bill originally made reference to an invasive procedure using a vaginal probe, but that language was removed. Conservative House Republicans ultimately rejected the mandatory ultrasound exams after the Senate backed it on a nearly party-line vote. Also, a federal judge heard summary judgment arguments in December concerning a lawsuit over Idaho's so-called fetal pain law and other abortion restrictions. The lawsuit was filed last year by Pocatello resident Jennie Linn McCormack against Bannock County prosecutor Mark Hiedeman after he charged her with a felony because police said she had an illegal abortion.
For the second consecutive year, an inmate execution is among the top-10 Idaho stories. The state executed 53-year-old Richard Leavitt June 12. He was convicted in 1985 for stabbing and mutilating 31-year-old Danette Elg. Leavitt's execution marked the first time witnesses had full viewing access to a convicted killer's lethal injection after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a few days before the execution sided with The Associated Press and other news organizations seeking full viewing access to a convicted killer's lethal injection.