It was a long day at the Idaho Statehouse. A bill of some significance, House Bill 1, a property tax measure proposed by Governor Jim Risch, was passed. We were struck most especially, however, by three other things.
Sympathy for Mark Ricks. You had to feel for Idaho's new lieutenant governor, just appointed, Mark Ricks. His appointment by Risch some weeks backwas supposed to be mainly an honorary thing; it expires in January. But here comes this session, just one day but very rugged, and it put him through the mill. Neither he nor Risch, who appointed him, could have expected anything like it.
Only one bill was on the agenda, but it was controversial. Everyone seems to want to do something about property taxes, but over the last month a large protest around the state developed against Risch's proposal, which involves moving much of the cost of paying for public schools from the local property tax to the state sales tax. That protest in advance included press conferences and "pork BBQ" lunches, but it was only a warm up. Once the session started, Democrats, first in the House and then even more forcefully in the Senate, used almost every parliamentary device in the rule book to block the bill. Some of those devices, including obscire protests, hadn't been tried in a generation or more. A Senate session expected to last maybe two or three hours went on, and on. A session launched at 8 a.m. and originally expected to be over at least by late afternoon, wrapped at about a quarter past 11 at night.
Ricks presided over just about all of the Senate session. Years ago, as a senator and a majority leader, he periodically presided over the Senate, and knew the rules and presided fluently. But he left the Senate 12 years ago, and he is 82 years old now, and the procedures don't roll out quite so easily. And this was his first day on the job in a dozen years. From time to time, he would sound confused and - you could hear it from a distance - call out for help.
No matter. Ricks, a courteous man with a positive outlook, managed to keep both his perspective and his humor throughout what had to be a rough experience. He emerged as a class act. (more…)