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Matters of control and capability

Here are three disparate pieces of Idaho legislation, all House measures, that between them say something about the way Idaho legislators look at government and at themselves. Two are law; the third is awaiting action by the governor (and that action might go either way).

The first, House Bill 54, fixes a law that falls into the category of something that might have made sense a century ago but these days is a train wreck coming. It bars agencies issuing drivers licenses from giving them any who is a “habitual drunkard” or “addicted to the use of narcotic drugs”.

Wisely enough, the state transportation department proposed striking the language because, it noted, “If left unchanged, the statute creates a concern about Department liability for acts of such persons. The Department has no way of identifying these persons.” Never really did, of course, but in these days when the only time you’ll probably ever see your license issuer is at the counter, less than ever. It is, obviously, a law that hasn’t been enforced – hasn’t been followed by the state – for decades at least, if ever.

Which leads you to wonder about whether the law to be fixed by House Bill 126 was followed either.

This one concerns the serving of subpoenas by county sheriffs. Its statement of purpose sums: “Idaho Code 9-704 currently mandates sheriffs to break into homes and other buildings and boats to serve subpoenas when ordered by the person issuing the subpoena. This 1881 law contravenes current state and federal law pertaining to civil rights and privacy, and subjects a sheriff to significant liability should he or she engage in the conduct contemplated in the statute.”

Should the sheriff or deputy follow the law, in other words.

Good candidate for elimination.

The third bill that caught our eye during a scan of low-profile legislation is in a different category altogether. It changes the law, but here it’s the nature of the change that merits a mention.

House Bill 218 says “The legislative department shall determine the use of the space on the first, third and fourth floors as well as the basement, which basement shall include the underground atrium wings. All space within the first, third and fourth floors and the basement shall be allocated by the presiding officers of the senate and house of representatives.”

It does just that. What the statement of purpose doesn’t say is that this bill gives legislature control over the 1st floor of the statehouse, which they have never had – executive offices currently occupy it and control the space. Most of that space is used by the attorney general, the governor’s Division of Financial Management and the State Treasurer, with a small slice used by legislative services. We haven’t noticed in earlier reports on the future, post-remodel, statehouse, whether the use of the first floor is expected to change, but this bill would seem to contemplate that it will.

The bill has been sent to the governor. Governor Butch Otter’s veto swing has gotten a workout of late, so we give this one even odds of survival.

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One Comment

  1. mark mark March 24, 2007

    The news reports from the time when the Legislature and the Governor were negotiating how to proceed with the renovation of the Statehouse indicated that in return for only building one story underground wings instead of two story additions the Governor would move his offices from the first floor. I don’t recall them saying just where the exec branch offices would go but a good bet would be the old Ada courthouse after the Legislature moves out of there after the remodel is complete.

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