Opposition options

Two recent opinion pieces about this year’s legislative session, and its new House leadership, merit attention. They take off from two entirely different angles; and their implicit suggestions are quite different.

One is by Dennis Mansfield, the conservative Republican activist in Idaho, is currently touring around Israel, and has been blogging about it (interesting stuff too), but before he left he delivered a provocative Idaho political post.

It takes off from a March 18 article in the Idaho Statesman about how this has been a session of discontent for the dwindling number of moderate Republicans in the Idaho House, and about how several of the members (moderates among them) who supported the losing candidate for House speaker have had rough sledding in the House this year. At one point in it, House Democratic Leader Wendy Jaquet is quoted as saying, “I feel sorry for the moderates in the majority party of the House that they’re having to vote the way they don’t want to . . . At some point, the folks that are moderates are going to have to stand up and say, ‘We won’t support that.’ ”

Mansfield has an alternative suggestion:

Though I have a tremendous amount of respect for Rep. Jaquet, I think she is in utter error about what the moderates within the GOP “should” say and do. Having been in GOP politics for many years, I think the real issue is what Dem leaders of Idaho “should” say and do to help the whole political system – simply recruiting the moderate GOP members to switch parties could be the healthiest thing in Idaho’s recent political history.

The GOP moderates tend to be pro-choice, anti-death penalty, pro-tax increase, pro-gay, pro-tax and spend…etc, etc. And the Democrat’s should welcome them with open arms, shouldn’t they?

It would also force the GOP platform to either mean something…or not. Political parties’ philosophies either direct public policy…or it’s all a sham, isn’t it? We either debate the issues of our times or we simply revert to high school…posing, positioning and pretending.

I am proud of the Speaker’s leadership. He has always said who he was….and quite frankly, that’s why the moderates lost. The Speaker is the real deal. Quiet, calm and deliberate. No posing. No pretending.

There’s one view.

The other takes off from another incident, when Speaker Lawerence Denney suggested to business advocates of a tax deal for the Cabela’s sports retailer that he not use his current lobbyist (former legislator Jerry Deckard, who supported Denney’s opponent for the speakership) but replace him with, well, former state Representative Julie Ellsworth, who left the House last December, and is now doing some lobbying of this same chamber, might be a good choice. That discussion led to a lot of discussion around the state.

But none of that discussion stands have more significance than the commentary in today’s Idaho Statesman from former Governor Phil Batt, who is rarely inclined to speak ill of fellow Republicans. He did this time:

Now in the Idaho House of Representatives, the fate of legislative proposals seems to be gauged by the level of support given to the speaker in his contest for the job. It has even come to the point that no legislator or lobbyist can expect his bills to have a fair chance if he supported the loser in the speaker’s race.

This is outrageous. The people of Idaho are entitled to have their representatives base their votes on the merits of a bill, not on who backed the loser in a speaker’s contest.

A statement like that coming from some places around Idaho would be ordinary. Coming from Batt, it is stunning. And from someone of his history and credibility in the party, a significant blast.

(On the suggestion we’ve seen that Governor Butch Otter orchestrated Batt’s commentary: We think it highly unlikely. Anyone who’s known Batt over the haul knows that he speaks very much for himself, and no one else; his agenda is his own.)

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