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Posts published in “Day: March 5, 2008”

The limits of opinion expression?

It was a difference of opinion - literally that, on the subject of abortion - between Washington state Representative John Ahern, R-Spokane, and a group of teenagers who (while on January 21 lobbying on behalf of Planned Parenthood) held a contrary view. Both sides got to express themselves, stoutly.

It led to a complaint filed with the Legislative Ethics Board, filed by parents of some of the students. They said Ahern "verbally abused" the students by "by berating them with the question, 'How many unborn babies did you guys kill last year?'"

One of the parents added, "It was just above and beyond anything a child should have to go through when they visit a state legislator." (Ahern has noted that this incident could be a factor in his campaign for re-election this year.)

The problem is that "visiting" wasn't all they were doing - they were trying to engage Ahern in debate. Whatever you think of Ahern's specific point, it was certainly pertinent to the argument.

Arguments do, after all, from time to time, get testy, notably in the real world of legislating.

The Ethics Board dismissed the complaint, for the (more or less unexplained) reason that it lacked jurisdiction over this case. Why exactly it didn't say. It also missed an opportunity: To engage in a little educating, of the parents of some students who ventured into the rough and tumble and might themselves have possibly learned something.

Getting testy

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter last year made some odd miscalculations when it came to working with the Idaho Legislature. This year mostly seemed offto a better start, but his new transportation letter may cause some issues.

Faced with the need for massive upgrades (and there isn't much debate that the need here is large-scale) in Idaho's road system, and recognizing that most tax increase proposals (something Otter is loathe to embrace anyway) are DOA, the govenror tried something else: A massive increase in the state auto registration fee, to $150. You know: Just the sort of thing that led to the huge Tim Eyman tax revolt-by-initiative in Washington some years ago. Legislators have rebelled, loudly. And now Otter has pulled back his bills.

That isn't the relationship glitch part. This is: The Idaho Statesman is reporting that Otter has sent a letter back to legislators, an angry letter. It indicates that the legislators are simply rejecting his leadership, although what's going on here is a difference over policy - though if he wants a rejection, he could get one. Especially by adding this: “The response of some in the Legislature left the impression that they instead desire political cover behind which they can continue avoiding a difficult but necessary responsibility of government.”

Can this marriage be saved? Time could be running out.