Writings and observations

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is widely presumed to be a likely candidate for governor next year, made it quite definite – in a Seattle Times interview just before a state Republican event – that he doesn’t see embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as a role model (our phrase, not his).

McKenna did on the other hand seem to give enough compliments to the evening’s speaker to suggest he sees that person as what amounts to a gubernatorial role model. That would be Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter. Speaking to fellow Republicans, he called Idaho a “business nirvana,” among other compliments.

Might be time for Washingtonians to take a closer look at what’s been happening this year in the state government to their east. Democrats particularly.

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Washington

Reform is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, as is this formal description of Senate Bill 1184: “To ensure the state can educate more students at a higher level with limited resources, the state must reform and modernize the educational system. The Students Come First legislation reprioritizes statutory requirements to strategically invest in Idaho’ s educators and technology, and increases transparency for Idaho’ s public school system.”

The specifics for this measure, set up as the third of three major bills backed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, are a devil, though. The Senate floor vote on this bill split somewhat along partisan lines – most of the Republicans voted for, and all the Democrats against – but the strong debate came from the Republicans in opposition. They were the senators who burrowed most into the details, and their implications.

The best probably was from Senator Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, co-chair of the legislature’s budget committee. The bill will “disrupt” public school budgeting for years, he warned: “We will put the major portion of our public school budget on autopilot.” He found a string of budgetary and fiscal issues in the bill, and came up with a string of other specific problems too. He had conservative arguments against it: It creates new entitlements. There was this fascinating nugget: The bill allows (as part of the formal course requirements) students to take any accredited (term not much defined) on-line courses, with or without approval from the local school board. (You can imagine what might happen.) There were also some fine takes from Senators Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and Denton Darrington, R-Declo. (In brief comments, Senator John Andreason, R-Boise, remarked that his constituents had urged him to vote against the bill by a margin of 95-5; and so he did.)

The passion was on their side.

The pro- arguments centered on the need to bring more technology into public education, but that was a point no one disputes (certainly not here). The details were more typically glossed over.

The bill passed, somewhat closely, 20-15.

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Idaho

In the legislative discussion about requiring that guns to allowed on Idaho college and university campuses everywhere but in undergrad dorms (an odd exclusion by itself), Representative Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, had this to say:

“It’s one of the basic facts that keeps America safer today than any other nation in the world. It’s because the citizens are armed.”

Problem is, it’s not a fact. It’s a falsehood. We’re plenty armed all right, but we’re nowhere close to the safest.

Here’s one statistical example of the point: “Given the virtually unregulated access to guns in the US, it’s actually surprising that there aren’t more than 80-90 gun deaths and 200-300 injuries everyday. There are an average of 30,000 gun deaths and 100,000 gun injuries each year. The average US annual firearm fatality rate is 10.6 per 100,000 population which is more than the entire industrialized world combined.”

And in the Idaho State Journal, of the safest-in-the-world remark: “It must be a world that doesn’t include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark or Sweden, among others. The overall homicide rate in those nations is about eight times less than the U.S. per 100,000 people. Murder rates involving firearms are five to 16 times lower in those countries.”

But no. It’s not politically correct these days to admit that we can ever learn anything from someone else in the world.

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Idaho