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A Democrat reviews the Idaho session

ridenbaugh Northwest

A review of the last Idaho legislative session from Idaho Democratic Chair Larry Kenck.

The 2013 Idaho Legislature exceeded expectations. By that measure, it succeeded. Unfortunately, our expectations are so low for this annual GOP-controlled event that we can call it a success if they don’t accidentally burn down the Capitol.

Let’s look at how they exceeded our expectations.

In December, Idaho’s wealthiest corporate interests had convinced everyone that a $140 million tax shift from big business to homeowners was a virtual certainty. Counties, cities, schools and Idaho Democrats crunched the numbers, rallied, and got the word out. In the end, small and medium-sized businesses saw their personal business property taxes cut without severely harming communities.

That was certainly better than we expected.

The Legislature also birthed a small group of Republicans who stood up to rightwing radicals who are still fighting the Affordable Care Act. This minority of the majority joined Idaho Democrats to help create a state-run health insurance exchange, benefiting consumers and giving Idaho control over insurance options.

That small triumph for moderation was unexpected.

Of course, we always expect some truly awful ideas to emerge from the GOP fringe. And, I suppose it’s fair to credit GOP leaders, along with Idaho Democrats, for killing some terrible legislation.

They fleeced a bill that would have made it illegal for sheepherders to quit their jobs. They beat back a bill that could have banned children from school if they got into fights. They shrugged off an effort to force all Idaho children to read Ayn Rand.

That legislation should have never showed up in the first place. It serves as an example of this Legislature meeting our low expectations. They didn’t surprise us on the big issues either.

When voters rejected the Luna Laws last fall, they failed to reject the guys who passed the laws in first place. So, it wasn’t altogether unexpected that those same GOP lawmakers would continue the assault on schools, teachers and students.

We also have never really believed GOP leaders who claim to save money. They showed their true nature by refusing to debate Medicaid expansion—a policy that would save counties a half a BILLION dollars and deliver health care to 105,000 men, women and children who cannot afford it.

And, we never expected the GOP Legislature to respect our way of life. When they demanded title of federal public lands in Idaho, they took a step toward selling of our heritage of hunting, fishing and hiking.

Who knows? Maybe the problem isn’t the Legislature. Maybe the problem is people like me. When we set expectations low, it doesn’t take much to meet them. If there’s no motivation to achieve excellence, then excellence only comes by chance. From here on out, I pledge to set my expectations high; and, when legislators fall short, I will do all I can to replace them with better people.

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