Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I gotta admit. Writing a think piece or two a week can be tough when you hit a dry spell. “Writer’s block” it’s called. Just nothing in the tank. But every so often, inspiration comes along like a lighting strike. BOOM! Such a “loud” inspiration struck the other day – easy enough for even that Palin woman to put it together. Well, almost.

Idaho’s attorney general has been trying to make the case with legislative budget types for a larger legal staff. Eight years he’s been scratching on that door without success. Of course, what success can you have when your hard-to-focus governor passes the idea off wittily by telling the media “We don’t need more money for lawyers. We need fewer Idahoans suing the state.” Butch always was a “big concept” guy.

Last three years, Gem State paymasters – read “taxpayers” – have coughed up $18 million for outside attorneys to help the state’s understaffed staff. $18 million! Downtown legal beagles charge $125 $400 an hour for their help. A.G. Wasden bills his staff lawyer’s work about $54 an hour. As I said, even that Palin woman could subtract a smaller number from a large one and – with help – see the problem. But – alas! She’d be wrong. Again.

Here’s the problem. The 105 people on the third floor of the Idaho Statehouse euphemistically called “legislators.” If you replaced that number with about the bottom 10% of any local high school graduating class, you’d solve the issue. Because “the issues” are outright stupid bills written, passed and sent to various governors. Session after session after session. Year after year after year. And they are SIGNED! Over and over and over.

Case in point. A state senator named Vick has put one of these “ain’t-got-a-chance-in-court” bills in committee. It would charge any Idaho cop who tried to enforce any as-yet unwritten federal gun law with a crime. If the guv signs it into law, which legal meter starts running? The $54 an hour in the A.G.’s office or the $400 an hour downtown? You guess.

Case in point: At a speed to make Carl Lewis proud, the folks on the third floor are ramming through a bill allowing concealed carry of guns on Idaho college campuses. On public record already: no college president wants it – no police chief wants it – most students don’t want it. Teens, alcohol, drugs and concealed 9mm’s. What could possibly go wrong? This one will be in court before the first shot’s fired.

Case in point: Another Senator – Thayne by name – has put this little gem up for consideration. If the current POTUS somehow declares war on another nation – which he can’t – Idaho and all who live there would be exempt. Wouldn’t have to fight. Just ignore the war. Now, even I know only Congress can declare a war. But nobody told Thayne – er – Sen. Thayne. Or George Bush, for that matter. So if a majority of the other 104 upstairs sent this bowl of idiocy down to the governor – and he forgot his one constitutional law class of 50 years ago and signed it – whose legal meter starts on this one? And at what per-hour cost? With what outcome?

Terrible case(s) in point. Ol’ Rep. Luker and his two ALEC-written pieces of guaranteed court time that would allow Idahoans not do business with gay or homosexual citizens – or others who “offended” someone’s “religious sensibilities” – to refuse service regardless of the 1964 Civil Rights Act or other laws. Say, a gay man was robbed but a Pentecostal-believing sheriff refused to do anything based on his “sincerely held religious belief” that the gay man’s “lifestyle” was an affront to the sheriff’s way of life. Can’t you just see the worms struggling to get out of the can on that one? Do we hire the $54 an hour Deputy A.G. or does Idaho government turn to the $400 an hour private folk downtown? Again, to what end? It’s a loser. Mr. Luker has withdrawn his paperwork while he “thinks” about it. Prediction? It’ll come back in some form. This year or next. Bet the farm on it.

NOTE: Arizona has just put this on their books. Let them pay the big legal bucks!

I’ve watched the Idaho Legislature for 50 years or so. And I can tell you – without hesitation – the quality control department has closed. For decades – with assistance from a series of governors on the second floor – Idaho taxpayers have underwritten a permanent “Idaho Lawyer’s Perpetual Retirement Fund.” ILPRF for you government readers. And the won-loss record isn’t even close. Big bucks paid. “Laws” shot down in flames.

Even with pretty constant use of several search engines, I have yet to find a state that’s had to go to court to defend dumb state laws more often than Idaho. Or one that LOST more often! I’ve tried to get my attorney daughter to quit her job on a neighboring state’s A.G.’s legal staff and open up a small office in Boise specializing in just defending the Idaho Legislature. My grandkids could not only GO to Harvard. They could BUY the place!

The kicker to all this: more often than not, Idaho’s A.G. Wasden has told the legally obtuse upstairs – well in advance – what they were doing was likely wrong – probably unconstitutional on its face – another legal loser. To no avail!

The breakdown of quality control in selection of Idaho’s legislators really rests with voters. Most specifically Idaho GOP voters, since that party took almost all the keys to legislative bathrooms away from Democrats years ago by keeping the number of the opposition down to a point they need only one. It’s been those same voters who’ve gullibly given anything breathing with an “R” after it a seat in the chambers. Many sent annually to Boise in recent years have failed the admission test of pounding sand into rat holes but they’re not being exposed by keeping the failed efforts classified. The absolute proof has been this record faulty “legal”output.

Many states are racking up more bad legislation cases these days with the advent of ALEC. The one-size-fits-all effluent coming from that right wing “Hall of Legislative Horrors” has meant poorly-conceived bills on abortion, taxes, limiting voting rights and outright racial and religious discrimination. So, duplicate laws in more states have gone down in flames more often because of thoughtless rubberstamp enactment – time after time. One state loses and eight carbon copies fall as well. But the lawyers. Yes, Virginia, the lawyers – they win. Win, lose or draw. The ILPRF keeps paying off.

So, give a thought to Idaho taxpayers from time to time. They’re paying higher – much, much higher – costs-per-vote than you because they have to pay for all that time in court. And they lose so often.

But the lawyers? The Idaho lawyers. As long as the legislature refuses the A.G. more staff attorneys – and his legal advice – theirs is a splendid life of just staying near an open Statehouse window, listening for the scratching sound of the governor’s pen on the next piece of unconstitutional legislation. The well-worn road from downtown to Statehouse and over to the courthouse is a definition of perpetual motion.

Good old ILPRF. More assured than state retirement.

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Rainey

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said on February 20 she would not try to defend in court the state’s constitutional provision barring same-sex marriage. Here’s her explanation.

Good morning. As many Oregonians are aware, four couples have brought suit against the state, asking a federal court to find that Oregon’s ban on marriage by couples of the same sex violates the right of equality enshrined in the United States Constitution. I am named as a defendant in the lawsuits, along with the Governor, and it falls on my office to appear on behalf of the state before the court and answer the couples’ claims.

Usually — though not always — my office defends the state in litigation. As Attorney General, I have sworn an oath to uphold our state’s constitution. The lawyers in my office have sworn the same oath. The oath we took also requires us to uphold the Constitution of the United States – which is the supreme law of our land. Of course, we all take these oaths very seriously.

So it is after much careful study and consideration that I stand before you today to announce that the Oregon Department of Justice will not defend the prohibition in our state’s constitution against marriages between people of the same sex. A document called an “answer” filed with the court earlier this morning informed Judge McShane of our decision. Copies are available for you.

Because our office also represents the people of Oregon, a brief explanation is in order.

The Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to be treated equally by their government, unless there is a good reason for unequal treatment. That is, any time the government establishes different sets of rules or laws for different sets of people, there must at least be what the law calls a “rational basis” for those differences.

The law in this area is developing and it is now clear that there is no rational basis for Oregon to refuse to honor the commitments made by same-sex couples in the same way it honors the commitments of opposite-sex couples. Marriage is the way that loving couples become family to each other and to their extended families, and there is no good reason to exclude same-sex couples from marriage in Oregon, or from having their marriages recognized here.

Because we cannot identify a valid reason for the state to prevent the couples who have filed these lawsuits from marrying in Oregon, we find ourselves unable to stand before federal Judge McShane to defend the state’s prohibition against marriages between two men or two women.

We will be explaining our legal reasoning to Judge McShane as this case proceeds. Those of you who are interested will be more than welcome to review our pleadings as they are filed. Legal papers that are due by April will fully address our analysis and that of the other parties in the two cases that are now consolidated.

Thank you.

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news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Big story in the region today: Oregon’s attorney general not defending the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

Candidates for supt public instruction (Boise Statesman)
Labrador on religion and marriage (Lewiston Tribune)
New district judgeship at Lewiston (Lewiston Tribune)
More gay activists arrested at Statehouse (Moscow News)
Caldwell parents consider common core (Nampa Press Tribune)
New rescue mission at Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)
Legislation on court interest rates moves (Sandpoint Bee)
details released on Gooding school superintendent (TF Times News)
More issues on canyon jump plan (TF Times News)

KF medical pot shop will open (KF Herald & News)
May election will feature 911 tax (KF Herald & News)
AG not defending gay marriage provision (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune, Pendleton East Oregonian, Ashland Tidings)
More on Medford school strike (Medford Tribune)
Sprout Springs ski area closed (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Court kills Metro land plan (Portland Oregonian)
Real estate vacancies at Salem drop (Salem Statesman Journal)
Bill may help Hynix site renewal (Eugene Register Guard)

Death in jail leads to lawsuit (Everett Herald)
New Snohomish exec on state of county (Everett Herald)
Ferry design could save fuel (Everett Herald)
Storms helping water supply, flood? (Longview News, Port Angeles News)
Columbia County may re-try jail levy (Longview News)
Schools consider obesity issue (Seattle Times)
New Tacoma Amtrak station considered (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark County may let workers carry guns (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take