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Pushing the hot button


As usual for this time of year, the hot button has swung into action at the State Legislature. Among the hot button issues are the usual suspects–guns and abortion–but transgender bills have been added to the mix this time around.

Just when you thought that legislators had thought of almost every means of getting more guns on the streets, House Bill 516 sailed through the House. It gives most out-of-state folks the right to pack hidden heat on the same basis as Idahoans. That is, just about anywhere–in town, out of town, in the Capitol, wherever.

Now, I grew up figuring we all had a right to own and use as many guns as we wanted and I have my share. But it seems like we have gone overboard of late. There are folks who need to have some protection and should not have to brandish it in public. There should be concealed carry permits reasonably available to those folks, but I’m not a fan of everybody toting a concealed weapon practically anywhere they wish.

Call me a traditionalist, but I’m kind of partial to what the last pre-statehood Legislature did in 1889. We think of the 1880s as being packed with tough gunslingers and maybe it was. However, the Legislature passed a bill in 1889, making it a misdemeanor for anyone other than officials and express company employees “to carry, exhibit or flourish any dirk, dirk-knife, sword, sword-cane, pistol, gun or other deadly weapons, within the limits or confines of any city, town or village or in any public assembly of Idaho Territory.” Maybe we ought to go back to our roots.

As usual, several abortion bills have surfaced that are clearly unconstitutional and no anticipated action of the U.S. Supreme Court will change that. House Bill 361 would make it a crime to perform or procure an abortion, with no exceptions. Senate Bill 1385 would criminalize most abortions, if a Supreme Court ruling would give the green light. That is not in the cards, so why spend legislative time on non-starter bills?

There are lots of champions of the unborn in the Legislature, but few who are willing to stand up to protect newborns. Most Idahoans would face severe criminal penalties for starving their children or depriving them of life-saving medical care, but not faith healers. A legal exemption lets them deprive their kids of food and medical care without consequence. The Legislature won’t even consider repealing the faith-healing exemption.

The hot button bills include two targeting the transgender population. House Bill 509 would prohibit transgender people from changing the gender designation on their birth certificate. It defies a legally sound federal court order. The Attorney General’s office estimates it will likely cost over a million dollars to unsuccessfully defend in court if it is enacted into law. It has passed the House.

The House has also approved House Bill 500, which would prohibit transgender males from participating in female sports, even though the problem has not arisen in Idaho. The AG’s office indicates it would be found unconstitutional in federal court proceedings. The State would likely be on the hook for another million dollars in attorney fees.

The transgender bills highlight another issue. Although both bills would likely cost the State around a million dollars in attorney fees to defend, there is no mention of that in the fiscal note for either bill. Legislators don’t have to break a sweat in estimating the financial cost of their bills. Yet, Senate Bill 1350 would require those proposing initiatives to make a tedious financial impact statement. Seems to be a double standard.

Yes, the hot button season is upon us, but adjournment and relief are in the forecast by April.

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