The Idaho legislature is back at work, so we ought to be paying attention to where our leaders want to take us.
The first thing to note, is they, the House and the Senate both seem to be mad at the Governor. We are early in the session, so maybe they will make up, but so far there have been more bills, resolutions, constitutional amendments proposed about the Governor than any other topic. Mainly, they want to limit his power to make them wear masks, stay at home. It seems they aren’t right sure about how to do this.
To quote Speaker Scott Bedke: “We’re telling the governor we’re going to keep flipping switches until we get this right.” Boy, that gives me confidence.
And this from the House leader who supports a proposed Constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to call itself into session whenever they choose.
The Governor shot back, that the legislature is “playing politics”. It turns out that a couple of the bills proposed (switches threatened to be flipped) would indeed end the emergency declaration, but would have no effect on stay at home orders or mask mandates. It would just send away tens of millions in Federal aid the Governor has been happily spending.
Playing politics, Brad? C’mon, they are politicians after all.
But honestly, given the Idaho legislature’s history with getting its way with the Idaho Constitution, this idea of calling themselves into session whenever they choose might make some sense. Let’s examine their track record.
You all might not remember, but the legislature recently got its shorts in a twist about reviewing administrative rules. As a reminder, the legislature passes laws like, “No bad dogs”. Then the administration has to clearly define a bad dog so you and I and the enforcement folks would know one when we saw one. For years the Idaho legislature has spent the first month of dark and chilly January in Boise reviewing and approving these rules. Only a few of the thousands reviewed would get rejected. The rejected ones mainly had to do with what schools could teach and how. Remember, our legislators know what’s best for us.
Anyway, this rules review is tippy-toeing close to a Constitutional line. Separate but equal branches of government and all. The legislature writes the law, but then tells the Administrative branch how they should enforce the law.
So, the legislature, in its wisdom, thought if we get this authority in the Constitution, they’d be golden. Their first run failed. The second time they got money and support from the Freedom Foundation and the Farm Bureau, and we voters passed this arcane Constitutional Amendment.
Golden, right? What happened the two years after they got their clear authority? The Idaho legislature failed to approve any administrative rules. This was even after spending months in tedious meetings. So, we put this authority for them to review administrative rules in the Idaho Constitution, and then they don’t do it.
Governor Little declared victory and rewrote all the rules, making lemonade by winnowing out about a quarter of the thousands of pages. Brad can put a positive spin on most things. I’m surprised he’s mad about “playing politics”.
Back to the proposed Constitutional amendment for the legislature to call itself into session at their own choosing. If it’s anything like their rules amendment they got passed, we might all be in luck. Let’s say they get this proposed amendment through the House with 2/3rds, and the Senate with 2/3rds as required, it goes on the ballot and the majority of voters approve it. If the legislature stays true to form, soon as we give them what they want, they’ll stop doing it.
Imagine, an Idaho without 105 Representatives and Senators meeting in Boise 4 months each year. Just give them their request and they’ll go away. Could it be that simple?