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Posts published in March 2021

Eating your own

rainey

Why are Republicans so Hellbent on creating hurdles to voting, taking away constitutional powers of their own Republican governors, relying on ALEC or some other “conservative” front to create master copies of legislation attacking this-that-and-the-other because some corporations or a billionaire-or-two wants it that way?

Voting hurdles? Right now, there are more than 460 bills sitting in state legislatures that would limit voting. 460! Close polling places. Eliminating mail-in balloting. Phony requirements for voter identification that some Americans don’t have. Requiring speaking English to register.

Voting hurdles!

We’ve now got a nasty bill in Arizona’s legislature, thanks to Republicans. It would allow those ladies and gentlemen - who are heavily in the majority - to overturn election results if they don’t like the outcome. Really! And to let them elect members of Congress rather than continuing to let us plebeians do the work. In 12 other states, too!

Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Idaho legislatures trying to strip gubernatorial powers, even from Republican governors! In some cases, the constitutions of the state enumerate the governor’s powers and duties. How much will it cost taxpayers to mount a certain-to-lose court defense?

Speaking of which, there’s even a bill floating around the chambers in Idaho to limit or erode certain responsibilities of Attorney General Wasden. Wasden has often - make that very often - advised legislators against taking some political action. At the bottom of that, I think, is that Wasden has been right so many times and legislators have been wrong. And, when you’re wrong at something, legislatively speaking, the taxpayer foots an often six-figure legal bill from private attorneys.

Congress, too, is often guilty of legislative over-reach. Making new laws to limit some function of states is always good for a (losing) court challenge. Or, being a plaintiff in some court challenge that, win-lose-or-draw, winds up with six-figure legal bills - or more - because of some questionable action.

These Republican challenges to other co-equal branches of government started several years ago. Especially in some states - like Idaho - that have long been in GOP hands. The late Idaho Governor Bob Smylie told me once “It’s good to change governing parties once in awhile - open the doors - let in some fresh air - clean out the closets.”

I’ve never forgotten that nearly 60-year-old piece of wisdom. Still true today. You have to look no further than the White House to see how true.

Speaking of GOP negativeness, why can’t some Congressional Republicans get it through their heads that Trump lost? Rep. Steve Scalise, number two on the House minority side, was being interviewed in one of those Sunday morning gabfests last week. Asked flat out if Biden won, he just couldn’t bring himself to say so. Or that Trump lost.

We’ve got a guy here in Arizona who’s had several House terms. Paul Gosar. Republican. He’s so off-the-rails his family’s buying advertising trying to get him recalled. Yep, kinfolk. He’s also being investigated by the FBI and others for his involvement in the attack on Congress.

Starting around the first of the year, about the time those idiots broke into the U.S. Capitol, I semi-consciously started looking for some signs of decency, truthfulness, positive thought and even a small bit of cooperation from Republicans at home and away. Damned tough to find any.

I don’t mean this as any sort of attack. It’s just the evidence - legislative and congressional - the evidence isn’t there to cite helpfulness on the part of elected Republican folk running a number of states and Congress.

In Florida, where the governor is a “Trumper,” his legislature wants to trim his sails, so to speak. While, there he’s out there, trying to throw roadblocks to citizen rights to vote. Closing more polling places - limiting mail-in voting by requiring voters have to ask for ballots each year. Things like that. Doesn’t matter. GOP Florida legislators are chewing his coattails.

President Biden campaigned on a platform of “bringing us together.” Making peace among warring political parties. Putting some Republicans in his largely Democrat cabinet. Being “President for everybody.” And, he seems to be working at doing just that.

But, with less than eight-weeks in office, Republicans aren’t buying it. Even before all his cabinet appointments have confirmation hearings, while he’s faced with our terrible pandemic, trying to undo what’s needed undoing, restoring relationships with other world governments - even before all that, he’s fighting Republican headwinds.

In what may be his largest effort to “make peace” with the GOP, Biden has put “all-hands-on-deck” to help Texas get out of the mess Republicans - and only Republicans - got themselves into. Only one question asked. “What do you need and where do you need it?” Not one whimper that the current Texas GOP administration wants to secede from the Union or that it screwed up by not doing the proper regulatory work on its infrastructure. Just, “We’re here to help.”

Republican legislatures attacking Republican governors, Republican governors threatening the constitutional rights of citizens, GOP members of Congress still not willing to call Joe Biden the duly-elected President. What the Hell’s going on?

Voters have got to get better informed. They’ve got to get to know the real makeup of candidates doing the “courting.” Those not registered must do so. And, when the day rolls around to put that ballot in the box, they’ve GOT to turnout.

And, remember - not a single Democrat in Congress that think the Presidential election was rigged. Not one!
 

Obey it or amend it

jones

One of us served the State of Idaho for 12 years as Secretary of State, after serving as Chief Deputy of that office for 27 years. That service included supervision of all elections, including people-power measures--initiatives, referendums and constitutional amendments. The other served 8 years as Attorney General and 12 years as a Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court. We have both had ample opportunity to study the formation and operation of our government.

Article I of the Idaho Constitution flatly states that “all political power is inherent in the people” and the people have the “right to alter, reform or abolish” the government “whenever they may deem it necessary.” Article II of the Constitution divides the power given to the government by the people into “three distinct departments, the legislative, executive and judicial” and warns that none “of these departments shall exercise any powers properly belonging to either of the others.” Governmental powers were divided among the three departments to prevent the unlawful accumulation of the peoples’ power by one department to the detriment of the other two.

During the current legislative session, we have been witnessing an unprecedented disregard of Article II by the Idaho Legislature. It has been bent on usurping powers conveyed by the people to the executive department, particularly the Governor and Attorney General. The Legislature is even trying to snatch back from the people one of the most important checks on power the people reserved for themselves in the Constitution--the right to make their own legislation and to overturn unwanted legislative acts, like the Luna Laws.

In Article IV of their Constitution, the people vested “the supreme executive power of the state” in the Governor. Despite that, the Legislature has proposed any number of schemes this year that infringe on the Governor’s constitutional authority, primarily with respect to management of the pandemic. For example, the Attorney General has noted that House Bill 135 transgresses the Legislature’s power to limit the Governor’s response to an emergency situation. Senate Bill 1136 has similar problems.

The Attorney General’s constitutional authority to act as the State’s chief legal officer is under attack in several legislative measures, apparently because legislators would prefer to be told what they want to hear, rather than what the law requires.

The most blatant subversion of the Constitution comes in the form of Senate Bill 1110, which would make it nigh unto impossible for the people to exercise their sacred power to put an initiative or referendum up for election. The very first section of Article III of our Constitution, which deals with legislative power, emphatically declares that the people reserve their right to “initiate any desired legislation.” The onerous signature requirements of Senate Bill 1110 are designed to kill the initiative and referendum.

If the Legislature is unhappy with the Idaho Constitution and wishes to take unto itself powers vested in the Governor, Attorney General and the people themselves, there is a lawful way to do it. Rather than trying to subvert the Constitution, legislators could put these questions before the people by proposing constitutional amendments. Let the people vote on these critical constitutional issues--should the Legislature have the power to micromanage a disaster or emergency; should the Legislature have the say in handling the State’s legal business; do the people want to forfeit their initiative/referendum powers?

If legislators want to accumulate power, they must do it through legal means. If they decline to follow the rule of law, that third department of government, the judiciary, may have to be asked to step forward in support of the Idaho Constitution.

Jim Jones served as Idaho Attorney General from 1983 to 1991 and as Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court from 2005 to 2017. Ben Ysursa served as Idaho Secretary of State from 2003 to 2015. He previously served as Chief Deputy in the office from 1976 to 2003. Both are members of the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution.
 

Killing the Powerball

hartgen

Ever bought a Powerball Lottery ticket in the hopes of winning a huge jackpot? An Idaho resident from Star won $200 million some years ago, and just last week a Nevada man won $50,000. (Times News, 3/13). He drives to Twin from Ely every two weeks to shop in the Magic Valley and play in Idaho’s Powerball. Neither Nevada nor Utah has a Powerball game, so he comes here.

No more. This past week, a small group of Idaho legislators – just 10 House members, two-thirds of the State Affairs Committee – voted to scrap the popular Powerball draw, which generates about $14 million specifically for Idaho public schools. Poof! Gone!

No more lines of cars up from Utah to Southeast Idaho towns as the pot grows week by week. Gone too are the surges of traffic at virtually every convenience store in the state.

We don’t play the lottery much, but when we do, it’s with the fervent if distant hope of a huge winning payout. Admit it, so do you. Indeed, says Lottery director Jeff Anderson, an estimated one half of Idaho adults play at least occasionally. That’s a lot of people. The revenue to Idaho from Powerball totals almost $30 million annually, of which about half goes directly to Idaho public schools. It’s been that way for three decades. Now, gone!

So why would a handful of Idaho legislators suddenly deep-six a money-making and popular enterprise? Mostly, it appears, out of fear. Ever alert to internationalist “threats,” the nay-sayers were led by arch-rightist Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, who questioned whether opening the game to Australia and Great Britain would lead the way to support of other country’s gun restrictions.

Canadian residents can play now and they’ve got stricter gun laws that the United States, so it’s hard to see how Idaho’s sovereignty would be impacted by adding these two other countries to the pool of potential players.

No matter, don’t let facts get in the way of a decision. Despite Anderson’s explanations, the rout was on. In the end, 10 committee members voted to kill Powerball in the state. Two Republicans, James Holtzclaw and Rod Furniss, and two Democrats, John Gannon and Chris Mathias, voted to keep Powerball in Idaho, but it wasn’t enough.

The lopsided vote reflects the effects of group-think and ideological conformance now being practiced in the Idaho House by narrow special interests with their own agendas. Out-of-state money and “dark funds” poured into selected legislative contests, for some candidates and against others who are dubbed “Rinos” by the ideological extremists.

Some members are pushing back at this group-think agenda control. In a recent newsletter, Rep. Scott Syme wrote “I have said this before and will say it again.  I don’t vote based on a score or a grade.  No lobbyist owns me, especially the Libertarian lobbyist that scores bills.  I am a Conservative Republican not a Libertarian.  From the Libertarian Platform, Libertarians believe my rights are more important than yours, “all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and are not forced to sacrifice their values for the benefit of others.”  Abortion they are pro-choice: “we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.”  Sex trafficking; “The Libertarian Party supports the decriminalization of prostitution.”  These statements are not Republican values and that is why I don’t value their scoring.  I vote based on what is good for Idaho and what I believe the majority of my constituents want.”

So are long-time lobbyists, who decry the turn to ideology over practical solutions to real problems. “Meanwhile in Idaho,” writes Wyatt Prescott of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, “we see certain elected officials flaunting guns and Bibles to make a political point. Perplexed as I have been over this, a friend of mine summed it up in a way that I believe all of you would appreciate, “A real cowboy does not need to wear his spurs into a bar.” He cites a “loud libertarian faction” who “paints good conservatives into a corner, where if they do not agree with every aspect of the ideology, then of course, words offend you.” (Idaho Grain, w/2020)

There’s a long list of bills this session in which ultra-right legislators bunched up herd-like around an ideological perspective, and a few “must pass” budget bills were in the mix despite their lopsided approval by the Joint Appropriations & Finance Committee. In effect, this small group is acting like spoiled, intolerant teenagers, protesting for its own sake with little or no respect for the common good. The vote on the Powerball lottery was just the latest example.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at Stephen_Hartgen@hotmail.com

photo/Tony Webster
 

The statue

meador

This is the second in a four-part series on racism in the U.S.

I was doing a crossword puzzle the other day, a pastime I’ve enjoyed since I was a teenager. I am accustomed to seeing filler clues, those very common sequences of letters occurring in many crosswords that fill the squares between the difficult sequences. But the other day, one innocuous and very common filler made me think. The clue read: “Gen. Robt. _ ___.” The answer was four letters and I knew right away the solution was “ELEE” or more accurately “E. Lee” as in Gen. Robert E. Lee.

As a part of our nation’s Civil War, Gen. Robert E. Lee holds a prominent place in history books, military lore, even crossword puzzles. He also has dozens of public statues and memorials honoring him. The problem with that last bit is straightforward: those who fought for a faction whose overarching issue was one of the all-time great human evils do not get honored with handsome public commemorations.

Or bluntly, losers who fought for evil don’t get statues.

I avoid evoking the Nazis in comparison to anything because such comparisons are usually enormously lopsided and totally inappropriate. But in this situation, I believe a careful comparison can be both appropriate and accurate. One group of people violently subjugated another, the first absolutely certain of its superiority and moral right to dominate. The second group was deemed sub-human, codified and quantified into law by governments. Americans legally bought and sold human beings for forced labor.

The thought of this moral poverty is intellectually repulsive and physically sickening to me. And those who literally fought with violence to preserve this evil deserve no public honor — their good deeds are erased by the wickedness they sought to perpetuate.

With the Allied victory in Europe, nearly every symbol of the vile Third Reich was eradicated. Indeed, even displaying a swastika became (and remains) illegal.

But today, our Gen. Robert E. Lee holds the reputation of a Southern gentleman, a man graced with intelligence and humor, someone you’d want to have to Sunday dinner. By many accounts, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was also a good man, apolitical, a man of character. But both Lee and Rommel consciously and voluntarily fought for empires founded on the commission of unspeakable malevolence — other than a tomb-like limestone block in his hometown, Heidenheim, and a simple natural stone marking the spot on which he committed suicide in Herrlingen, you will not find monuments to Rommel in Germany.* The reason should be obvious. Why, then, is the South littered with glorious memorials honoring Lee?

To those fond of the oft-repeated refrain “but it’s part of our history,” I reply you’re right but no other free western society honors the promulgators of evil with monuments and noble statues. If you still have doubts, they should be cleared up when you consider how many Confederate memorials were erected as contemptuous rejoinders to Black people during the Jim Crow era. Don’t fret, Lee will remain a part of our history whether or not we have statues peppering the public squares of the southern states.

A friend pointed out to me that Robert E. Lee agonized over the impending split of the country and only after great inner turmoil decided to fight for the South, declining President Abraham Lincoln’s offer of command. I appreciate the legitimate complexity this lends to the man. But in the end, he made the wrong choice — and he alone sacrificed his honor for that decision. While scholars still argue over the root causes of the Civil War, one area of general agreement is that the awful question of slavery was the single-most important issue dividing the nation.

Around 1,700 public nods to the Confederacy currently exist, nearly all located in Southern states. Over 700 are statues or monuments. As a result of the racial unrest of the last few years, around 100 of them have been removed. I believe many, many more must come down — they never should have been raised in the first place. Most can find homes in private gardens or museums where they can be viewed in context and require no public support. A few can probably be allowed to remain as long as they are contextualized to tell the entire story, not just one falsely-romanticized side.

If you’re one of those people who feel you have a vested interest in keeping these relics to one of the worst collective acts Americans ever committed, consider that many of your fellow Americans are morally repulsed by what they represent. Further, many Americans with brown skin consider these hateful monuments a direct affront to their ancestors, people who often died at the hand of the evil the monuments celebrate.

I held out hope that the one good thing to come out of the prolonged violence in Portland would be a meaningful, ongoing dialogue aimed at bringing healing between the races. But we seem to have stalled again. As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this month and focus on Black history next month, please do more than cursory actions like watching a couple of television shows on the civil rights movement or vacantly telling your friends you’re color-blind. We’ve never completed the reckoning that should’ve taken place after slaves were freed or, failing that, after the civil rights movement. In a significant way, our spiritual growth as a nation is stunted by our failure to examine our own prejudices with humility and honesty.

Please don’t get me wrong — I am not making a sweeping condemnation of white people or disrespecting this great country. But in all our nationalist enthusiasm over two hundred years, I believe we sometimes forget we must own several national shames — arguably, the worst of these was slavery. In the big scheme of things, removal of some one-sided statues is a very small price to pay to begin desperately needed racial healing.

*In addition to the two simple stone monuments noted above, seven small context-specific memorials noting the life of Erwin Rommel do exist in Germany. Most are small and discreet, essentially footnotes. You’ll find no glorious statues of honor. Recent public discourse in Germany has included discussion of removal of the few notations that do exist.
 

Rock on the ‘no’ button

johnson

The easiest vote to cast in politics is a NO vote. It absolves responsibility. If something later goes wrong, and in politics things often go a little bit wrong, the no voter is off the hook, and can fall back on the oldest line in politics: “I told you so.”

Voting no often means a politician doesn’t even need to explain the rationale for the negative. The political focus is typically on those who want to make something happen, who are willing to take a stand in favor of something.

“If a legislator votes ‘yes,’ he or she is responsible for the entire bill and all the consequences of the legislation, good or bad, intended or unintended,” long-time congressional watcher Stuart Rothenberg wrote recently.

Every congressional Republican justified a no vote on the recent COVID and economic recovery legislation on the grounds that it was too big, too much of a driver of deficit spending or not targeted enough. That’s a convenient if disingenuous argument, as Rothenberg noted because “even the GOP — once, but no longer, the party of fiscal responsibility — didn’t much care about the deficit and the debt when President Donald Trump and his merry little band of tax-cutting ideologues cut taxes during a period of solid economic growth — almost always a bad idea. You won’t hear Republicans accepting some of the blame for the deficit and debt.”

And besides who remembers a no vote? That’s why voting no is almost always the easiest thing to do.

Senate Republicans have perfected the no vote strategy, particularly with regard to President Joe Biden’s Cabinet appointees. Voting no on a Treasury secretary or the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, even when the nominees are demonstrably capable, not only serves to register disapproval of the new president, but it’s safe. Voting no appeals to the most rabid, partisans in the party. Some Senate Republicans – Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz come to mind – have voted against virtually every Biden nominee. These guys want to be president someday – fearless prediction, they won’t be – so they are performing the ritual of negativity as political necessity.

Idaho’s Jim Risch, a practiced no voter, has supported a few Biden nominees, but opposed more, nine as of this writing. Risch is the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee but he voted against the confirmation of Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Risch is a top Republican on the Intelligence Committee but was one of ten votes against the confirmation of Avril Haines, the first woman to ever hold the position as director of National Intelligence.

“She is a really smart person, a person with serious horsepower and a nice person,” said Carol Rollie Flynn, a three-decade CIA veteran, said of Haines. “I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of drama out of her. Just a serious professional.” A Risch spokesman said he was thumbs down on Haines because he wasn’t confident she wouldn’t politicize intelligence. Risch, it should be noted, had no problem with the appointment of former Republican congressman John Ratcliffe, arguably the most partisan person to head the intelligence community in the history of the intelligence community. Risch better hope Blinken and Haines aren’t as vindictive as he is.

Idaho’s Mike Crapo has supported a few more Biden appointees, and unlike Risch he supported Janet Yellen’s confirmation as Treasury secretary. Yellen is the first woman in that job and was the first women Federal Reserve Board chair, the job she previously held. Both Idaho senators opposed Yellen for that position, so Risch obviously doesn’t like her. Yet I find no record of any public statement justifying Risch’s opposition to the eminently qualified, PhD economist who continues to receive bipartisan praise for her work during the 2008 financial crisis.

Crapo and Risch opposed Judge Merrick Garland to be attorney general. Garland is the guy who was denied consideration as a Supreme Court nominee in 2016 despite his exemplary record as a federal judge and as the prosecutor who handled the investigation into the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Neither senator offered a comment on why Garland isn’t suitable to run the justice department, but both supported the guys the previous administration put in place, even when the former president demanded blind partisan loyalty from each of his attorneys general.

Risch and Crapo both voted no on nominees to be secretaries of the Interior and Housing and Urban Development and head of the Small Business Administration. It’s probably just a coincidence that all three are women of color who are broadly seen as historic pathbreakers, but also demonstrably qualified. No explanation from the senators.

Notably, both senators supported former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, Biden’s pick to head the Department of Energy (DOE). Granholm is arguably among the most partisan of Biden’s picks – she’s been a TV talking head often critical of GOP positions – and some Republicans criticized her support for abandoning the Keystone XL pipeline. She would have been a natural to oppose, but perhaps this was a rare case of political pragmatism by the Idahoans. After all, they need a working relationship with the secretary who oversees the Idaho National Laboratory, the huge DOE complex in eastern Idaho that requires pledges of unquestioned political fealty from the state’s Republicans. Maybe all politics is local after all.

An old rule once held that barring some ethical lapse or scandal a president – any president – was entitled to pick the people for his administration. Biden will almost certainly end up getting all but one of his top people confirmed, creating the most diverse cabinet in history. The one nominee that withdrew did so because some senators found her past Twitter feed too mean. Irony had a good run.

Cornell law professor Josh Chafetz notes that the median margin of confirmation for the 18 Cabinet level appointees considered so far is 64 votes. So, Chafetz says there hasn’t been wholesale party line voting against Biden nominees who he notes are broadly liked, as well as competent. Still, Crapo and Risch have been among the most consistent Republican senators in opposing Biden’s picks – women, men, African American, Native American, Hispanic – and they offer almost no explanation as to why.

Like most everything they do in the Senate, the Idaho duo nearly always takes the predictable and most partisan path. At some point voting no when a Democrat is in the White House is just an act of reflective partisan performance. Maybe putting a rock on the no button just feels good even if you can’t be bothered to explain the reasoning.
 

Evidence the pandemic isn’t over

stapiluslogo1

We’re all looking ahead eagerly to pocketing those masks and getting back to social lives and places, and we ought to be able to do most of that as we get toward mid-year.

In the “ought to” lies a catch, which is this: We need to put in the effort to get it done.

It isn’t done yet. In Idaho, as this is written, of the 176,802 Covid-19 cases reported so far, most happened last year - but 14,120 of those have been reported just since January, a rate not far short of the virus explosion last spring, with significant recent spread around Idaho Falls and Boise.

The arrival and use of vaccines and effective tactics like masking give us the opportunity to arrest that growth in the season ahead.

But it’s just an opportunity. We can blow it. Even now, we can see new superspreader events spreading cases once again.

Just look at the Idaho Legislature, which seems more interested in stopping anything that might end the pandemic than it does in, well, ending it.

Last week as I tended to tasks around central Boise, I remarked to a few people that I would be avoiding virus hot spot locations like the Statehouse. It was only a half-joke then. It’s not a joke at all now.

The Idaho Statehouse really is high-risk: Seriously, you shouldn’t go there if you don’t have to.

The last week saw a string of Idaho House members catching the bug (the Senate has not been immune in recent months either). As this is written, four House members are staying away from the Statehouse (as they should) because of positive Covid-19 tests.

The Associated Press reported, “All four lawmakers out with the illness are Republicans who rarely or never wear masks.” To judge from streaming video, that assessment could apply to most Idaho legislators, who gather and talk in close quarters with many people, inside and outside the Statehouse, and then travel to and from their districts across the state on, frequently, a weekly basis.

That quote came before the report on Thursday about two more House members testing positive. One of them, the usually-masked James Ruchti, remarked, "It feels like it's getting out of control here. Which I guess is the definition of a pandemic, huh?"

This is a legislature where, as the AP also notes, “A major goal of GOP lawmakers in the Legislature this session has been curbing the emergency powers of the Republican governor to respond to things like pandemics.”

This is not how you get a pandemic under control; in fact, a better superspreader could hardly be devised. Legislative leaders would be wise to insist on Covid-19 testing of all members on a regular basis; while four House members are reported as ill, many more could be asymptomatic carriers. At least one of those four House members almost didn’t take a test, after a physician initially had diagnosed her coughing as resulting from seasonal allergies.

House leaders appear to have opened the possibility of calling a pause in the session; probably they’re hoping the session will end on its regular schedule without having to do that. It’s a high-stakes gamble.

Another question that ought to be put to Idaho’s legislators - all of them - is: Have you taken or scheduled your vaccination yet? They all should do so, immediately, because the risk to themselves and to others is significant, and they should be encouraging, in strong terms, their constituents to do the same thing. (Disclosure: I’ve taken my first shot and my second is scheduled.)

The sooner we do what we must get the pandemic past us, the sooner it in fact will be past us. The people most eager to pretend we don’t need to do that, are the people who will slow us down.

Remember that the next time you see your friendly local legislator, and be sure to ask whether they personally are part of the solution or part of the problem.
 

Veto power

schmidt

As the Idaho legislature plods through the ides of March, Governor Little should not be afraid they will stick around to override his veto. They will. They are in no hurry to leave. So, Brad, go ahead and veto the Initiative Killer Bill. It looks like they have the votes to override it. Then it will all be on them.

I understand the legislature’s twist about initiatives. It seems a lot of this session has been about their umbrage. After all, we elect them to make the laws, don’t we? And elect them, we do.

But there is this little thing called the Idaho Constitution. Article 3, Section 1 says:

The people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws, and enact the same at the polls independent of the legislature. This power is known as the initiative, and legal voters may, under such conditions and in such manner as may be provided by acts of the legislature, initiate any desired legislation and cause the same to be submitted to the vote of the people at a general election for their approval or rejection.

So, this proposed law (SB 1110) is well within the power of the legislature. But the details of the law will make the initiative process impossible, which is probably the legislature’s goal.

Twice in the last decade the people of Idaho have either over-rode the legislature (repeal of the Luna Laws) or taken up what the legislature refused (Medicaid Expansion). But then the voters returned the very same legislators they were disagreeing with to their places in the statehouse.

So, I can see why these elected folks feel pretty safe. Safe is not what our representatives should feel.

I’ll bet Governor Little doesn’t feel too safe. I hope that doesn’t keep him from doing the right thing.

Past judicial rulings (2001) have held that the county-based requirements for initiative passage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution (14th Amendment). But the legislature has fixed that by moving to legislative district requirements. Under current law in Idaho, to qualify an initiative for the ballot, signatures from 6% of the voters in 18 of the 35 legislative districts need to be submitted. If SB 1110 passes this week (and it will), this requirement jumps to 35/35 districts.

This will make an initiative or referendum impossible for the citizens of Idaho, despite what the Idaho Constitution guarantees.

Why doesn’t our legislature just propose changing the Idaho Constitution, getting rid of the process altogether? It would be harder, requiring 2/3rds vote in both bodies. It sure looks like they will have that margin. But then we’d have to vote on it, the people. A majority of us would have to say, at the next general election, sure, forget it, we don’t need no stinking initiatives. Given our tendency to elect these folks, we just might go along with them.

But then, twice in the last ten years we haven’t.

Two years ago, Governor Little vetoed a similar bill that had the purpose of making initiatives impossible. That time the legislature had adjourned, and it didn’t really look like they had the votes to override.

This time will be different. If Little vetoes, they’ll still be in town. And they probably will have 2/3rds in both bodies. I hope an override doesn’t deter him.

The Governor said in 2019 with his veto, he feared a Federal Judge would throw out the law. That argument has never stopped the legislature from their proposals.

I sure like having the power of the people proposing or rejecting laws here in Idaho. Believe me, it’s not easy now, and it shouldn’t be. Legislators point to the California or Washington State initiative boogey man. That’s not Idaho. And Brad knows it.
 

Breaching

malloy

Congressman Mike Simpson has a generous amount of support for his idea to breach the the four Lower Snake River dams in the quest to save salmon, but not from Idaho Republicans – the crowd that he is trying to convince.

Simpson’s fan club on the issue includes Democrats, environmental coalitions, several editorial writers and Rocky Barker – a longtime environmental writer who I think of as the “godfather” of dam breaching. During his time with the Idaho Statesman in the 1990s, Rocky led the way for the newspaper’s nationally acclaimed special section on dam breaching that practically served as a bible for the salmon advocates.

The special section had all the bases covered, from the science behind dam breaching to the economic benefits of salmon recovery – the same principles that are behind Simpson’s idea. Despite those laudable efforts by Barker and the Statesman’s staff, Republicans in power remain opposed to breaching.

That is, with the exception of Simpson, who is trying to end the salmon wars and litigation that have had a stranglehold on the Northwest economy for almost 30 years. He’s asking stakeholders “what if” the dams were removed and how they could be kept whole. He’s also discussing concepts that would pay for replacement power and other economic projects. Even with all that, Simpson says he can’t guarantee that breaching is the magic answer for saving the fish – he’s certain that salmon eventually would become extinct without breaching.

As Rocky would tell me, the science backs Simpson. Yet, leading Republicans are rejecting Simpson’s ideas, looking elsewhere for a silver bullet – something that has not surfaced in at least three decades of debate.

“Breaching the dams would have devastating impacts on Idahoans and vital segments of Idaho’s economy,” said Gov. Brad Little. “We must continue to find creative consensus-based solutions that help salmon thrive and foster a strong Idaho’s economy.”

Little has a salmon working group in place that is searching for pragmatic solutions to the salmon issue. He also signed an agreement with governors of neighboring states to advance the shared goal of salmon recovery.

Something might come from those efforts, but so far it has been crickets.
The governor isn’t the only one weighing in on Simpson’s idea. House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley and Sen. Carl Crabtree of Grangeville are among those who have written opinion pieces opposing breaching and the Idaho Legislature passed a memorial expressing opposition to breaching.

Congressman Russ Fulcher also opposes Simpson’s plan, which is understandable considering that the Port of Lewiston is part of Fulcher’s First District. To a lot of folks in that region, “breaching” is a four-letter word.

“Those dams were put in place decades ago, at a high expense, for a reason. It’s for power generation for the northwest, transportations for the ports. It’s for irrigation that our agriculture community depends on,” Fulcher said. “Here’s the kicker. Even Mike will say we don’t know for sure if we take them out that salmon will be saved.”

In general, Fulcher says, it’s a gamble that is not worth taking.

But as Fulcher explains, the disagreement over breaching does not signal a rift with Idaho’s two representatives. Simpson understands Fulcher’s position and who he represents. The Port of Lewiston is as sacred to Fulcher as the Idaho National Laboratory is to Simpson.

“When I talk with people about this, I tell them they should talk with Mike because he has a thoughtful and legitimate position on the issue. And he has legitimate counters to all the arguments on the other side. We just happen to disagree,” Fulcher said.

“I never will say anything disparaging about him, or his plan. I just try to make the case of why I disagree with it … and that’s the way it ought to be.”

It’s nice to know that civility exists within our congressional delegation. But for the Idaho Republicans who are opposed to breaching, they can always look on the bright side.

At least Simpson didn’t vote to impeach Donald Trump.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Another side

rainey

I’m about “up to here” with Meghan and Harry. And I haven’t written a word on the subject!

While Oprah Winfrey can be given “five stars” for getting the interview, preparing for it, doing it and superbly marketing the whole “show,” the subsequent fallout has steadily inundated us 10 days. ENOUGH ALREADY!

But......

Having sat quietly through the whole two hours, then “breathlessly” reading much of the “damage” caused by the same, I’ve got some thoughts on the matter.

First, are the statements made credible statements? Remember, you were watching a former TV actress and a well-schooled Royal trained in how to speak, when, to whom and what to say - or not say. I’m not trying to throw rocks here. Those are just facts. Both have been taught to assume different “characters” in public. Meghan even talked of her personal life and the “public life” she had to live. Very different “acting” assignments. I’m just sayin’.

If all said was factual, and given Oprah’s production team didn’t do some skillful editing, I’d give both subjects the benefit of the doubt. But, there were some glaring moments when my logic had to be suspended.

Case in point. Both talked of the loss of security at the hands of Palace authorities. If that was such an important consideration - and it must have been given how much of the dialogue was dedicated to the subject - why, then, did the two of ‘em go on worldwide television? We now know they own a home in the Santa Barbara foothills near Oprah’s place, with a chicken coop in the backyard. Someone out to do them harm has had the search for their home pretty-well narrowed down and some time spent flying a drone over backyards there should soon pinpoint the target(s). Few Santa Barbara denizens keep chickens.

Duh?

Another point. Meghan talked of occasionally having lunch with her friends then, later said, she wasn’t allowed to go out, that she had to surrender her car keys and other personal affects to Palace bosses.

Listening to her at length, it appears there was a time - a certain day - when Meghan’s more leisurely lifestyle didn’t fit what “The Firm” expected of a princess and a decision was made to cut her off from her world and begin training in the ways of royalty the way “The Firm” wanted her to be. Like Eliza Doolittle - to properly function at the top of British society - the very top of British royalty.

I couldn’t help but think of what Harry’s mother - who’d been raised around royalty - went through as “The Firm’s” heavy hand was depicted on Diana in “The Crown.” Now, I know “The Crown” is a jumble of facts and fiction. More of the latter. But, the business of retraining, of becoming a real princess, comparing Meghan’s words and the depiction of Diana going through the same self-limiting experience was certainly there in Meghan’s description. Just too close to miss.

Again, if true, I was struck by the fact that neither Meghan nor Harry knew what their marriage of different worlds was about. Both said so. Neither seemed to know of the problems they’d face as they walked away from the altar. Certainly Harry must have had some idea of what lay ahead given he was closely involved in Diana’s tumultuous life. He must have! But, that’s not what he said.

Something that must have deeply affected Harry’s life was not depicted in the interview. And that was his two tours in Afghanistan. He was on the front lines. Carried his own assault rifle. Dug his own fox hole. That had to have given him a different outlook on life. Something not part of his Royal upbringing. It had to change him. That experience, too, could have added to their problems.

Meghan’s disclosure of her suicidal thoughts seemed true. Sinking deep enough into your own terrifying, lonely existence to consciously consider “ending it all” is a dangerous way to live. Been there. Done that. But, not much was said about what happened after she confessed her innermost thoughts to Harry. He said he wanted to “be there” for her and “support” her. There just seemed to be a large gap between the horrors and the Meghan you saw in the interview. What happened? Did she get all the help she needed? Was she still recovering in the interview?

It’s to be hoped mental health professionals will use her words to help someone else. Many someone else’s. Even using recordings of the interview. I doubt we will soon banish the “stigma” that goes with mental health in today’s society. I hope Meghan will use her notoriety, and the enormous popularity she currently has, to be an active participant in mental health programs and advocacy.

It was interesting to note “The Firm” stopped Harry’s income and, had it not been for the inheritance from his mother’s estate, they had no finances. Given Meghan’s work in a multi-year TV series and Harry’s seeming lack of other income, finances should have been thought out. I would expect two people planning a “getaway” from “The Firm,” to plan for future income needs.

I don’t mean to detract, in any way, from the interview. Both seemed sincere. Each came across as someone you’d like to know better. I wish them well in their new endeavors with Netflix and other financial sources. Lord knows they’ve had the best exposure possible to the business world and they’ll likely be able to profit from new contacts.

Still, I’m left with lingering thoughts. If seeking security was especially important, why put yourself on television and talk about where your home is? As you seek a joint desire for privacy, why be so public? Worldwide. I can’t figure out, aside from searching for future income, why you’d put yourself on such prominent display. If you harbored any thought of future family reconciliation, why go public with talk of racism and abuse within “The Firm?” Look what’s happened in the aftermath

Or, was target-bombing “The Firm” the whole idea? Was “getting back” at the people you blame for much of your troubles by publically embarrassing them your thought? Did you consider the extremely serious damage you’d inflict on a centuries-old dynasty and the ruling class of an entire nation? Was this all about “getting even?”

I certainly hope not! Because, if any of that played into the couple’s “outing” of British palace problems, everyone involved will lose. Even the queen, beloved by hundreds of millions around the world, will suffer damage. At 94-years-of-age, this will cause unbelievable pain. If it already hasn’t.

“Happily ever after?” I doubt it.