Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Idaho column”

The power to propose laws

stapiluslogo1

Article III, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution says, “The people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws, and enact the same at the polls independent of the legislature.” This is called the initiative.

The constitution also says that initiatives can be made “under such conditions and in such manner” as the state legislature provides. That means the legislature sets the specific rules allowing the initiative process to work.

This is an important point to consider as the Idaho Legislature considers what to do about Senate Bill 1159, which would change requirements for voters to qualify a proposed initiative for the ballot. (As this is written, the bill is under consideration at the legislature.) The change would make qualification vastly more difficult than it is now, which already is … very difficult.

Let’s start from this: The rules of the game set up by the legislature should - given the policy set out by the constitution - assist the ability of the people to use the initiative process.

That can reasonably involve a process for screening initiative ideas, so that people will be voting on measures that have significant, as opposed to scarcely any, support. (If you allowed anything in, you could wind up with scores of garbage issues on the ballot.) The usual method is to require a bunch of people to call for ballot status by petition, to show the backing is significant. The Medicaid expansion ballot issue of last year, and - to pick out an older instance - the One Percent property tax initiative of four decades ago clearly did have significant and broad support, evident from broad and highly successful petition campaigns. And of initiatives that do make the ballot, a significant number do pass. (In the past three decades, five initiatives that reached the ballot passed, and eight have failed.)

The bar back in 1978 was high, but the bar in 2018 was far higher. The Medicaid expansion measure needed more than 56,000 qualified signatures - actually more than that, to guard against questionable signatures thrown out - and additionally, apportioned in the right way among more than half (18) of the state’s legislative districts. This requirement, enacted in 2013, was so rough it discouraged anyone from seriously pushing an initiative at all in 2014 or 2016.

When the backers did get the Medicaid expansion measure on the ballot, with little room to spare, what it showed was this: Support for the measure was high. Ultimately, more than 60 percent of the voters supported Proposition 2. You might point out that another initiative, Proposition 1 (related to horse racing) also made the ballot, and it failed. But it did receive 46.2 percent of the vote - a respectable show of support, certainly enough to declare significant (even if not enough) support among the public.

If a measure has to be so overwhelmingly popular that it must have landslide voter approval even before appearing on the ballot, then the constitutional intent that they be allowed to engage in lawmaking would clearly be undermined.

This new bill would require much higher signature requirements, in not just a majority but in nearly every legislative district in the state, and collected in only a third of the time which was available for the Medicaid expansion measure. If you can’t exactly say it would wipe out the voter initiative in Idaho, you’d have to say it comes very close - which is to say, that it aims to reverse what the constitution clearly says.

If this new bill does become law, don’t be surprised if the Idaho Supreme Court throws it out as a clear violation of the state constitution.

A correction on last week’s column: A quote in last week’s column (on the marriage age) was attributed to a local Democratic official named Chris Nash. It should be attributed to Colin Nash, who was substituting in the Legislature for Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise (District 16).
 

Ages of consent

stapiluslogo1

Here’s another stat of interest to anyone inquiring about the Gem State:

Idaho has the highest percentage in the nation of - wait for it - children (persons under the age of 18) who are married. More specifically, that’s “Number of children married as percent of average of 2000 and 2010 state population” based on an analysis of the last two U.S. Census numbers.

The raw number in the decade leading up to 2010 was 4,080; that’s children aged 13 (there were some at that age) to 17. The Idaho percentage was .29 percent, which is only half again as high as Wyoming and Utah but far higher than the reported numbers of other nearby states. (The full roster of numbers is available on the site unchainedatlast.org.) There’s no particular reason to think that the numbers have been falling in years since.

You could say the numbers are not enormous, but what we’re talking about here nonetheless is the lives of thousands of children and their ultimate freedom to shape lives for themselves. A Facebook comment from last week on this subject put it this way: “A child cannot consent. To have her parents do this for her is institutionalized statutory rape.”

Or try this, from Ada County Democrats Legislative Chair Chris Nash: “When it is legal for a 30-year-old to marry a 15-year-old that is not marriage because they are not equal partners. That is institutionalized child abuse. That is arranged rape.”

Does that sound hyperbolic? Let’s unpack the circumstances surrounding the law. The unchainedatlast.org site (which has well-worth-reading studies on this and related topics) noted that of the underaged marriages in the United States, “these were not ‘Romeo and Juliet’ situations. Some 77% of the children wed were minor girls married to adult men, often with significant age differences. Some children were wed at an age, or with a spousal age difference, that constitutes statutory rape under their state's laws.”

Be it noted that this specifically is what the Idaho House, in its 28-39 vote a week ago on House Bill 98, chose in effect to endorse.

The bill as written was actually just a gentle scaleback of existing law. It didn’t go so far as to restrict marriage to people age 18 and older - that being the age, remember, when people are first allowed legally to vote, consume tobacco, join the military or (with the exception of the marriage contract) sign a binding contract. Three years more than that are required before a person is considered mature enough, under Idaho law, to sip a beer.

Or maybe the decisions made by those 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 year olds simply aren’t relevant as far as the state of Idaho is concerned.

The bill, proposed by Boise Representative Melissa Wintrow, limited itself to putting a floor of 16 years of age on marriage, and tightening a little the marriage permissions needed for 16- and 17-year-olds. It was a change, but a gentle one. It might have been seen, in whatever quarters were concerned with defending this particular status quo, as a first step; and that may have been the case.

Wintrow’s comment on Facebook was that the bill “turned out to be too progressive for too many of my republican colleagues. Arguments against: parental rights and a disagreement with aligning marriage laws with the statutory rape laws. I’m at a loss …”

Or you might say, shocked - a shock to the conscience - but not surprised.
 

Saving daylight

stapiluslogo1

Count me among the sympathizers for doing away with the twice-a-year changes between daylight savings and standard time. It may not quite deserve the label “the modern world’s dumbest ritual,” which seems to have been circulating with greater frequency the last few years, but, well ...

As long as care is taken how you do eliminate the changing times.

Idaho returns to daylight savings time soon, on March 10, so the recent move in the Idaho Legislature to take the state off the daylight savings schedule had timeliness going for it. That measure, House Bill 85, was defeated in the Idaho House overwhelmingly, 55 to 15. The debate against the bill (which evidently drew a lot of legislative support) centered on the idea that daylight savings time allows more time for summer recreational activities; baseball games seemed to be a major point of concern.

I’m skeptical that the change would have much effect on baseball. Its enthusiasts are often too invested to give up that easily, and schedule and lighting changes ought to be enough to solve most timing problems. I never much bought the original argument, either, that the change in daylight hours to savings time helps with farming in the spring planting season. As the bill sponsor said, reasonably, “We don’t change how many hours of daylight there are, we don’t change how many hours you have to enjoy it, we’re just adjusting the clock.” So adjust your wake-up time if you need to.

Idaho may not be looking to make day savings changes this year, but the issue isn’t dead everywhere. In Oregon, one state senator is calling her proposal “ditch the switch” (a cute slogan with some appeal to it) but would - in contrast to Idaho - keep Oregon on Daylight Savings Time year-round rather than eliminate it. (This proposal would go to Oregon voters as a ballot issue if the legislature approves it, which seems less than likely.) That would put Oregon in an unusual category of DST-only jurisdictions: Argentina, Belarus, Iceland, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Namibia, Singapore, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan plus the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

Adjustments like these do carry a few issues with them. And those have to do with the idea that individual states probably are not wise to go entirely freelance on setting their clocks.

The world is highly variable on DST; much of the planet doesn’t observe the clock change. (I sometimes listen to a radio station in Australia, where - in this sector at least - time changes not just once but twice each spring and fall.) The pattern is not checkerboard, however. Nearly all of Europe uses DST, as do Syria, Jordan and Israel. The bulk of North America does as well, though not all.

The reason such large regions tend to clump together on their use or disuse of DST seems to be that keeping track of what your neighbors are doing can be complicated. The whole system of standardized clock time started, after all, because train systems had trouble making their departure/arrival systems work properly if local jurisdictions all did their own thing on timekeeping. If Oregon switches to permanent DST, how do Idahoans - who at present know they’re one hour ahead in the south, and the same time as Oregon in the north - relate to that? (And what about that little jagged piece of Malheur County in Oregon that’s on Mountain time? Those Ontario people could be stuck on a temporal island.) If Idaho moved to standard time only, how would Washingtonians or Utahns keep track?

Oh, sure, they’d all probably get used to it. But it’s one more complicating factor.

The reason most of these changes probably won’t pass is this: If you aren’t careful with how you manage things like this, the world can get a lot more complicated. And not too many people want that.
 

Who you listen to

stapiluslogo1

Who has the ear of legislators at the Statehouse? Not always the voters.

In the last decade and more, the voices listened to more closely has been that of Wayne Hoffman and the organization of which he’s president, the Idaho Freedom Foundation. It would help to know who’s behind that noble-sounding front, but that’s been a mystery … which may give it some mystique. IFF has tried to position itself as arbiter of what is “conservative”, and while that word has become essentially meaningless in recent years the organization is quite specific about what it approves of.

The IFF gives each legislator a rating on - well, how you define it is up to you, the criteria seem arbitrary - their votes on various bills. Six representatives share a 100 percent rating, ranging to Democratic Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb at 43. Running in her Boise district, she may be disappointed it’s not lower. Some legislators don’t take it very seriously, at least no more than they do ratings from other groups (quite a few have tried their hand at the numbers game over the years). But because the rating has been positioned as a sort of a measure of “conservatism”, and because that word carries such magic dust in Idaho politics, some legislators have worried, rightly or not, that a poor score will hurt them. In other words, might generate an opponent in the primary.

You can see the rankings at idahofreedom.org/freedom-index.

Constituents may want to ask their lawmakers about the IFF ratings this spring after the session ends. Here is why.

A few days ago Hoffman (who was once a newspaper reporter) wrote a column critical of the proposed revisions in the state school funding formula, which defines how the state funds headed to public schools are divided locally. It’s a complex topic; there are pros and cons.

He got extra attention when added: “I don’t think government should be in the education business. It is the most virulent form of socialism (and indoctrination thereto) in America today. The predictable result has been higher costs, lower performance, and a system that twists itself in knots to prove it’s educating kids when really it’s not.”

So some constituent questions to legislators suggest themselves. Do you agree with Hoffman that there should be no public schools in Idaho? Do you agree that they are not educating students, that any suggestion they do is phony - and if they don’t, should you be campaigning for parents to pull all their kids out of them? Should there be a legal requirement, as is now the case, that Idaho students must be educated until age 16? If you want public schools replaced, what would you replace them with? (Private schools have operated in Idaho for generations, but parents overwhelmingly have long taken the public option.) Should Idaho’s constitution, which since statehood has required a uniform and thorough system of public schools, be amended to drop that requirement? Should students be educated at all?

The implications of Hoffman’s philosophical statement are broader than even that, because if the schools, which the constitution declares to be the state’s top priority, are a “virulent form of socialism” then you’d have to conclude that nearly everything else the state does, or local governments do, is as well. If something socialistic - something we do together - is bad, well then. Should the prisons be privatized? (We’ve seen how well the recent efforts in that direction turned out.) Why not the courts? (Ponder the dispensing of justice under a for-profit system.) Should the state parks be sold off? Should agricultural research be ended? Should the health districts be turned into for-profit clinics not responsible for helping protect public health? Should our roads be (as some were in territorial days) privately-operated toll roads? In essence, should we run through the state budget and zero everything out, and leave it for someone to try to make a profit from?

Some of this may sound like unwarranted snark. But remember that “socialism” has, in the hands of “free-market” absolutists, been expanded to include nearly everything done by the public - which is to say, done through our government. Days before, Hoffman was busy attaching the S-label to Medicaid as well; his group just failed at the Idaho Supreme Court in an effort to overturn the Medicaid expansion which Idaho voters approved three months ago. There is a presumption here, usually unspoken but just under the surface, that everything we need to have done can be done better as a for-profit enterprise.

So, a constituent question for legislators: Do you believe that? Follow up question: What do you think the voters of Idaho believe? One more: What was your rating on the IFF index?
 

The whole pie

stapiluslogo1

Last year the voters in Wisconsin elected Democrats to the U.S. Senate and the offices of governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer - a sweep. In that same election, in the state Senate where 17 seats were on the ballot, Democrats won six, or about a third; and in the House (or, Assembly as it’s called there), Democrats took 36 seats compared to the Republicans’ 63.

Might that at-variance legislative result have happened because of a mass of split tickets - more Wisconsin voters opting for Republicans down-ballot after checking off all those Democrats above? Nope. In the Assembly races, for example, Democrats won 1.3 million votes compared to the Republicans’ 1.1 - while losing seats at a rate approaching two to one.

How could that happen? It’s what can occur when you get clever, and unscrupulous, about how you draw the legislative district maps. Similar stories can be told in other states in recent years, including Pennsylvania and North Carolina; Democrats have done the same in Maryland.

Idaho has managed to evade this sort of thing, mostly. It might not much longer.

The number of legislative seats held by each party should theoretically resemble - at least very roughly - the vote for statewide offices. In many states it does. In Oregon, where a Democratic governor won last year by about six percentage points and the state’s congressional delegation kept its four Democrats and one Republican, the legislature has 56 Democrats and 34 Republicans, a Democratic majority falling between half and two-thirds. In Washington, which has been steadily electing Democrats to top offices for the last couple of decades but sometimes by close margins, the legislature has 84 Democrats and 62 Republicans (one of those an “independent Democrat” who caucuses with Republicans). The splits in those states resemble the overall partisan votes in the state.

In Idaho, there’s also some resemblance, but it’s thinner. Consider the 2018 election, when Republicans won all of the major offices decisively, generally a little above or below the 60 percent mark. (Governor was 59.8 percent, first district U.S. House 62.8 percent, second district 60.7 percent.) So you’d expect Republicans to control the legislature, as they do, and have ever since the election of 1960. So what is the percentage of Republicans in the Idaho Legislature today?

80 percent. That percentage in this cycle actually is the lowest Republican percentage of control at the Idaho Legislature in a couple of decades.

But controlling four seats out of five, a lot more than the three out of five voters would seem to support, apparently isn’t enough for some members of the Idaho Republican caucuses. In some quarters, there’s a perceived need to press the finger a little heavier on the scales.

To be clear about something: Idaho doesn’t today belong the list of gerrymandered states. One reason is that a generation ago, the legislature gave up its reapportionment tasks and, through a constitutional amendment, set up a reapportionment commission (approved by the voters in 1994) evenly balanced between the parties. It has worked, albeit a little messily at times. But the fact that some signoff is needed from both parties has kept the district lines from going too far astray, even if a few of them look a little odd. In a state shaped like Idaho, a few of them always will.

A new piece of legislation, House Joint Resolution 2, was being rushed - not too strong a word - through the legislature to redesign the commission and upset that delicate balance. The proposed constitutional amendment, which still would need approval of the voters to pass, would in effect give Republicans outright control of the redistricting committee, and probably temptation too great to pass up - to clearly gerrymander the legislature to wipe out as many Democratic-leaning or marginal districts as possible. Designing a map with that in mind could cut the number of Democratic districts down to three or two, depending on how the Boise districts were split up.

The resolution got to the House floor last week but then, when uproar ensued, it was kicked back to committee. That may mean it’s dead for the session; “returned to committee” is often another way of killing something. But not necessarily.

If it re-emerges and passes, that could readily give Republicans upwards of 90 percent of the Idaho Legislature. That wouldn’t much resemble the Idaho electorate, but then, that probably would be the point.
 

The flaw in the Medicaid argument

stapiluslogo1

The Idaho Supreme Court decision in the challenge to the Medicaid expansion initiative - the case Brent Regan v. Lawerence Denney - was highly predictable, and a lot of people did predict it. With the decision in hand now, sustaining the initiative, it’s worth reviewing why that is.

We almost didn’t get this decision because two justices didn’t think Brent Regen, the plaintiff (on behalf of, mainly, the Idaho Freedom Foundation) shouldn’t have been able to bring it. The court’s majority didn’t even entirely dispute that point, admitting that it was stretching things even to deliver an opinion. But it’s as well that they did, since the decision made so clear why the argument against the initiative was so deeply flawed.

The Regan argument didn’t have to do specifically with the expansion of Medicaid benefits, or even with Medicaid at all. That may come as a surprise, given the political rhetoric surrounding the case, and the issue. The legal argument for overturning the initiative was, roughly:

The initiative violated the Idaho Constitution for the reason that it gave away legislating authority from the state to the federal government, since the agreement with the federal government on Medicaid expansion might commit the state to agree to future changes in the rules governing Medicaid.

First, the Supreme Court said, that is simply wrong. The court reviewed previous decisions that refer to references to law in other places, and found those, “affirmed the idea that when a statute references a second statute, it adopts that statute as it is in its current form. Subsequent amendment or repeal does not affect the initial statute.”

Anyone who follows the Idaho Legislature should know as much. Look through the annual list of bills passed by that body and often you’ll see new bills passed to update for changes made elsewhere. The state income tax law, which integrates in places with the federal, is regularly updated by the legislature (sometimes provoking debate along lawmakers).

The court made that point in its decision: “It should be noted that section 56-267 [the Medicaid expansion provision] is not the first nor is it the only statute to reference federal law. In fact, many Idaho statutes reference federal law. For example, Idaho Code section 33-2202 provides that: The state board of education is hereby designated as the state board for career technical education for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of the federal act known as the Smith-Hughes act, amendments thereto, and any subsequent acts now or in the future enacted by the Congress affecting vocational education …”

A truckload of laws relating just to commercial activities in the state would have been upended if the Medicaid expansion challenge had been approved, because the same principle in law would have torn up all kinds of federal, interstate and other agreements. It wouldn’t be a reach to say that large sectors of Idaho’s economy could have been thrown into chaos by a bum decision in this case.

Here’s another example the court cited: “the statute governing who could sell prescription drugs did ‘not specify which drugs shall require a prescription order, but instead conditions that status upon three possible alternatives: (1) another state law, (2) a law of the United States, or (3) a rule or regulation of the Idaho Board of Pharmacy. … In noting that the area of drug regulation demanded particular practical considerations, this Court said, ‘[i]n deciding whether a delegation is proper the court’s evaluation must be ‘tempered by due consideration for the practical context of the problem sought to be remedied, or the policy sought to be effected.’’’

The practical effects of this Medicaid expansion decision, had it been handled badly, could have been extreme. That partly explains why so many legal analysts thought the decision in favor of the initiative was a slam dunk, and why the court’s major internal disagreement on it concerned whether a ruling on the challenge was even warranted.

The beneficiaries of Medicaid expansion dodged a bullet here, but not only them. So did a lot of other people.
 

DIY legislature

stapiluslogo1

You too can follow the Idaho Legislature, at least mostly. As the legislature prepares to kick into gear for this year’s session, the time feels about right for a look at the best way to do that.

As in so much these days, the best, albeit not the only, way is online.

It’s not everything you need, but it gives you quite a bit.

The legislature’s own website, at legislature.idaho.gov, has a large batch of resources probably not known by most Idahoans.

There’s information about each of the legislators, of course, and e-mail addresses for each. Not many years ago the only way to keep track of legislators was to carry a legislative directory booklet, which many people (such as me, when I was reporting there) kept in pocket along with other vital items (like car keys and wallet). Now a smartphone can as easily access it all.

The legislature’s website also connects to the state constitution and laws and even the administrative code (the state regulations). That makes sense considering what the legislature does, but it also makes for a handy central repository.

The doings of the legislature since 1998 are available there too, including all bills introduced, committee minutes and much more. Schedules for floor and committee activities are there; a big improvement from the days I recall when the only way to get that information was to go physically to the third floor of the Statehouse to find a printed copy.

There’s a specific current page I check almost daily: legislature.idaho.gov/sessioninfo/2019/legislation/minidata/. That’s where you can find the list of every bill, resolution, memorial and proclamation introduced this session, its current status and links to its full text and also its statement of purpose.

That “statement of purpose” (that’s the formal name for the document) is written for each bill and is something particularly worth checking out if the rough subject of the bill is of interest to you. Bills often are crafted in such a way that their full intent and effect may not be obvious on a casual read. Statements of purpose are supposed to be written in plain language, describing what the effect is, and what it will cost (mainly, whether it will have an effect on a budget or on general fund taxes). These are best read with a cautious eye, since advocates sometimes have been known to use poetic license in describing effects and costs. But they’re a good first stop to try to understand what’s happening with a specific bill.

If you want to track things in real time, you’re also in luck. On the legislative front page there’s a link to “live audio and video streaming,” and that takes you to the Idaho Public Television site, which operates like video and audio streams of many legislative sites. Streams include the Senate and House floors, the committee room of the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (which drafts the state budget), the Lincoln Auditorium, where many of the larger hearings are held, and a bunch of other committee rooms as well.

There’s still nothing that can replace the understanding-by-immersion of actually being there, observing the atmosphere and talking to the people. There’s a reason legislators still need to meet personally, in one place, rather than conducting committee meetings and floor sessions by Skype. (Or is that day coming?)

Short of that, you can observe a lot online.
 

A shutdown of votes and wishes

stapiluslogo1

On December 19, the U.S. Senate passed on a voice vote - with no opposition in evidence - a bill aimed at averting the impending federal government shutdown. It had support of all or nearly all Republicans and Democrats in the chamber, and was thought likely to pass in the House of Representatives. Senators started singing Christmas carols on the floor.

Then came a declaration from President Donald Trump, who initially seemed to back the bill, but after taking heat, said he would not sign it because it did not include funds for construction of a border wall with Mexico. That killed the bill in the then-Republican-led House. It was nonetheless an actual compromise, something un-thrilled Democrats and Republicans could (and in the Senate, did) vote for.

After party control shifted, the House wound up passing a measure much like the old Senate bill - which, once again, had been supported by nearly all Senate Republicans as well as Democrats - with the statement that funding for the wall could be considered separately. In fact, it has voted for 10 related bills along those lines, with mostly Democrats in favor but picking up some Republican backing. One Republican voting aye on the bill passed on Wednesday was Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho. He will take heat for that.

On Thursday, the Senate voted on and killed two budget bills. One was backed by Trump and touted as a compromise, though it contained no concessions and included what the corporate world would call “poison pills”. Only one Democrat supported it. The other was called the Democratic bill - though, once again, this was largely the same thing Senate Republicans had solidly backed a month earlier - and though it got a half-dozen Republican votes, it too failed. Idaho’s senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, were not among the six.

Idaho’s congressional delegation has had a busy week.

Simpson said, “The House voted on a package of bills that were negotiated last year between the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats. Although it does not represent my preferred starting place for negotiations, I support it because it includes provisions that are important for Idaho that I personally worked to secure, including increased funding for sage grouse conservation, PILT, wildfire prevention and suppression, and a prohibition on listing sage grouse as an endangered species, among many others.” But he also blasted Democrats for not looking more favorably on the Trump proposal.

His new fellow Idaho representative, Russ Fulcher, was quoted as saying, “It’s not a debate about what the right thing to do is, it is a power play between the speaker and the president. That's basically all this falls down to."

Actually, it must be more than that, or else the votes behind the speaker and the president, which allow them to take these positions, wouldn’t be there. And it does after all have immense national impact.

Fulcher: “My urging is to forget about the politics, forget about the party moniker right now.” But unlike Simpson, he voted against the proposal which, once again, had been developed and approved by both Republicans and Democrats.

A week ago, Risch participated with a group of Senate Republicans offering a bill to avert federal government shutdowns in the future, by setting up an automatic continuing resolution - sort of putting the federal government on temporary budget autopilot - in case of a budget stalemate. He also said, “Shutting down the government is the complete opposite of what we were elected to do - govern. I have co-sponsored this legislation year after year and hope we can finally move it forward. Real people with real problems get caught in the balance of government shutdowns and we need to act for them and for the sake of government efficiency. I would prefer a smaller and less intrusive government than what we have, but regardless it needs to operate.”

Good sentiments, and at the least a reasonable legislative concept. But with all these good intentions and good will, why are the votes - all of the delegation’s votes - still not there for an actual compromise, like the one Congress had but a month ago, to end a shutdown now with no end yet in sight?
 

The Idafornia shirt

stapiluslogo1

The operative phrase used to be “don’t Californicate Idaho.”

Now, in the age of the meme, it’s an image, showing Idaho melded to the top of California, the merger called Idafornia.

On a shirt.

An artist from Nampa named Scott Pentzer created it, though the design is so simple almost anyone could have. Pentzer said he drew it in 2014 but didn’t bother putting it on a shirt or trying to sell it until very recently.

When he did, he got reaction. Fox News said on its website, “Within hours the internet lost its mind. After two hours on the Facebook page, the post garnered 200 comments.” More than 500 more were added to that before the post was killed. (Doesn’t take much for the internet to lose its mind.)

The image on it shows a single red fill outlined to the shape of Idaho perched on top of California, with the word “Idahfornia” within.

What’s the point? To note the real link between the states, what with so many Californians moving to Idaho - an estimated 21,000 of them in 2017, presumably as many or more last year. Most say they’ve moved to escape the high prices in California, which mainly means exploding housing prices in the coastal state. Buying a home in many of California’s urban areas has moved beyond middle-class capacity, but houses in Idaho are cheaper - albeit fast becoming more expensive, partly because Californians selling their old digs can afford to pay more. In turn, many Idahoans are being priced out in places like Boise.

Pentzer told the San Francisco Chronicle, "It tapped into a nerve or something. I know [California transplant resentment] is out there a bit, from some of the stories I heard. But I never knew Idahoans hated Californians that much."

There’s long been some California resentment. (And not only in Idaho: An Oregon governor’s famous plea to vacation in Oregon but not stay there was aimed largely at Californians.) And it goes back a long way: Aside from Native Americans and farmers from Utah, most of the early territorial settlers in Idaho, and many of its leading government and business leaders, were former Californians. That fact drew some sharp words even a century ago.

But what are the effects now of this growth driven in significant part by California?

Politically, the analysis on that has shifted over time. In the mid-eighties, when the modern California stream of newcomers got underway, there was for a while some thought that Idaho politics might veer left as a result of more moderate incoming people from the coast. Obviously, it didn’t turn out that way: Idaho seemed to be a magnet mainly for more conservative Californians, politically red people escaping a state getting steadily bluer.

But might some of that be changing now? I got an e-mail inquiry last week from a woman considering moving to Sandpoint but hesitating because she’d been hearing it might be overrun with racists and skinheads. Over time, the conservative flood of the last generation may thin out.

Many moving to the Boise area, meanwhile, seem to be arriving with the idea that it’s simply another modern American metro area - which it is - and the politics hasn’t been a large factor. That suggests a broader mainstream of people may be coming to Idaho, and if it continues it could lead to political moderation as well.

The Fox report quoted one Tweet as opining something reflecting that idea, after a fashion: "What happens when Californians flee their failed state but bring their failed political ideology with them? They transform Idaho into California. Cali used 2 b one of best states in the US, now it's the worst. Won't be long b4 Idaho turns from red to purple, then blue.”

That end result may be overstating things. But it’s a point to ponder.