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Posts published in “Jones”

Bad bills


When the Legislature blew into town last January, there was lots of tough talk about Governor Little trampling the rights and freedoms of Idahoans because he urged that they mask up and socially distance. Much was said about the Covid-19 pandemic being overblown, or not even a real pandemic. Some claimed that the virus had been whupped, so everyone had a constitutional right to get back to business as usual.

One politically ambitious Representative said he had a handful of bills designed just for the purpose of cutting the Governor down to size by trimming his emergency powers. A number of proposals were dumped into the legislative hopper, but most fell by the wayside when they were subjected to close scrutiny. For example, a bill to prevent officials from mandating the wearing of masks suffered some indignity when it became apparent that this posed a problem for surgeons in the operating room.

Two measures are still alive and kicking--House Bill 135 and Senate Bill 1136. Both suffer the same constitutional defect and should be summarily dispatched. Both bills seek to limit a Governor’s ability to continue an emergency or disaster declaration beyond 60 days without legislative approval. The legislative stamp of approval would have to come through passage of a concurrent resolution. The problem is that a resolution does not carry the force of law. In effect, the bills seek to confer upon the Legislature powers it does not have under the Idaho Constitution. That is, the ability to make laws without the signature of the Governor.

Attorney General Wasden prepared a thoughtful analysis of House Bill 135, pointing out this and other potential constitutional violations. Even though those concerns had been raised in debate, the House proceeded to pass the bill before the AG’s review was completed. The legislation now awaits action in the Senate. And, despite knowing of the constitutional flaws in Senate Bill 1136, the Senate later passed that bill, which now is pending on the House amending order.

These bills were premised on the false narrative that the Governor was acting in a dictatorial manner in responding to the pandemic. In actuality, he was following guidelines issued by the Trump Administration. He could and should have issued a statewide mask mandate early on, but declined to take that step. If anything, he did not go far enough to stop the spread of the virus, but he certainly did not overreach.

Infectious disease experts began warning in late January of a potential new wave of infections starting this March as a result of lax precautionary measures and new disease variants. Many legislators pooh-poohed the possibility, claiming that the danger was over. Well, at least until it became apparent in mid-March that it definitely was not and legislative leadership wisely decided that a two-week recess was necessary to protect those in and around the Capitol.

Now that the Legislature is resuming its work, perhaps the wind will have been taken out of the sails of those promoting these two constitutionally obnoxious bills. After all, the coronavirus was not defeated and further protective measures were necessary. Neither of the bills will solve any existing problem. Neither is worth tying up the courts with litigation or hamstringing the Governor’s efforts to deal with the tail-end effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Surely, the Legislature has better things to do than beat these dead horses.

Denial won’t stop racism


Long-time political observer Betsy Russell recently wrote of some Idaho legislators’ efforts to stamp out the study of “racist concepts” in Idaho education. The problem is that there were elements of racism in Idaho from the very birth of the Idaho Territory in 1863 and some racist ideas still live with us to this very day. We must recognize and discuss racism, if we hope to eradicate it.

When Abraham Lincoln signed Idaho Territory into being on March 3, 1863, there were a large number of Confederate sympathizers within its borders. More came to settle after the Civil War ended. Since then, many Idahoans have bought into the mistaken concept that the Civil War was merely a fight over states’ rights and economics. In truth, it was primarily over the right of slave owners to continue profiting from the free labor of men and women forcibly brought to the country from Africa.

The states’ rights argument was afoot in our State when the Ku Klux Klan rose to respectable prominence in Idaho politics in the 1920s. A group of 350 KKK members paraded through downtown Boise on September 9, 1924. White supremacists set up in Hayden in the late 1970s and others burned crosses near Jerome in the early 1980s. The hate is still alive today. I have heard and seen it myself since the 1950s.

Those who made this land their home long before Columbus arrived have felt the sting of racism--broken treaties, forced migrations and massacres disguised as battles, such as the Bear River Massacre that killed over 270 members of the Shoshone Tribe in 1863. Even to this day, Native Americans face discriminatory treatment in parts of our State.

Asian Americans have also been subjected to hateful treatment from territorial days. Chinese immigrants made up almost 30% of Idaho’s population in 1870, but most left the State after Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Idaho government officials supported the incarceration of many thousands of loyal Japanese Americans in 1942, including the Minidoka Camp just 6 miles from where I grew up. One of the young men from that camp, William Nakamura, died fighting for his country in Italy in 1944. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor 56 years later.

Many in the growing Hispanic population of Idaho have been subject to abuse for as long as I can remember. People who came to Idaho to do the backbreaking work of keeping our farms and dairies running, and whose kids have gone on to jobs in non-farm sectors, have not been given the thanks and respect they deserve for powering our economy.

Folks in each of these groups, and others, have all contributed to the marvelous patchwork of our State. They want the same things that motivate the rest of us--security for their families, the chance to give their kids a better life, harmony with their neighbors. They have not always gotten what they strive for, partly because of prejudicial attitudes of fellow Idahoans.

If we hope to have an atmosphere where all people in our State can enjoy the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is essential that we acknowledge where we, as a society, have fallen short. If we simply ignore grievous injustices to some of our people as a result of discriminatory treatment, we won’t have a basis to correct the wrongful conduct and move forward together for a better tomorrow. The effects of racism, either outright or unintentional, will not go away if we try to sweep it under the rug or if we hide it from our children.

A message on Vietnam Veterans Day


As we observe Vietnam War Veterans Day on March 29, let’s recall the human rights disaster that resulted from the fall of South Vietnam in April 1975. Many thousands of South Vietnamese who had helped, trusted and relied upon the U.S. were murdered or imprisoned, to the great dishonor of our nation. A similar disaster is looming on the horizon in Afghanistan and we must take action to prevent a human catastrophe there.

In the case of Vietnam, even though we knew weeks beforehand that the fall of South Vietnam was imminent, we made no concerted effort to extract the Vietnamese who had steadfastly supported the United States. Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese fled the country and, although we eventually gave sanctuary to many, our help was slow in coming. Policy blunders by the U.S. had placed them in jeopardy and we were honor bound to do everything possible to protect them.

During the long and tortured course of America’s war in Afghanistan, many Afghans stepped forward at their great peril to serve and protect our military personnel. As the situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan and the danger to those folks dramatically increases, we are morally obligated to help them because, again, we are largely responsible for their situation.

Many informed observers believe it is just a matter of time until the Taliban take control of Afghanistan. Because of America’s unforced errors in the so-called peace talks, the Taliban have a clear upper hand. Veteran U.S. diplomat Ryan Crocker, who has been involved since the start of the war, characterized the peace discussions as “surrender talks.” President Biden has presented a new peace proposal, but it is unlikely the Taliban will embrace it. They know they hold the winning cards.

The President should do everything reasonably possible to bring the war to a peaceful resolution. But, facing the realistic probability of a Taliban take-over, he should require contingency plans to be drawn up to evacuate Afghans who will be targets of Taliban reprisal--those who volunteered to help and protect U.S. forces, uncorrupted government and military officials, women’s rights advocates, educators and others who put themselves at risk by supporting democratic principles.

President Biden has pledged to substantially increase the yearly refugee cap, now at an historic low of 15,000. That is an important first step. The refugee settlement infrastructure in the U.S., which has suffered grievous damage during the last four years, must be rebuilt and adequately funded to accommodate an influx of Afghan refugees.

The U.S. must own up to its responsibility toward Afghans who trusted our stated intentions to make their country a better and safer place to live. Boise has a refugee resettlement program that is highly regarded across the country and we could accommodate many of these good people. A number of Afghan refugees have been settled in the Boise area in recent years and they have been a credit to the community.

Like many troops who served in America’s wars, this issue is very personal for me. I lived and worked with South Vietnamese soldiers in 1968-1969. I trusted them with my life, while they relied on the U.S. Government as a friend and ally. Most of my Vietnamese friends were Catholics who moved to South Vietnam from the North in 1954 to escape persecution. They were fiercely anti-communist and pro-American. It broke my heart when the Communists took over in April 1975, knowing that my friends would be killed or imprisoned, as were many thousands of their countrymen. We had a moral obligation to extract as many as possible but, instead, we abandoned them to a horrific fate.

We simply cannot allow that kind of tragedy to happen again with the Afghans. My prayer on Vietnam War Veterans Day is that this great nation does not again turn its back on beleaguered people who placed their trust in us.

Obey it or amend it


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.

No claim above Milner


Southern Idaho is semi-arid and highly dependent upon the waters of the Snake River. Most of the communities of any size in Southern Idaho were founded and grew up along the course of the Snake. Agriculture is the economic powerhouse of Idaho and this would not be the case without ample supplies of water, either in the Snake River or in the vast underground aquifer located along its north side.

Because it is such a precious, life-sustaining resource, many battles have been waged over water in the history of our State. One of the most intense water fights began in early 1983, just as I took office as Idaho Attorney General. Despite a long-standing promise to subordinate power production to other uses of Snake River water, Idaho Power Company sought and had just obtained a court ruling that essentially gave it control of the river. The ruling, often called the Swan Falls decision, touched off a ferocious battle that was waged between the State and Idaho Power until a settlement was reached in 1984 that restored the State’s control over the flows of the Snake River.

There were a number of hotly-disputed issues between the State and Idaho Power in the Swan Falls fight. One issue of critical importance to folks in Eastern Idaho was whether the power company could lay claim to waters upstream from Milner Dam, which is about 14 miles west of the City of Burley. Myself, Governor Evans and almost every upper valley legislator strongly opposed any claim by Idaho Power to any waters, either in the river or in the adjacent aquifer, above Milner Dam. We insisted that the flow of the river could be reduced to zero at Milner, without any claim or objection by Idaho Power, so that the river waters could be stored or utilized for the benefit of those living upstream. It was essential that these waters be safeguarded for communities, farms, businesses, and general economic growth in the upper valley.

Eastern Idaho communities won that fight in the settlement agreement, in the subsequent adjudication, in later legislative and administrative decisions, and in rulings in the Idaho Supreme Court. It was firmly established that Idaho Power has absolutely no claim to any waters arising upstream from Milner Dam.

Because the waters in the aquifer had been seriously depleted by excessive pumping over the years, the State conceived a plan to use some of those upstream waters to recharge the aquifer. The plan was developed and implemented in 2008 with the support of a broad range of water users, including groundwater users, senior canal companies and Idaho Power. It has been remarkably wise and successful. It is essential to continue and expand the program for the benefit of the entire State.

Unfortunately, the Idaho Water Resource Board agreed last year to allow 200 cubic feet per second of water to flow through Milner as sort of a one-off deal with the power company. Now, Idaho Power is back, seeking a similar release for an additional year. This mustn't be allowed.

Aquifer recharge is more important than the single-use purpose of generating extra profits for Idaho Power. If the aquifer is restored to good health, it will benefit every water-using interest in Southern Idaho. Idaho Power will benefit because aquifer flow eventually makes its way back to the river to generate electricity.

Those in power in the Legislature should not pressure the Water Resource Board to go along with the power company’s request. It is contrary to the State Water Plan and, more important, decidedly against the best interests of communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on these precious waters.

My book about the Swan Falls water fight, A Little Dam Problem: How Idaho almost lost control of the Snake River, provides further information about the critical importance of the Milner zero flow policy.

From robe to keyboard


Jim Jones was such a quiet fellow – at least during his 12 years on the Idaho Supreme Court and two years as the chief justice.

He wrote volumes of mind-numbing legal opinions during his judicial career, but didn’t say a peep about the issues of the day. Then after he retired in 2017, everything changed. He took up political column-writing, where he is widely loved or hated by newspaper readers throughout the Gem State.

“I suppose it all got bottled up,” he said jokingly. “Steam started to build up and it came uncorked like Mount Vesuvius.”

In general, if you like Donald Trump, then you’d hate what Jones has been writing about his presidency. And if you are a fan of Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, then you probably wouldn’t care what Jones has to say. But Jones stands by his view that the senators were wrong to acquit Trump after two impeachment trials.

“These are two accomplished lawyers – very smart people – and they should have spoken out,” Jones says. “We don’t have much leadership on today’s stage. We see followership and people who are petrified to say what’s the truth because they are afraid they won’t win the next election.”

Jones, a Twin Falls native, saw a different approach when he worked for Sen. Len Jordan in the 1970s.

“Senator Jordan was my ideal. He said you can’t always do what people say in their letters. He voted for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. He voted against two Nixon appointees to the Supreme Court. His attitude was that you have an obligation to exercise leadership and do what you think is right. If people don’t like it, they can vote you out,” Jones said.

“With the current state of the Republican Party, it’s not the party I belonged to. It left me behind,” Jones says. He calls himself an independent, but acknowledges that he’s more aligned with Democrats than Republicans at the moment.

Recently, Jones announced his involvement with a new venture, working with former Attorney General Tony Park and a former longtime deputy, Clive Strong, to call attention the Legislature’s constitutional violations. Twelve years as a Supreme Court justice certainly gives him some expertise in that area.

“I started looking at the bills, one on initiatives. I’ve always thought these restrictive bills were in violation of the constitution,” he said. “Then you have bills that take the attorney general out of the picture in advice for state agencies.”

As Jones sees it, legislators make a big mistake by not paying attention to Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s constitutional advice on issues such as the governor’s authority during emergencies. Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard, for one, has suggested that the attorney general’s office is filled with lawyers who can’t find a job with private firms. Jones, of course, disagrees.

“I’ve looked at the people I have hired over the years either as deputy AGs or law clerks of the Supreme Court. We didn’t hire just anybody who walked down the pike. Many of them were at the top of their classes,” Jones said.

“Most of these positions put young people on the front line from Day 1. They didn’t have to sit around doing second bench for some old stuffed lawyer who had been around forever. They would come into that office and might be in court the next day, representing the state. And they loved it.”

Jones says Wasden offers sound advice, and he usually ends up being correct. The problem is that legislators often have a mind-set in another direction and are willing to spend taxpayer money to fight losing court battles.

“They don’t care,” Jones says. “We have these people in the Legislature who claim to be constitutionalists. They wrap themselves around the constitution, but yet they are doing their best to undermine it.”

If Jones stays true to form, he won’t hesitate to call out the Legislature when he sees constitutional violations. And his efforts may go beyond the newspaper opinion pages.

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

Kudos for the courageous


Back in the old days, when Republicans were more interested in working to solve problems than in partisan point scoring, they were able to do important things. That old can-do spirit was recently displayed by two GOP legislators--Congressman Mike Simpson and State Senator Jim Guthrie--who deserve kudos for their courage in proposing viable solutions to problems that need addressing.

Mike Simpson had to know that he was going to get strong pushback for his plan to save Idaho’s salmon from extinction, but he nevertheless put a comprehensive and workable plan on the table for discussion. That is the kind of leadership I would have associated with my former boss, Senator Len Jordan. It is a rare commodity today.

Simpson’s plan addresses every interest affected by the removal of the four lower Snake River dams. It may not be perfect in every respect, but perfection is impossible for this complicated issue. Simpson’s plan is the only proposal put forward in the last four decades that could come close to saving our anadromous fish runs, while providing help to the various interests impacted by the dam removal.

I became immersed in this issue as Idaho Attorney General in 1983, when I argued a case in the U.S. Supreme Court on Idaho’s interest in these magnificent fish. Preparation for the argument required a detailed study of every factor harming the fish runs, particularly the upstream and downstream mortality of each fish run at each of the eight dams on the Columbia-Snake system. At that time, it became apparent that the fish were doomed if they had to contend with all eight dams and that they might survive if the four Snake dams were removed. The situation has not changed in the last 38 years, despite numerous proposed solutions and the expenditure of over $17 billion.

The grim fact is that we can either have the four Snake dams or we can have the salmon and steelhead runs, but we can’t have both. It is a stark choice, which was just confirmed by over five dozen Pacific Northwest fishery experts. Simpson’s plan poses absolutely no threat to Idaho’s water. I would not support it if it did. The plan is entitled to fair and dispassionate consideration by every stakeholder. And Simpson deserves our thanks for his leadership and courage.

Senator Jim Guthrie, another courageous Republican, knew that he would encounter grief for proposing that undocumented immigrants be able to obtain driver privileges. Nevertheless, he introduced legislation to do just that. His Senate Bill 1132 would bring undocumented drivers out of the shadows, allow them to get driver training and liability insurance and make Idaho roads safer.

The fact is that undocumented workers will be driving whether or not they have driving privileges. The Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluation studied the issue and found that accidents involving unlicensed drivers are deadlier and costlier than those with licensed drivers. Other states, including Utah and New Mexico, experienced reduction in traffic fatalities and uninsured motorists from programs like Senator Guthrie proposes.

Many Idaho employers support the legislation, including the Idaho Dairymen’s Association and the Associated General Contractors. It will facilitate their work, reduce their potential liability and save lives. Senate Bill 1132 deserves approval and Guthrie deserves thanks for having the courage and leadership for proposing it.

Preserving the constitution


From a press release from one of our regular columnists, Jim Jones.

The Idaho Constitution is under attack...from Idaho legislators.

A group of Idaho lawyers has formed to protect the Idaho Constitution from repeated attacks by the Idaho Legislature. Former Idaho Attorney General Jim Jones said today that the group, the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution, will engage in a variety of activities to prevent the Legislature from subverting constitutional rights of the people, as well as constitutional checks and balances.

“Legislators have shown an alarming disrespect for our State Constitution this session and it is incumbent upon members of the legal profession to call them to account,” Jones said. “The mission of our group is to blow the whistle on legislation that threatens the integrity of the Idaho Constitution and to use every legal avenue to oppose it.”

“We can’t and won’t stand idly by while the Legislature tries to deconstruct the remarkable Constitution that the Constitutional Convention delegates carefully crafted back in 1889 to guide our State into the future. It is fitting and appropriate that we announce our defense of this treasured document during the same week that Idahoans celebrate Idaho Day on March 4.”

“Senate Bill 1110 would make it almost impossible for the people to put an initiative or referendum on the election ballot. The bill is a direct attack on the bedrock principle of our Constitution--the right of the people to control their government. Article One states that the people, “have the right to alter, reform or abolish” the State government “whenever they may deem it necessary.” The Legislature would effectively take that right away from the people, if it passes Senate Bill 1110.”

Several bills would infringe on the Attorney General’s constitutional power to handle the legal business of State agencies. When Idaho’s Constitution was being fashioned in 1889, the delegates clearly understood and agreed that the Attorney General would be the sole source of legal services for the State. Two bills, Senate Bill 1090 and House Bill 118, would prohibit the Attorney General from representing the Idaho Department of Lands. House Bill 101 would allow State agencies to hire their own attorneys. “These bills are unconstitutional, as the Attorney General has advised the Legislature, but that advice has been rejected.”

House Bill 135 proposes to limit the Governor’s ability to respond to an emergency or disaster. The Attorney General has advised that some provisions are not constitutionally permissible, but the bill passed the House anyway.

“It is difficult to understand why legislators completely disregard sound advice from our elected Attorney General and persist in attacking the constitutional framework of our government. They have done so in a number of instances in the past, causing the State to pay millions of dollars to attorneys who have successfully challenged unconstitutional legislation enacted by the Legislature.”

The Legislature established the Constitutional Defense Fund in 1995 to defend the State’s sovereignty, which has included defending legislation that offends the U.S. Constitution. Thus far, the State has paid out over $3 million to attorneys who have successfully challenged the constitutionality of State laws, many of which were enacted despite warnings from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

“The Legislature’s Constitutional Defense Fund has primarily paid out funds to groups challenging Idaho laws in federal court for violation of the U.S. Constitution, but we intend to focus on protecting our State Constitution in State courts. If those actions are successful, we will seek fees from the Constitutional Defense Fund.”

Founding members of the Committee include former Idaho Attorney General Tony Park, former Deputy Attorney General Clive Strong, and long-time private practitioner, Bruce Smith, a senior lawyer of the Idaho Bar.

Park said, “In the coming days, we will be gathering legal talent from around the State to protect Idaho’s constitutional form of government. There is a good deal of concern in the legal community about the impact of these unconstitutional measures on the integrity of our government. If litigation becomes necessary, we intend to rely on volunteer lawyers who will donate their services to the benefit of the Constitution.”

Strong noted, “The Office of Idaho Attorney General serves an essential role in ensuring elected officials are given the legal advice they need to hear, not what they want to hear. The importance of preserving the role of the Attorney General is evident from constitutionally suspect legislation pending in the Idaho Legislature.”

Smith expressed concern that the bills designed to usurp the Attorney General’s constitutional powers are not only violative of the separation of powers, but would dramatically increase the State’s outlays for legal services. “The sponsors of House Bill 118 could not even estimate how high the cost would go.”

A power-sucking creature


This session of the Idaho Legislature reminds me of those low-budget science fiction movies where a malevolent space creature comes to Earth to suck all of the power from the electric grid. Rather than plundering the grid, the Legislature has been trying to suck vitality from the Idaho Constitution by grabbing powers that belong to the people or to other government entities.

If legislators have their way, the people will lose their absolute right to initiate legislation as a means of getting around an unresponsive Legislature. The Attorney General’s office will be seriously wounded, driving up the cost of State legal services and reducing the reliability of legal advice. The Governor will not have the authority and flexibility to manage a public crisis. Local governments will not even be able to change the names of their streets, schools, parks and other public facilities, without the approval of our power-grabbing Legislature, thanks to House Bill 90.

One of the most egregious legislative power grabs is Senate Bill 1110, which would require the signatures of 6% of registered voters in each and every one of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts in order just to get an initiative or referendum on the ballot. The bill

would give each legislative district its own veto power to keep an initiative or referendum from being voted upon, making it almost impossible to use these important instruments of people power.

Had such a restrictive measure been in effect over the years, we would have no Medicaid expansion, the despised Luna Laws would still be on the books, and there might well be no campaign reporting laws.

The bill is an unconstitutional restriction on the right of the people to control their government. After all, Article One of the Idaho Constitution solemnly proclaims that, “all political power is inherent in the people.” It states that the people, “have the right to alter, reform or abolish” the State government “whenever they may deem it necessary.” How can the people possibly exercise that awesome power if they have to go through a power-hungry Legislature in every instance?

Twenty-three years after they ratified the Constitution, the people decided they needed a way to get around a recalcitrant Legislature. In 1912, they adopted the initiative and referendum for that very purpose. They gave the Legislature the authority to lay out the procedure for running an initiative or referendum, but not the ability to prevent the use of these important powers. Senate Bill 1110 is a constitutional abomination.

The Legislature wants to deprive the Attorney General of his constitutional power to handle the State’s legal business. House Bill 118 and Senate Bill 1090 would prohibit the Attorney General from advising or representing the Idaho Land Department. It is clearly unconstitutional. House Bill 101 would allow state agencies to hire their own lawyers, rather than going through the Attorney General. We had that system from the early 1960s to the mid-90s and it was a costly mess. It would degrade the quality of legal services and more than double their cost. The bill sponsors cannot even estimate how high the cost would go.

House Bill 135 is just the latest of several misguided measures to tie the hands of the Governor in responding to a serious emergency. Governor Little has certainly not overreached in responding to the pandemic and does not deserve the legislative strait jacket being fashioned by legislators.

These are just a few of the measures that legislators have conjured up to suck the powers belonging to others under our revered State Constitution. Let’s demand that they finish their legitimate business and go home. The longer the Legislature remains in session, the more it will suck.