Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Malloy”

Soto says he could do better

malloy

Talk with Congressman Russ Fulcher and you’ll get the idea that this year’s elections have all the drama of a yawning festival.

He figures, probably correctly so, that people have made up their minds about President Trump. As Fulcher puts it, “Everything he has done and said has been done and said. He either has the numbers, or he doesn’t.”

Trump is bound to win in Idaho, of course, and it doesn’t take a fearless forecaster to predict that Republicans will continue to occupy the Gem State’s congressional offices. Sure, it’s possible that Joe Biden will carry Idaho, Paulette Jordan will send Sen. Jim Risch into retirement and Rudy Soto and Aaron Swisher will pull monumental upsets in House races.

“I don’t see that happening, and that’s not a shot at Rudy or anybody else,” Fulcher says.

For now, at least, Fulcher is not taking shots of any kind at Soto, the 34-year-old Canyon County Democrat who is working his tail off on the campaign trail. Fulcher doesn’t see the need for comparing Soto to Bernie Sanders, or spreading fears about socialism of the Green New Deal.

“From what I can tell, he’s running an honorable campaign,” Fulcher said. “He’s giving voters a choice. It’s not like the primary campaign where there were flat-out lies.”

Soto is not so charitable toward Fulcher, comparing him to former Congressman Bill Sali – the one Republican who was bounced out of office after one term (2008) and suggesting that Fulcher has brought an “Ammon Bundy style of politics to Washington, D.C.”

Soto backs his claims with an independent survey that ranks Fulcher as one of the most partisan members of the House. “He can’t even get bill sponsorship from his own party,” Soto says.

Fulcher is part of the conservative-based House Freedom Caucus, and Soto wants to join the Problem Solver’s Caucus, which has members from both parties.

Soto says he’d work well with Congressman Mike Simpson and it would be “an absolute honor and privilege” to work with Sens. Mike Crapo and Risch (if he wins re-election). “They are at the forefront of bringing resources back to rural communities and I would be helping advance their initiatives in the House.”

Soto, a veteran of the Army National Guard, is no stranger to the Washington politics, having worked as a congressional staffer and on a variety of issues. He promises to limit himself to three terms and to vote against retaining House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying “it’s time for new blood.”

On that point, Fulcher will agree. He has complained for two years about how Pelosi handles business in the House. But for his congressional seat, he sees himself as the right guy for the job.

“I believe that experience matters and that I am uniquely qualified to represent Idaho,” he says.

“I’ll put my resume up against anyone with my knowledge of the state and deep roots here. I have a track record for building relationships not only with our delegation, but with other members. If they’re trying to paint me as someone who works on the right side of the aisle and never talks with anyone, that’s a bunch of baloney.”

But given the conservative nature of his district, he was not elected to be cozy with Democrats.

Fulcher wants nothing to do with Pelosi, or the party’s progressive agenda. “If you are in the Panhandle of Idaho and advertise that you are spending all your time across the aisle, that’s the quickest way to get unelected,” he says.

Fulcher heads into the election with a healthy degree of confidence. “I think most people in the first district know who I am. They may like me or not, but they know what they get.”

And as with President Trump on Election Day, the numbers will be there for Fulcher … or they won’t.

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

Pandemic politics

malloy

During the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, when almost everything was shut down, people in my Meridian neighborhood found a way to get through those dark days.

On Sunday afternoons, my neighbor would play the bagpipe – filling the air with tunes such as America the Beautiful, Amazing Grace and Scotland the Brave. Those rituals helped brighten our days and bring people together.

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean experienced rituals of a different sort. When she looked out her window on those Sundays, she saw people standing outside her home protesting emergency orders related to the coronavirus. One day in early July, some of the protesters carried firearms. A week later, the group asked the mayor to join them in praying “that the devil would leave my soul and recognize that I should take away the mask order,” she said.

“Today, if people don’t agree with you, then you are a socialist, a communist, or a Marxist,” she told me. “I’ve been called all three.”

Gov. Brad Little didn’t see protesters outside his home in Emmett, but they came in droves during a special legislative session in August, demanding legislators to pull the governor’s emergency orders. During the year, one Republican legislator called Little a “self-appointed tyrant,” while comparing him to “Little Hitler.”

Both Little and McLean were targets of unsuccessful recall efforts.

It’s easy to forget that governors and mayors are only human. Certainly, you’ll find self-serving characters here and there, but Little and McLean are not in that category. They are two clear-thinking people who have had to make difficult decisions based on the information and medical advice that was available. They had no “playbook” for dealing with a pandemic, or a magic wand to make it all go away.

I have known Little for many years. He was thoughtful as a state senator, respected in leadership roles, capable as a lieutenant governor and tremendously prepared when he became governor in 2019. McLean is a rising star in Idaho politics. She defeated Dave Bieter, a seemingly unbeatable four-term incumbent, in last year’s mayoral election – and the election wasn’t close. She talked about issues such as transportation, handling growth and climate change and her vision wrapped around one theme – making Boise a better city.

Little’s agenda has included dramatic improvements to education, cutting out volumes of state regulations and keeping the state sound fiscally. The grand plans presented by Little and the Boise mayor did not include shutting down businesses, increasing unemployment or otherwise creating hardships for Idahoans. But the pandemic created strange circumstances.

Idaho, which was one of the last states to report a confirmed case of COVID-19 now has more than 43,000 cases – with no sign of slowing down.
Doing nothing was not a realistic option for either the state, or the city of Boise.

McLean knows that emergency orders will be met with controversy and she understands people’s frustrations. She expressed some thoughts of her own in an “open letter to most of us,” published in local newspapers.

The name-calling is one thing, she says, “and then it’s go back to where you came from. That really concerns me because we are a nation and a valley of people who found our way here for different reasons.”

McLean was born in Boston, which is where she lived … for the first 18 months of her life. She has lived in Boise for 22 years, most of her adult life, and eight of those years were on the Boise City Council. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

And the city is better for it.

As for Little, his support group of sorts includes other governors who are going through similar problems with the pandemic – along with fires, floods and hurricanes. He has talked to a few who have said that pandemic management is something they did not sign up for.

“My response is, ‘really you did,’” he said. “’You are the chief executive officer and while you may not think about a pandemic, or other kinds of disasters, you’re in charge. You should not run for this job if you are not ready to address what’s critical to the safety of citizens.’”

Little, never lacking for confidence, fully embraces the old Harry Truman adage, “the buck stops here.” McLean seems to be living by those words as well.

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

Power games

malloy

Enough with this nauseating rhetoric about Republicans pushing forward with Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

It is not about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and what she might have said on her deathbed … or about giving the next president (Biden) an opportunity to make his selection … or fairness in the process … or Abraham Lincoln’s thoughts on the issue … or what the likes of Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Mike Crapo said four years ago. All that stuff is pure balderdash.

It’s all about politics, power (something Democrats don’t have) and putting a conservative on the U.S. Supreme Court. For decades, reshaping the court has been the Holy Grail for Republicans and they have the opportunity to get that done before the election. Barrett’s nomination should sail through, with the blessing of Crapo and fellow Idaho Sen. Jim Risch.

Sure, there are some mild risks involved for Republicans by putting this vote on the fast track. Voters might be outraged enough to vote against Trump and give Democrats control of the Senate. We’ll find out those things soon enough. But a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court is too much for Republicans to pass up.

Joe Biden, no doubt, will balance out things if he wins, but conservatives could have an even stronger stranglehold on the high court if Trump is re-elected.

That prospect should keep more than a few Democrats awake at night.

We’re hearing plenty about what those mean-old Republicans are doing, but if the situation were reversed, you can bet that the Democrats would do the same thing. Democrats had control of the Senate four years ago, Merrick Garland (President Obama’s nominee) would be on the Supreme Court today, and much of the media would be celebrating the newest liberal justice.

Yes, Virginia, they do play politics with Supreme Court nominations. And no political story is complete without at least a few instances of hypocrisy.
Four years ago, here’s what Crapo said about Obama’s Supreme Court nomination: “The next Supreme Court justice will make decisions that affect every American and shape our nation’s legal landscape for decades. Therefore, the current Supreme Court vacancy should be filled by an individual nominated by the next president of the United States.”

However, that statement tells only part of the story. Crapo opposed Garland from the get-go, saying the nominee didn’t share “Idaho’s values” on gun rights. So, of course, he was going to say that the nomination should be left to the next president – especially since there was a fair chance that Trump would win.

Risch came under fire four years ago for refusing to meet with Garland. Risch figured – correctly so -- that a meeting would be a waste of time since Garland’s nomination didn’t have a snowball’s chance of getting a hearing, winning committee approval and getting to the floor.

Crapo and Risch are frequent targets of liberal opinion writers, basically because they don’t think, act or vote like Democrats. But in Washington’s political zoo, few senators cross party lines on partisan issues (see Trump’s impeachment trial). So, if towing the party line is the definition of a “political hack” – as some opinion writers seem to think -- then we have close to 100 of those sitting in the U.S. Senate.

Crapo and Risch are not blatant about the partisanship, at least with their press statements. Crapo reminds everybody that that the Constitution gives the president the right to make nominations to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate.

As for Risch, he says, “I took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and faithfully discharge the duties of my office, and will weigh nominees to the Supreme Court based on their merits, not on whether there’s an election coming up. Should a nominee come before the full Senate for consideration, I will weigh that individual based on their character, intellect, conservative record and respect for the U.S. Constitution and vote accordingly.”

It shouldn’t take Risch and Crapo more than a minute or two to “weigh” this one.

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

Not much to see here

malloy

If the media’s interest in a candidate’s news conference is any measure, then Paulette Jordan’s chance of defeating Republican Sen. Jim Risch is somewhere between slim and none.

Last week, she held a news conference as the kickoff to her Boise campaign tour, but the big guns in the media world were nowhere to be found. Who can blame them? It’s difficult to pay much attention to a candidate who “launches” anything in Idaho’s largest city within six weeks of an election. And Boise is one of the new pockets in the Gem State that is friendly toward Democrats.

The low energy we see in Idaho campaigns is a stark contrast from battleground states such as Arizona or North Carolina, where control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance and millions of dollars are spent in the process. Voters in those swing states, no doubt, have had their fill of campaign ads.

At least, there’s some election-year excitement happening in other states; Idaho has all the suspense of Russian elections. If history is our guide, then President Trump will carry Idaho by a wide margin – as every Republican candidate has for more than a half a century. Risch will get six more years in office, as have all other Republican Senate candidates over the last 40 years, and the two House seats will remain in Republican hands. In Russia, there’s no mystery. Putin wins!

But credit should go to those who defy the odds, put themselves out there and have the guts to run. These candidates are giving voters a choice, which distinguishes Idaho elections from Russia. Props to Rudy Soto, who is on a statewide tour in his challenge to Rep. Russ Fulcher in the First District, and Aaron Swisher who has an even more daunting challenge against Rep. Mike Simpson in the Second District.

As for Jordan, who ran for governor two years ago, she’s making her second run in a statewide election. The coronavirus has limited her personal appearances, but she has been holding virtual town halls while campaigning aggressively on email and social media platforms. She’d prefer the personal meetings over the virtual ones, but her supporters know who she is and what she represents.

At the moment, she’s going after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans who apparently can’t wait to appoint a conservative jurist to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – the Supreme Court’s liberal icon. A vote on Trump’s nominee could be wrapped up before, or shortly after, the election, and Trump’s nominee might get through even if loses the election. If Idaho’s senators go along with that plan, they’d have wide support from their Republican constituents. But not from Jordan.

“This is exactly why I am running for the U.S. Senate – the age of politicians who put party over people must end,” she said in an email fund-raising letter. “Justice Ginsburg was a forceful advocate of woman’s rights and made equality her life’s long mission. She was a role model for each of us, and carried herself with a profound sense of dignity and justice.”

Risch passed along his condolences for Justice Ginsburg’s passing, while making it clear that he politically disagreed with her on most issues. Conservatives in Idaho may view the timing of her death as an opportunity to replace a liberal judge.

Again, Jordan is offering a choice and making a case for Democratic control of the Senate. But can she win? Risch has dismissed this race as a mere formality – a conservative senator seeking re-election against a liberal Democrat, with an eye toward advancing a socialist agenda.
Jordan says, not so fast.

“This is not over by a long shot,” she says. “(Internal) polls show him severely behind President Trump. His numbers are so far below President Trump’s that he is greatly at risk. So, his overconfidence is greatly misguided … and shows how disconnected he is with the people of Idaho. It is going to be a very rude awakening.”

Or, maybe everything will turn out the way it almost always does in Idaho and we can go back into hibernation after the election.

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

Risch on a Democratic win

malloy

Sen. Jim Risch can talk about politics for about as long as anyone cares to listen, but don’t expect long conversations about his race against his Democratic challenger, former state Rep. Paulette Jordan.

“My race is what it is,” he says. “You have a conservative Republican running in the most conservative state in America versus a liberal Democrat. If people want to change Idaho, it’s simple to cast a vote in this race.”

Memo to Jordan: Don’t expect Risch to answer your challenge to have four debates.

Risch’s mind is more focused on the national scene and, especially, what’s at stake in the Senate if Democrats flip four seats and become the majority party. It would not be a pretty picture for Republicans. For one thing, Risch would lose his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He could still have the president’s ear if Donald Trump wins re-election, but clout vanishes with a Joe Biden victory.

The effects of a Democratic takeover go beyond what would happen to Risch. Democrats have talked about ending the filibuster rule in the Senate, which would mean that laws could pass by a simple majority opposed to two-thirds. The biggest nightmare for Republicans: a Biden victory, Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress and the end of filibusters.

“The first thing they would do is add Washington, D.C., as a state, which gives them two more Democrat senators,” Risch says. “They would try to add Puerto Rico as a state, but I think that’s a heavier lift because of the financial conditions. If they did add Puerto Rico, that would give Democrats two more seats and put the Senate out of reach for Republicans for a long time.”

Adding two more states would be stunningly simple, according to Risch. “I had always thought it would take a constitutional amendment to add a state, but it does not. It takes a winning vote in each house.”

And, of course, there’s the additional leverage on the Supreme Court.

Are you scared out of your wits, Republicans? Are you putting champagne bottles on ice, Democrats? But wait – there’s more. For example, Risch says, say goodbye to the tax cuts from three years ago and hello to more regulations. Dems will get rid of secret ballots un union elections, which Risch describes as the “Holy Grail” of their agenda. Also, look for Dems to push for labor disputes to be decided by arbitrators, opposed to mediators.

“That’s a different country from what we have today,” Risch says.

“The second Holy Grail for Democrats is they really want to get an ad valorem tax on property at the national level. That way, they could really distribute wealth. They could tax not just your income, but your land, your stocks, your bonds, your cash in the bank, real estate holdings and every other investment. They can truly do a redistribution and take it out of the hands of the capitalists. That’s what would happen with a Biden win and a flip of the Senate.”

As Democrats view it, of course, four more years of Trump would be – for starters – more chaos and drama in the White House, more controversial tweets and never-ending clashes with the media.

“He’s a unique person, but he also has been successful,” Risch says. “He took an economy that was in awful shape and to a place that nobody alive has seen – the lowest unemployment, close to record high for African Americans and other minorities. He had a record wage and salary growth, not at the top end, but at the bottom end of the scale. He has the unique sense of understanding about the economy that I haven’t seen in a president, and he has been right.”

Risch, as with other Republicans, will argue that Trump gives the nation a better shot at economic recovery. Don’t expect any personality transformation with four more years of Trump. “He is who he is,” Risch says.

Then, with a smile and slap on the table, he said, “You guys in the media complain about politicians never saying what’s on their mind. Well, they’ve got one now and they hate it.”

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

Don’t forget your Statehouse guns

malloy

Roy Eiguren has been involved with the Idaho Legislature in some form for 50 years and has seen his share of political highs and lows. His personal history goes back to 1970 when he was a Senate page and a young man named C.L. “Butch” Otter was assistant secretary in the Senate.

I’ve known Roy for almost that long, meeting him when I wrote sports for Moscow’s daily newspaper and he was the University of Idaho’s student body president. Roy has spent most of his career as an attorney and lobbyist, and he’s one of the best. He’s known for being calm, congenial and impeccably prepared – ingredients that have gained him trust with a long list of governors and legislators.

Yes, my old friend has seen a lot at the Capitol over those years – but nothing like what he saw during the first day of the recent special session. An angry mob led by a group called People’s Rights forced its way past security guards and into the House gallery, breaking a door in the process.

“The noise from the glass door breaking was deafening. I was shocked by the incivility,” said Rep. Melissa Winthrow, D-Boise, in her recent newsletter. Later in the day, she heard a lot of booing and jeering when she tried to remind the crowd about the importance of safety and civility.

Eiguren agreed that it was a scary situation. “I witnessed individuals coming into a hearing room with firearms. Some appeared to be intoxicated, and some were shouting at the legislators. You could tell that legislators were visibly upset.”

I wasn’t there for the special session, but saw news clips of state troopers storming a committee room and making arrests – which is something I didn’t think I’d ever see.

If mob rule becomes the “new normal” in the Idaho Statehouse, and guns become as common as coats and ties, then there is going to be a shooting at some point. Potential targets could be a legislator making the “wrong” vote, a lobbyist representing an unpopular client, or a reporter writing a story that somebody doesn’t like. Or, maybe the shooter will be someone who simply hates government.

“Statistically speaking, you’d have to think that over a period of time that someone will be shot,” Eiguren says. “With the renovation of the Capitol, we have dramatically expanded the space in which the public can participate. There are a lot more people in the building, with a lot more firearms.”

And, not surprisingly, there were a lot of nervous legislators in the building. Rep. Caroline Troy, R-Genesee, is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment, likes the National Rifle Association and has been around guns for most of her life. But she does not like what she saw at the Statehouse.

“I don’t like seeing the long guns in the Capitol building,” she said. “There are legislators who carry guns. I carry a gun, but this time I didn’t have it in my purse. I had it out on my desk, and I’ve never felt that way before. I’m all for gun rights, but there is a time and place for everything and there’s no place for long guns in the people’s house.”

Eiguren, characteristically, has done some research on the subject. Eleven state capitals across the country allow weapons, and eight of those 11 allow concealed weapons. Idaho is one of three states that allow all types of firearms into the Capitol.

“If you contrast that with other public places in our state, as an example the 44 county courthouses, they all ban firearms,” Eiguren said. “The federal courts and airports ban firearms. So I think we’re going to need to take a pause here and reflect whether it’s an appropriate public policy for firearms to be brought into the Capitol.”

And here we have Idaho, where Statehouse visitors seem to be preparing for a gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Ironically, the mob that stormed into the House gallery didn’t get what they wanted – which was the lifting of Gov. Brad Little’s emergency orders initiated during the coronavirus pandemic. If those orders are still with us in the months ahead, and more anger festers, there’s no telling what we might be seeing in January.

Eiguren is absolutely correct – we need to have a conversation about guns in the Capitol. It would be a shame for lawmakers to wait for a mass shooting before taking action.

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

Risch on collusion

malloy

In the world of toxic partisan politics in Washington, Sen. Jim Risch found an oasis of sorts in the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence – where he is a senior member.

The committee generally has carried on a tradition as a collection of bright minds and deep thinkers who dig into the complexities of national security issues. It’s a group that, for the most part, puts itself above partisan politics. If you walk into a committee room and don’t know the players, chances are you’d never be able to distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats.

That’s the way the committee does its business, and has for as long as Risch has served. But when politics does enter the picture – and it does on rare occasions – then things can get messy. Those high-minded senators who shun partisan politics suddenly turn into your everyday variety of … well … Democrats and Republicans.

Such was the case as the committee wrapped up its investigation of whether President Trump worked with Russia to rig the outcome of the 2016 elections. You’d think that a no-nonsense committee, which spent more than three years investigating and producing a mind-numbing five volumes of information, would come up with some definitive conclusions. The five volumes could have boiled down to this: “We don’t know anything … make up your own minds.” And the politicos have done just that.

Risch voted against final entry, saying the committee should have made a stronger statement. “After more than three years of investigation by this committee, we can now say with no doubt, there was no collusion,” Risch and his Republicans wrote as part of the report. In their view, it should be period – end of story.

“Of course, they couldn’t just say it (no collusion),” he told me. “The language was negotiated between the chairman and the vice chairman, a Republican and a Democrat, and they wanted to come together on something. So, they wrote … and they wrote … and they wrote … but never could say that it (collusion) didn’t happen.”

That’s how Republicans see it. Democrats, from Hilliary Clinton to Joe Biden, presented a different view, saying there is solid proof – with committee Republicans and Democrats signing off with the report -- that Trump and the Russians locked arms to rig the 2016 election.

As committee Democrats wrote, the report “recounts efforts by Trump and his team to obtain dirt on their opponent from operatives acting on behalf of the Russian government.” Democrats claim that Paul Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign, schemed with the Russians and was a high security risk.

Period, end of story, right?

Not so, says Risch. “He was convicted of stuff, but he has not been convicted of this (collusion),” the senator said. “As for him being a security risk, that’s an easy allegation to hurl.”

So, what we have is what Risch described as an “exhaustive investigation” by the Senate Committee – along with special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s equally “exhaustive” investigation, lengthy impeachment proceedings in the House and a trial in the U.S. Senate in which Trump was acquitted. And the only answers we’re getting is from the politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Here’s Risch’s bottom line: “They can’t prove there was collusion, and the reason they can’t prove it is because there is no evidence of it.”

But there is clarity that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his soldiers did some funny things four years ago.

“That’s another issue entirely, and you can write pages about that,” Risch says. “Make no mistake, Putin and his henchmen conducted a calculated and despicable campaign to undermine the 2016 election. There’s concrete evidence of that, and they will try to do it again. They have been doing this for decades, and not just in the United States.”

As for Trump, Risch says, he had nothing to do with it. “If you want to criticize Donald Trump, there’s all kinds of stuff you can talk about. But not this.”
We’ll see on Nov. 3 if voters agree.

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

The role of the SUPI

malloy

Next year’s race for superintendent of public instruction, sarcastically speaking, should be highly entertaining … if key legislators are correct with their analysis.

Forget about any compelling discussions about “vision” and “leadership” for public schools, legislators say, because a superintendent has none of those responsibilities. The function of a superintendent includes serving as a secretary to the State Board of Education, carrying out board policies and having a seat on the Land Board.

It’s mundane stuff, for sure. But Sen. Carl Crabtree of Grangeville and Wendy Horman of Idaho Falls, both members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, say that’s what the Idaho Constitution prescribes. Nothing is stated about a state superintendent being a leader for public schools, let alone managing a state agency with a $40-million budget.

So, as they see it, the unquestioned leader for public schools is State Board President Debbie Critchfield – who sits on a board appointed by the governor – and not Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, an elected constitutional officer.

The pecking order was defined, or reaffirmed, this summer by the high court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Ybarra, contesting the Legislature’s decision during this year’s session to yank 18 full-time IT and data management jobs from Ybarra’s department and transferred those positions to the State Board. Lawmakers also shifted $2.7 million from the education department to the State Board.

Ybarra, feeling “blindsided” by the action, contended that the Legislature usurped her constitutional authority. She filed a lawsuit, hired former Attorney General David Leroy to represent her, and off to the Supreme Court they went. The Legislature, which overall has a dismal track record in the courts, ended up winning this one.

But Leroy says legislators are off base with their interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling. He says the implied constitutional powers, which cannot be taken away by legislative action, remains in place.

“They (the justices) just said that managing this technology group was not one of those strong implied powers. We have a superintendent empowered by the constitution to lead and deal with the public schools, period. Where that interfaces with the State Board of Education, I guess, is to be determined on a case-by-case basis,” Leroy said. “The decision was not a blow to the constitutional base of the office, but it continues the confusion of what the line of demarcation is as far as the public schools are concerned between the superintendent, State Board and the governor’s office.”

And the confusion is running rampant. If Critchfield is in charge of the public schools, then Ybarra is little more than a glorified secretary who sits takes marching orders from the State Board and runs for election every four years. It may take a few more lawsuits to clear everything up, but for now legislators think they are on solid ground with their views – which do not align with Leroy’s.

“Clearly, we have a Supreme Court decision that repeats what the Constitution already says – that the State Board is charged with the general oversight of public education,” says Horman.

Crabtree, while agreeing with Horman, says Idaho’s “business model” for public schools is flawed.

“I don’t blame Sherri for the business structure in Idaho,” says Crabtree. “The problem is that we have an odd business structure – a completely separate politically elected person sitting on an appointed board. It doesn’t make common sense to me, and I don’t think it benefits the kids. If it does, then why aren’t other states stealing our ideas. I think that only one state has this kind of structure. If stealing ideas is a form of flattery, then nobody is doing that.”

Crabtree makes a good point. Changing the business structure won’t be easy, since it involves amending the Constitution, but it’s worth discussing.
When the question is asked about who is in charge of the public schools, it is neither the state superintendent, nor the State Board president. The lead player is the governor, who runs on education platforms and ultimately is judged according to the quality of the public schools.

Since the governor appoints members of the State Board, it only would make sense for him to appoint the state superintendent as well.

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

Insulin users can’t wait

malloy

As a wise fellow once told me, “You turn 70 only once.”

And on that glorious day last month, I shot my age in golf (if you eliminate the last three or four holes). At any rate, what I did that day beat the alternative – and it’s something I don’t take for granted.

I’m one of about 34 million people in the United States with diabetes, a “pandemic” that has been with us long before COVID-19 came along. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve battled through an amputated toe, various levels of blindness and five-way heart bypass surgery 16 years ago. So, considering all of that, turning 70 was a joyous occasion. Today, my heart is strong, my vision is good and I can still play golf. I don’t know if my quality of life is through the grace of God, or dumb luck, but I’ll take it.

A lot of people have helped me get through those dark days, including my wife, family and an army of miracle-working doctors. One of my best “friends,” and one I wish I didn’t have, was insulin. Without it, I would have been dead a long time ago – or left dealing with complications such as a heart attack, a major stroke, kidney failure and more amputations. I certainly wouldn’t be writing these weekly columns, or playing golf.

So, what does all this have to do with politics? That’s like asking what the Seattle Seahawks have to do with professional football. Of the 535 members of Congress, I’d guess there would be near-unanimous agreement that the price of insulin is ridiculously high, and maybe bordering on criminal. The difficulty is finding a political solution.

For me, and under my Medicare plan, a 90-day supply of insulin costs in the range of $700. I can afford it, but so many seniors on fixed incomes can’t – even under Medicare plans. And for those without insurance, the cost of insulin is prohibitive for practical purposes.

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California has introduced the “Affordable Insulin for the COVID-19 Emergency Act,” which gets no awards for fancy bill names, but offers a break to people who desperately need it. During normal times, and especially during this pandemic, so many people are left with the dire choice of buying food or paying for insulin. So, what do they do? People need food to live and millions of people with diabetes need insulin to live.

Waters’ bill, supported by the American Diabetes Association, ensures that insulin-dependent Medicare beneficiaries are able to obtain their prescriptions with no co-payments, no-insurance, deductibles or other cost-sharing for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Don’t count on much Republican support there. Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher says that having taxpayers underwrite the cost for insulin is not realistic. He and some of his GOP colleagues have talked about other solutions – including expanding insurance pools, promoting production of generic drugs to create competition, making reforms to the transferring of technology to other countries, and increasing production at home.

“We need to bring that back to the United States,” says Florida Republican Congressman John Rutherford. “We can’t leave it up to the Chinese communist party to decide how much insulin is going to be available.”

Rutherford and others have hailed President Trump’s executive order that would limit the monthly out-of-pocket costs for insulin to $35 for many seniors and Medicare recipients – which certainly is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, according to Rutherford, Trump’s executive order doesn’t take effect until 2022. And some of the long-range plans supported by Republicans, while laudable, will take some time to implement.

Waters’ bill has flaws, including adding billions more to a deficit that is running out of control. The strength of her bill is that it addresses a human problem that is with us today, and can’t wait another two years to be resolved. At best, her legislation is one of these Democrat bills that can pass the House easily, then get killed by the Republican majority in the Senate – which is the fate of most Democrat-led bills. Republicans have no better luck in the House.

I wish I could give a more optimistic forecast.

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