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Posts published in “Schmidt”

Quit griping: get to work

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The favorite pastime of the day seems to be railing against government. Isn’t that what these editorial pages are for? If you can’t find a good word to say about your government, then I think you ought to join it. Of the people, by the people, shall not perish; or maybe you just want to gripe. We are better than gripers; republic up.

For this republic needs our service if it is to prosper. It’s not just your vote in November, it’s your voice we need. You, my fellow citizen, have a valuable voice to offer to our common good. Keep your AR15’s, keep the stockpiles of ammo and rations, but invest in this republic. I still believe in it. Do you?

If you don’t have the temperament for elected office but you care about your community, here’s a way to serve: look through the list Governor Little updates regularly on his website. Below the banner of the beautiful capitol in Boise there’s a heading “Administration”. Click on it and a list pops down that includes “Appointments”. There is a simple description of how you apply, a link to download and print the forms, then a list of all the appointments that are coming up.

I’ll bet you thought these appointments were just handed out to Brad’s old buddies. Not so. His office is making a strong effort to reach out and include all of us in this process so many disparage. Good for him. Better for us if we show up.

Many of the positions require some professional experience and that makes sense. But even the Electrical Board (which will have 5 vacancies in July) has an opening for an at-large member. If you are passionate about electrical codes, here’s your chance.

I’d encourage you to look into the legal responsibilities of each board. You can look up the duties for the Electrical Board in statute (54-1006). Same goes for the Building Code Board; they have a great website and a contact number to call.

It’s a long list of appointments the governor has to work through. Something ought to suit you.

Keep in mind, some of these boards have a “political requirement”, not just a professional one. That means the governor will be looking for a Democrat or a Republican. Why does that matter? In the best of all worlds, it shouldn’t. But there have been many times in the history of this country, and this state, when partisan affiliation was the test applied to governance. Sorry fact, but it’s true.

The Idaho legislature saw such party politics a few decades ago harming our common good and decided to impose in law a balance. So, there may be a legal requirement that a board have three members from the “majority party” and two from the “minority party”. Such a requirement was designed to embrace balance and service to the common good, not promote partisanship. The good old boy system needed a legal thwart. The legislature gave it.

Imagine that, the Idaho legislature embracing balance. Like I said, it was a while ago. But I respect the concept of balance. I doubt todays legislature would see such wisdom. Partisan affiliation has become the test before service to the common good. We need to show up folks.

I encourage all citizens to participate in this process of governance. Lincoln’s phrase, “of the people, by the people, for the people” was not in any founding document. In fact, he might have plagiarized it from a sermon by Theodore Parker. I don’t really care; it is an ideal I can embrace. I would hope you can too. Quit griping; get to work. Our republic may perish.
 

New rules

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Darrell had finally gotten his small office just the way he wanted it. When he’d been hired last year as the Coordinator for the Liaison and Edification of Administrative Rules (CLEAR) he’d had a thorough introduction to the state health insurance from HR but hadn’t been told his office would be next to the hot water pumping station in the basement of the Hall of Mirrors. But the work was rewarding. He had spent all summer preparing for legislative review of new rules.

And the first three weeks of the legislative session were busy but it seemed he had prepared well and the rules review went without much drama. Legislators always had good questions. They had insisted their review of rules was important and even got it into the Idaho Constitution. But when the session ended and all those new rules had been dropped by the legislature, he was kind of scratching his head.

“Hello, Dennis?” He called his old boss. “What are we going to do now?”

“Heh, heh.” Dennis chuckled. “Start from scratch.”

“You mean rewrite all the rules?”

“You’ll have to. All rules, not just the new ones they reviewed this session, expire on the first of July unless renewed by the legislature and they didn’t renew them. Start over. Should be fun. I gotta go. If I birdie this I’m three up. Click.”

Darrel called the Governor’s office. “Oh, Darrell, I was looking for your number, thanks so much for calling.” Linda was always so cheerful. “We are having a meeting this afternoon and you need to be there.”

“Sure. What should I bring?”

“Well, bring your thinking cap and a smile would be good.”

Darrell looked up at the top shelf of his small neat office. Four feet of binders held the 8000 pages of fine print of administrative rules. When the legislature passes a law, the details of just how to follow the law are written up into rules and these rules hold the effect of law. They started on the left with the Accountancy Board and ran south to the Wheat Commission. By the dust on the binders he knew they weren’t up to date. The real rules lived in the cloud, on servers, who knows where.

The meeting was called to order and introductions were made. Darrell was after the Commissioner on Commissions and before the Director of the Department of Redundancy Department. Darrell had some ideas right away.

Alex, the Chief of Staff, spoke boldly. “I know this is a surprise, but the Governor and I look at this as an opportunity. He has been wanting to reduce rules since he signed his second executive order.”

“You mean the one that told us to cut two rules for every new one?” asked the Logic Department Director. “If we follow that order we’ll end up with a negative number.” He smiled at his logic.

“Those legislators wanted complete control of the administrative rules, and then they go and do this.” Hissed the Chairman on Consistency.

“Now don’t go complaining. This is an opportunity!” exclaimed Alex again with a grin. “We can start over! Our governor wants government streamlined and made more efficient and the legislature has given us this gift.”

“I’ll have my secretary just paste in the old rules with a different font.” Offered the Chairman of Furniture.

“I was planning on a smaller font so there were less pages. Are we counting pages or words?” asked the Director of Measures.

“Can we combine two rules into one? Will that work?” the Director of Efficiency was eager.

“It all seems pretty silly to me.” Offered the Commissioner on Common Sense.

The room got quiet except for some murmuring between the Finance Director and the Human Resources Commissioner. Darrell thought he should add his part. “Well, you all need to know that the legislature is required to review all new rules. And since all the rules will be new next session, I think they will be too busy to do much else. It could take them months.”

Alex grinned. Governor Little walked in and smiled to the room. “We settled?”
 

Blanche and Dennis

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Blanche had the dinner done for the “boys” as she called them. She checked for the ingredients for tomorrows dinner and said good bye to the hashers who would do the dishes and clean up. “Make sure you get that grill clean tonight. I’m doing pancakes in the morning.”

“Yes Blanche,” they said in unison.

She didn’t figure she had time to go out to Walmart and get home to make dinner for Dennis, her 10-year-old grandson, so she stopped at Askers in her small town. The 20-minute drive was twilight in this early spring evening.
She shuffled her groceries to the checkout where Randy, the owner greeted her. “How you doing Blanche?”

“My feet and my back hurt.”

“You still cooking for that fraternity?” He started ringing up the items.

“Yeah. On my feet all day and bending wears me out.”

“I know where you could get some hydros. They’re all over this town.”

Blanche stared at Randy. “I ain’t that bad.”

“Oh, I’m not selling any, just saying.”

“That stuff is how Melanie got started.”

“How is your daughter? You still got her boy?”

“She’s OK; maybe out this summer. Yeah, Dennis is with me. I gotta go make him dinner and check his homework.”

“You hear the governor has a plan for that opioid problem? I read he’s going to make an order about it.”

Blanche looked off. “That’s the second time today somebody’s told me he was going to solve our problems.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, I guess he was here to talk to the fraternity boys about staying here in Idaho. They ate it up.”

“Well, they gotta make a living. How’s little Dennis doing?”

“He’s a good kid. But Melanie was too at that age. I don’t know where things changed.”

“She did have him young, didn’t she?”

“Sixteen. I had her when I was fifteen. Wasn’t no big deal back then.”

He had the items bagged and totaled. Blanche was looking in her purse for her cash. She put the twenty on the counter. “It’s $23.46 Blanche. Did you want credit?” She looked deeper: a five and four ones would have to get her through the week. Good thing she had gas.

“No credit. That’s as bad as those pills. Here you go.”

Randy rang it up. “You know Blanche, you’re a hard-working woman. I’m sure the governor’s plan will help out Melanie.”

“What she really needs is a good job.” Blanche looked Randy in the eye. “You hiring?”

Randy looked down and closed the cash drawer, putting the coins on the counter. He paused a while and glanced at Blanche. “I don’t know Blanche. I really have to be able to trust the folks I hire.”

Blanche sighed deep.

Randy perked up. “Maybe that governor’s plan can help Melanie with treatment and counseling, since we expanded that Medicare.”

Blanche grinned. “You sure know your politics. How do you find the time?”
“It’s not busy in the day much here. I read the papers and then fold them back up.” He grinned.

Blanche tried again. “You get a good worker in here and you could buy one and do the crossword.”

“I’ll think about it. I can’t pay much either, just so you know.”

Blanche took her bag and waved and smiled as she left.

Dennis had the house clean and had finished his homework. After their dinner Blanche checked it and his spelling was getting better.

“Hey Dennis, do you know who is the governor of Idaho?” Blanche asked the fifth-grader.

“What’s a governor?”

“Oh, he’s the boss of the state.”

Dennis frowned and looked down. “So, he’s the man who made mommy stay away?”

Blanche looked down, sorry she’d tried something new. “No, Dennis, your mom broke the law and she has to pay for her mistake.”

Dennis had heard this before. “Who is the governor?”

Blanche blushed. “I don’t know his name, but he’s supposed to help us out. Good bosses do that.”
 

Fighting false memes

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When a junior high classmate was a fool, we usually ignored him. When he said foolish things, we usually dismissed his statements. But when he spread falsehoods, we knew it was the right thing to do to call a lie a lie.

There has been a repeated meme coming from Idaho legislative Republicans that “the voters didn’t know what they were voting for” when they approved Prop 2 Medicaid Expansion, last November. I can’t speak for every voter’s knowledge, but I collected a lot of petition signatures. When I spoke to registered voters, asking for their signatures on the petitions to qualify for the ballot, in the cold, in the snow, in the sun and in the wind; when I asked them in Clearwater, in Idaho in Nez Perce, Kootenai and Latah Counties, I found most were already informed about the issue and had decided already whether to sign the petition or not. Many came across the parking lot to sign. Some shook their heads and waved me off, already opposed.

I worked with Reclaim Idaho to both draft the initiative and inform their volunteers. When talking with voters, you better be informed and accurate because you don’t want just their signature, you need their trust. False claims destroy trust; or they should. Further, the fastest way to burn out trusted, informed volunteers is asking them to misrepresent something. Trust is built from the ground up.
As to whether the volunteers were informed or just biased advocates, I would stand any Reclaim volunteer up against any Idaho Republican legislator on a Jeopardy about Idaho Medicaid Expansion Facts:
“Alex, I’ll take Eligibility for 200.”

So, the idea that Reclaim Idaho hornswoggled Idaho voters with falsehoods or misrepresentations is a lie. Legislators might be thinking of the other initiative on the ballot that used mostly paid signature gatherers and the voters clearly saw through. Or they might be confused.

Another false meme being spread by butt-hurt legislative Republicans is that “the costs are unknown”. Sorry, the costs are in the federal law: Idaho will pay 10% of the total costs. Of course, If Idaho would have enrolled in 2016, the costs would have been 0%, ramping up to the full 10% in 2020. So, by delaying this expansion, fiscally conservative Idaho Republican legislators have made Idaho buy in at the highest price. Doing this six years ago would have saved Idaho taxpayers hundreds of millions. It is true, we don’t know what the full enrollment numbers will be. We have good estimates. But the cost will be 10% state, 90% Federal.

Next, the Republican legislators have their shorts in a twist about how the initiative did not designate where the funds would come from. Of course not; that’s the legislature’s job to figure out the budget.

May I point out that the “Sideboards” bill the can’t-sit-down Republican legislators passed did not designate where its funding would come from either? Further, the “fiscal note” on the “Sideboards” bill was a joke, a sham, an insult to any serious budget planner, and the state employs a few good ones. But the butt-stung Republicans sure voted for that one, didn’t they?

When we confronted the junior high fool with his lies, the untruths might have continued to spread. We humans are so susceptible to the contagion of untruth. But the confrontation was not just to stop the spread, but to change future behavior. Maybe the fool would learn to be more careful with the truth in the future.
 

Talking about Brad

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It was a rushed lunch since all the fraternities had gotten together, but Skip wanted to grab a sandwich before O-chem at 1:30. “You got any turkey?” he asked Blanche, the cook.

“They’re all labeled out there, just look.” She didn’t roll her eyes.
Skip got one with the white meat and dropped his satchel to eat.

Scooter high-fived him with a “Haaayy” and grabbed a pink meat sandwich. “I love Blanche’s ham sandwiches.” And he plopped down next to Skip.

“So, isn’t that cool that the governor was a Phi Delt?” Scooter started.

“Yeah, but he’s a Republican.”

“What difference does that make? He’s a bro!” Another high five.

“At least he wants to make Idaho a place we want to come back to.” Skip offered.

“Yeah, and I heard he defended us from the initiative attack.”

“Huh?” Skip asked through a mouthful of white bread.

“Yeah, didn’t you know? All those Californians wanted to make Idaho pass initiatives and he fought that off.”

Skip swallowed. “I heard he vetoed the bill about initiatives.”

“Yeah!” Scooter did another high five. “Our man! Phi Delt!”

Blanche came out. “You guys take another sandwich. They going to waste.”

Scooter grabbed another and said, “And he said he really wants Idaho to be a place for us to work and raise our families. Ain’t that cool?”

“Sure,” Skip agreed. He looked at the pile of sandwiches. “I just wonder if I can make a living here in Idaho.”

“Hey,” Scooter frowned. “Just get a job from the old man. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Skip paused. Scooter had never really learned much about his bro’s; Skip decided to tell him.

“Scooter, my dad is dead. My mom is a school teacher and I want to get into med school. Idaho has the lowest pay for doctors in the country and the hardest acceptance rate to med school.”

Scooter looked down. “Sorry man. That’s tough. My old man has a ranch, so that’s what I’ll be doing.”

Blanche brought over two paper plates of sandwiches. “You boys take these.”

“Thanks Blanche.” Skip offered. “Did you get to hear the Governor?”
She looked puzzled.

“He came to talk to all of us this morning. He told us how he wants to make this state a place where we can raise our kids. Yeah, Brad Little was a Phi Delt!” Fist bump.

Blanche looked down. “I was cooking for you all.”

Skip asked, “Where are your kids Blanche? Are they still in Idaho?”

She looked at him hard, then she looked at Scooter. “Yeah, you Phi Delts are the ticket.” And she turned away.

As she ambled back to the kitchen, Scooter murmured to Skip, “Hey man, don’t ask her about her kids.”

“Why not?” Skip was blushing.

“Well, I’ve heard she’s raising her grandkids. Something about her daughter in prison or something.”

Skip looked down. Scooter grabbed his bag. “Gotta go, Poly Sci at 1:30.” He took his sandwiches and left.

Skip picked up his satchel and went into the kitchen. Blanche was leaning over the sink. He put his hand on her shoulder. “Blanche, I’m sorry.”

She let the water run over her hands and the pot she was washing for a while then she turned to the young man. “You don’t got nothing to be sorry for.”

“I’m sorry if my question caused you any pain.”

Blanche looked at the young man a long time. “It’s OK.” She smiled. “Sure was nice you all got to hear from our governor.”

Skip thought about what he’d heard. The governor so full of confidence and advice for the young fraternity and sorority members, about coming back to Idaho and making the state better. It had felt inspirational.
“I believe he wants to make this state better.”

Blanche looked down. “I just want my family to be better.” And she turned back to the pots in the sink.
 

Entitlement

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NOTE: Governor Little has signed into law the Medicaid legislation referenced here.

I can understand legislative Republicans need to put sideboards on Medicaid Expansion. Since many government programs have become labeled “entitlements” we see them differently than if they were earned. I can understand legislative Republicans trying to fight people receiving a public benefit feeling entitled when others pay for it.

Many years back, I remember hearing two locals in a bar talking in the fall in central Idaho. One turned to the other, “You got your elk?”. He nodded, “You get yours?” My stomach was turning. Those animals they harvested were not theirs. Neither of these men were entitled to an elk. They should have been thankful to the Almighty for the harvest, but their words, their attitude conveyed that they felt entitled to “their elk”.

I was accepted to two colleges, one private and one state in my senior high school year. It turned out with the scholarships the private school ended up costing my family less, so I chose it. That was a big mistake. Because, for the next four years I spent time with a lot of classmates who felt very entitled to their enrollment, their opportunities, and the future they anticipated. I came to hate rich people, a prejudice I still struggle with.

Entitlement in the healthcare field can be brutal. Doctors can feel entitled to respect and income from their lofty positions; some patients feel entitled to a life free from pain and some consider they are entitled to a life beyond the natural course. We are only entitled to the grace of this life we have been given; every day we should give humble thanks.

Getting elected to represent our constituents can also give one a sense of entitlement. Indeed, the law and the process empower the elected official with the legal power to vote for laws that will constrain all of us. We are a nation of laws. Such is the nature of this republic. But I look for humility in the public servants I vote for. Maybe you don’t; humility doesn’t win a lot of votes.

I have considered all this as I watch the Idaho legislature struggle with Medicaid expansion, Proposition 2, the initiative Idaho voters approved by a substantial margin in November. It was an issue the legislature avoided for six years. But Idaho voters endorsed the plan to enroll people who could not access health insurance in the most cost-effective way. But the legislature has decided they know best and have proposed a new and different plan.

It now awaits the governor’s signature.

I appreciate the Idaho Republican legislator’s intent. But they have crafted the wrong solution.

Governor Little should veto this legislation. The reasons are clear.

First, it will keep more people in poverty. Evidence from other states clearly shows this. People with health insurance are more likely to look for work and stay at work than those without.

Second, it will grow government and add cost to Idaho taxpayers. Chasing down deadbeats from Boise is more expensive than looking them in the eye in our own communities and letting them know we expect more. Don’t think a government program like “Work Requirements” can absolve us from our own civic duty.

Third, there are no supports, “springboards” as Governor Little has described them, in the legislation. People might need help to get back to work, to climb out of the hole they are in. The help is out here; this legislation has no connection to these supports. It’s just a stick; no carrot.

Finally, I could point to the convoluted process this legislation has taken; more time, more effort could produce a better result.

The bill was introduced in a Senate committee, substantially changed through amendments on the floor of the Senate, then changed again on the floor of the House. It comes back to the Senate committee who did not support the amendments but the full Senate did, only because the House was holding a hostage bill: Medicaid funding.

I appreciate the intent. Nobody deserves to be entitled. Not even the Idaho legislature.
 

Keeping it neat

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The Idaho legislature has a tradition of protecting funding sources. Sometimes this is done in statute; an agency gets funding from a specific fee. For instance, Idaho Fish and Game is funded through designated Federal tax sources and the fees they charge and collect. This makes it a “Dedicated Fund” agency. F&G does not get money from the Idaho General Fund.

Traditionally, highway funding in Idaho has been in this category. The old-fashioned thinking was that revenue for road maintenance was supposed to come from state gas tax and vehicle registration fees, along with Federal gas tax revenue. This aligned with the principle that highways should be funded like a “user fee”; the folks who use roads should pay the costs. There is nothing in the Constitution requiring this, it has just been tradition.

Highway funding is and will be a big cost. The annual budget totals about $1B, 60% from state sources, 40% from federal gas tax. Compare that to a total Law and Justice (courts, prisons, parole etc.) of $500M. Still, it’s only a third of the Education or Health and Welfare totals, almost $3B each. But it’s big.

There has been a creeping erosion of the “user fee” tradition ever since the gas tax bill of 2015. Raising the gas tax 7 cents a gallon stuck in the craw of many (especially House leadership) and the back-door compromise was a late session bill that directed that any budget “surplus” would be split between the rainy-day funds and the highway department. This was called the “Surplus Eliminator”. Thanks to steady economic growth and conservative revenue estimates, Idaho has been running a $100M budget surpluses for 6 years now. The reserve funds now hold over $500M. It has a statutory cap at 10% of the annual general fund expenses.

The compromise of the Surplus Eliminator had a sunset, saying it would only last for a couple years. This made it more acceptable to budget hawks, who abhorred giving any general fund money to highways. This sunset was extended in 2017 and more money was siphoned from the general fund to pay for highways.

So, is the old-fashioned way of thinking about “user fee” highway funding dying? Was it worth keeping anyway? Why not just throw all the money in one big bucket and spend until it’s gone? Here’s why: stability and planning for uncertainty.

Tax revenues will fluctuate just as our economy does. It took Idaho less than 12 months to burn through $250M in reserves in 2009. Don’t forget the painful cuts to public education, Health and Welfare that had to be done in those years. Some say we have still not fully recovered from those public education cuts. When the next downturn hits, our current reserves will go just as fast.

But more, think of it as responsible budgeting. If roads need more money, who should pay: drivers or all taxpayers? And can we trust our legislature (remember, they could all be replaced every two years), to keep their eye on Idaho’s long-term economic strength? Or will they just react to the crisis at hand?

Another question begs answering: what is the function of reserve funds and just how big should they be? It gives me no comfort to know 58% of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. Most families couldn’t replace a blown transmission without a loan.

If you haven’t learned this about me yet, I’m a fiscal conservative, and I value having some reserves. Is 10% of annual expenditures the right number? We should have a solid goal and aim for it instead of siphoning it off to pay for road maintenance. The budget should be a clear statement of our values. Using the “surplus eliminator” for road maintenance is a messy, indirect, maybe even dishonest process that lets legislators skip the difficult process of expressing their values.

The Idaho legislature is slowly going the way of the US Congress; they’ve given up on budgets. Expect more from our state representatives. Keep highway funding neat.
 

Hostages and the Bedke Rule

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The primary function of the Idaho legislature is to set the annual budget. Our dear representatives love to wax eloquent on policy issues, and that is well within their function. But this year the Idaho voters spoke up on a policy issue the legislature has avoided for six years, Medicaid Expansion, and the Idaho House of Representatives is holding the Idaho voters hostage, refusing to address the budget for what is now Idaho law.

Six budget bills were passed by the Idaho Senate weeks ago that funded Medicaid Expansion. For weeks now, House leadership has refused to bring them up for a vote. Instead they have passed a “sideboards” bill, sending it to the Senate despite overwhelming testimony in opposition. And realize, this “sideboards bill” will cost Idaho taxpayers millions more than the simple Medicaid Expansion bills sitting on the House calendar.

Further, House Republicans signaled to the Senate they wanted the “Gag the Voters” initiative-killing bill (SB1159) sent over so they can approve it. House Republicans are puckered up on the lemonade they are making from what they see as a real lemon; the voter passed Medicaid Expansion Initiative.

House Speaker Scott Bedke got hurt real bad in 2013, his first year as the leader, when he let the House vote on a state health insurance exchange. He thought he had the majority of his caucus in support, but two Republican House members switched their votes at the last minute and the only way the exchange bill passed the House was thanks to strong Democratic support. He has vowed to never let such a thing happen again. The only way a tough bill comes to the floor of the Idaho House is with Speaker Bedke’s approval and he will only allow such a vote if he knows he has the majority of his caucus on board. That’s the “Bedke Rule” and it sucks.

By holding the Medicaid Funding bills hostage Speaker Bedke is giving the already supermajority House Republicans (56) total power over the body. He is negating the votes of the super minority House Democrats (14). Bedke is letting partisan politics trump the will of the people and holding them hostage.

I understand the Idaho Republican Party feels stung by the people’s initiative. They took a strong official stance against Proposition Two, even though many of their fellow Republicans, including former Governor Otter endorsed and voted for it. It makes partisan sense for them to now remove the people’s power of the initiative as they are doing with the “Voter Gag” initiative killing bill SB1159. But if they were being honest they would just work to repeal the Constitutional power of the initiative, not make it impossible through a law.

The Idaho legislature has been on a power grab for years now. The recent Constitutional Amendment to enshrine administrative rules review took two tries and some substantial Farm Bureau funding to pass the second time. This was the legislature puffing its chest against the executive branch.

But now they want to exert their power over the people. It’s not the first time. Every time voters have passed an initiative the Republican-led legislature has voted to make the initiative process further from the reach of the voters. In 1997, after the term limits initiative the legislature raised the bar. That was declared unconstitutional, so they quietly repealed the statute. But when the LUNA Laws were repealed by referendum, the Republican legislature reinstated the higher bar requirements, essentially ignoring the judicial branch. Now they want the initiative process beyond reach, securing their power in what is constitutionally designed to be a balanced system.

Speaker Bedke’s refusal to vote on the appropriations bills sitting on his calendar for the last two weeks is further bullying of the public he and his fellow Republican legislators are sworn to serve. This is not leadership, it is tyranny. Good people must resist when they see tyranny, especially in those they elect.
 

The sham of testimony

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We elect our representatives. They are our voice in making the laws that govern us. Why do they need our input except at the ballot box every two years? What purpose does this public testimony on proposed legislation serve? If we do not have the backbone to hold them to account come election, then why should they listen in their deliberations?

It was almost relieving to see ten-term, 20-year State Senator Lodge acknowledge this last week. As Chairman of the Senate State Affairs committee she had a roomful of people who had come from far and wide to speak on SB 1159, changes to the Idaho initiative process. She let the three who wanted to speak in favor and then four of the 100+ who were opposed speak, then wanted to call for a vote. In her defense she said, “All the rest are opposed.” So, it’s like she knew what the committee was going to hear and didn’t see the purpose. After all, they are our elected representatives. Let them get on with it.

There was another time I have seen such an overt sham of public testimony.

In my first term in the State Senate, 2011 Tom Luna, newly reelected Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction proposed his LUNA Laws. He had not mentioned them on the stump, campaigning just months before. But here he had a new legislature and what he considered to be a mandate, so he proposed his new laws; funding technology over teachers in the classroom. Public testimony ran for days, 95/5 opposed. But the laws passed. Then came the referenda and the laws were repealed at the next state-wide election 2 years later by an overwhelming 70/30 vote.

But here’s the thing: every legislator who voted for those laws was reelected.

Figure it out voters. I applaud that you might use the referendum process to rebuke your legislators for passing stupid laws. I acknowledge your wisdom when you want to initiate action like Medicaid Expansion because your elected legislators have ignored a problem with an easy fix. But I am amazed at the insanity of reelecting the same people to represent us, when we disagree with their decisions. Shame on us.

Idaho’s citizen Legislators, one Senator and two Representatives each serve districts of approximately 40,000 people. It is estimated that people can only closely know approximately 150 people. That means, for each of us to know our representatives in the legislature well, we have to make a big effort; have a cup of coffee, go to a town hall, make time for a meeting, or read their newsletters.

When I was in the Senate I sent out a weekly newsletter that approximately 1500 people read. If they were all talking to 150 different people, I would have been reelected easily. But I came to believe all these people knew and talked to each other. We are talking to the people who agree with us. Can we change this?

Who are these elected officials who represent us talking to? Where are they getting input? First, I would hope it’s from the elected officials in their district: the county commissioners, the city councilors, the highway district commissioners, the school board members.

Can this be dismissed to partisan affiliation? If so, we all should be questioning that insanity. But it may be true. I have heard a legislator say he met with his party central committee before each legislative session to consider legislation. Welcome to the echo chamber.

Don’t expect your passionate testimony to persuade the citizen legislators you have elected. It may be heartfelt and in fact, it may represent the sentiments of many of your fellow voters. But it is much more powerful to elect people who actually do represent your values. Share your values.