Gov. Little promotes compromise

I’ve had a week now to mull over Gov. Brad Little’s State-of-the-State address and the response by Senate Majority Leader Michelle Stennett.  

And I feel better about this year’s legislative session.

For one thing, legislators will have their hands full evaluating the regulations state employees edited and simplified this year. They should have less time to grandstand for extreme right-wing causes.

Of course, the regulations only had to be rewritten because last year legislators failed to review the former ones–still one can hope.   

And I learned three interesting things from Little’s and Stennett’s statements. 

One, our rainy day fund has reached its goal. Little says we must up the goal; Stennett says let’s see just what programs will suffer before we make a two percent across-the-board cut. Previous cuts have handicapped some agencies. 

That sets the stage for compromise. No one can deny that our current growth cycle cannot continue forever. Yet, we need to invest in our infrastructure and future. 

This isn’t a battle between good and evil..  

The goal is to find balance between two goods. 

Two, I was surprised to learn that the new sales tax on out-of-state on-line purchases is bringing in $6 to $7 million each month. 

Idahoans are purchasing over $120,000,000 in goods on-line each month? Imagine if we were inserting that much more into our local economies. I can see I need to make some changes.  

Unfortunately, former legislative majorities have ruled that this new tax money will not go to fund Medicaid Expansion or improve schools or repair roads or bridges.

No, it is designated for tax relief only. 

Nothing screams “Republican” like not trusting the administration or, to some extent, future legislators to make decisions as wise as your own.  

Not that tax relief is bad. Democrats support ending the sales tax on groceries and upping the home-owners exemption from property taxes. Both would help Idahoans across the board rather than favoring the wealthiest among us. 

Now, Little doesn’t want to go so far as to end the sales tax on groceries–that’d cut about $100 million from the budget.  

But he is for using $35 million from the restricted fund to increase the sales tax refund for groceries from $100 to $125.  

That’s not the best deal for large families and those with so little income that they don’t have to file.  Still, it will help a lot of working people.  

That’s a good compromise proposal, and I wish it well.      

Three, I learned that ⅔ of Idaho’s prisoners are in jail because of parole violations. 

At first I thought that was mainly people serving time for deeds that are only offenses for parolees–like having a gun in their car or going across the state border without permission. But such offenses are more likely result in longer probation with closer supervision. 

Many of these prisoners may be in for a second offense as bad or worse than the first. 

Still, it’s an extremely high rate for any state.

Gov. Little proposes a two-step program: over 800 new beds for inmates (500 of them out-of-state) and two programs to help parolees reenter society.  

The Governor earmarked lots of money for “high-risk” parolees and a only a fraction as much for community recovery centers. 

I’d prefer to see the priorities reversed, but, again, we’re seeking a compromise between two goods–and a middle ground will be found.  

Less surprising–but welcome–are the Governor’s proposals to increase education spending, fund Medicaid Expansion, offer new university courses in cybersecurity, and spend $100 million on infrastructure. 

 If the legislature follows through, Idahoans will benefit. 

More than two goal posts in legislative battles

The Idaho legislature serves up an extra dollop of crazy during election years. 

A little crazy is the norm each session.  Something has to fill the time before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee decides on a budget for next year and the spending bills start moving. 

In election years, though, Republicans fearing a challenger want to earn headlines with bills supporting issues that are hot buttons for voters–like gun rights, abortion, and school choice.

Problem is they’ve already passed all the common sense options.  

Take gun laws, for instance.  Just what can legislators do after approving concealed carry for all residents over 18?  Including non-residents can’t be much of a vote getter. Maybe they’ll require dealers to carry large gun magazines–20 rounds, maybe even 50? Or maybe they’ll follow Greenleaf’s lead and require a gun in every household?  

Do expect bills making abortion a felony and transfering more funding from public schools to charters. 

The problem is too many voters think of politics like a football game–two teams try to get to goals at opposite ends.  

In reality, goals are in every direction–and some are in the middle. 

Democrats aren’t out to take your guns away.  Gov. Andrus was a noted hunter and a decade ago a First District  nominee for U.S. Representative had been an NRA member for 20 years. 

The majority of Democrats back what they see as common sense–universal background checks and limits on the size of magazines. 

And we certainly aren’t unhappy that a church’s security guard stopped a shooter. What an insult to our humanity. 

And Democrats are pro-every-child-being-wanted-and-cared-for rather than pro-abortion.  More and better jobs have proven effective at cutting abortion rates; punishment hasn’t. 

Republicans did introduce a bill in the last legislature to allow murder charges against women who get abortions. Abortion restrictions were introduced in the majority of states because President Trump’s two Supreme Court appointments have brought speculation over whether the Court will overturn Roe vs. Wade.  

Idaho already struggles to pay for one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Are we ready to pay care of children whose moms are serving time? 

Why aren’t we willing to put similar sums into making having one more child a more feasible choice for a woman?  

Consider what it would be like if everyone assumed that Republicans were anti-Democratic goals?

Idaho’s highest elected Democratic leader–Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett–posted her goals for the 2020 legislature in blogs in October and December.   

Creating economic opportunities and quality jobs.

Providing better educational opportunities leading to a skilled workforce. 

Protecting clean air and water and public access. 

Maintaining, repairing and replacing roads, bridges. and drinking water and sewage systems.  

Dealing with the shortage of physicians and financial problems of local hospitals.  

Now, Republicans have opposed bills aimed at furthering these goals because they would increase government spending and control.  

Does that mean Democrats have the right to accuse all Republicans of being pro-bridge collapse?  Or pro-low paying jobs? 

Not at all. Many Republicans share Stennett’s goals; they may consider them less of a priority than they are for many Idaho Democrats, but they still recognize them as worth working toward. 

Unfortunately, there are other Democratic goals that many Idaho Republican legislators do disagree with–the rights of the people to have adequate healthcare, to initiate legislation, and to vote in legislative districts created by a bipartisan commission.

And if it does come down to a vote by party, there aren’t enough Democrats in the legislature to protect these rights. 

We can only hope that Republican legislators listen to their voters. 

I won’t hold my breath. 

New Year’s Resolutions for Democrats

2020 will be a deciding year for our country. 

For three years, we’ve watched as decades of progress was reversed–clean air and water rules, endangered species protection, anti-violence laws, workers’ rights, net neutrality, the fight against global warming, etc. 

 The 2020 election will be the most important–and the most rancorous–in recent history. 

So I am suggesting some New Year’s resolutions for progressives.  

The first: Don’t tune out.

It’s easy to say that both sides are at fault. 

Or that nothing you can do will make a difference. 

That’s surrender. The more people who do nothing, the greater the danger to our freedoms. 

Don’t give up on making the world a better place. Be the role model you want for your children and grandchildren.  

The second: Fact check everything–and speak out. 

Very few of us are going to believe that a candidate is trafficking children from a pizza place. Nor will we take serious a Fox news report that the FDA is banning popcorn, frozen pizza, and canned frosting. 

Yet, during the 2016 elections fake news articles were shared on social media at a higher rate than more reputable ones.

Most people know that The Onion posts satire, not news. But after the 2016 elections CBS News listed an additional 20 sites specializing in not-true items including some with such great sounding names as Civic Tribune, Empire Herald, National Report, abc news (a look-alike) and Christian Times.  

And articles claiming to be from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal were found to be fakes. Check companies’ websites to be sure.  

 Three: Don’t go it alone.

Your emails or letters-to-the-editor won’t be enough this year.  

 Winning even a race for state legislature can require contacting 12,000 voters–and advisors like Wellstone recommend contacting each five to seven times. 

Find a team with a clear message that you agree with. The best ones will also have a hard-working candidate, a plan for multiple voter contacts, and a dedication to saving data for the last weeks’ Get-Out-the-Vote drive.

Plan on working with others to visit voters door-to-door and phone them.      

And if you can’t do either–help locate potential donors.  (Envelope stuffing is out-dated. Too many people don’t open them. Postcards put it all right out there for voters.)  

Four: Consider all your options. 

Support a legislative candidate if you can. 

Right now Republicans control more than two-thirds of the Idaho legislature–enough to overcome a gubernatorial veto if they stick together.  And some important issues are sure to come up again–the right to a doable initiative, more restrictions on Medicaid expansion, and attempts to do away with our bipartisan redistricting commission.  

And if the initiatives to increase the minimum wage, legalize medical marijuana, or raise taxes for education pass, the legislature may face more issues that the people support and most Republican legislators do not. 

Plus, working with a legislative team, you get to know the candidate and get a good overview of what a campaign involves. 

If there isn’t a local candidate you can support, you have choices–volunteer for a legislative candidate in a neighboring district, volunteer for a candidate for the U.S. House or Senate, or help a presidential campaign (possibly working in other states.)

Five: Start as soon as possible. 

Idaho’s presidential primary is March 10.  And the filing deadline for Idaho congressional and legislative candidates ends March 13. 

Right now many activists will be working on initiative drives that must end by April 30. Others are recruiting candidates, listening to voters’ major issues, and registering new voters.

Work for the Idaho–and nation–you want in 2021! 

Working on that inner glow

The beauty of Christmas is that even in the coldest of weather, it can glow warmly within us like a log in the fireplace. The wind won’t blow it out, the snow won’t quench it, and darkness only makes it glow more brightly.  Alan Harris ( May you all have a glow within this Christmas. The darkest days of the year are behind us; spring can’t be far.  Meanwhile, those of us who can will huddle indoors, sip a hot drink, and appreciate others who face the cold and dark daily to keep our world running.  

My granddaughter Amanda recently suggested a new practice at our house.  Every night at dinner each person would be asked to mention three things they are thankful for. 

I had to ponder this a bit. It’s one thing to be thankful for three things and another to be thankful for 3 x 365 ones. And just repeating my favorite three wouldn’t set a good example for the 8-year-old in our house. 

Fortunately, before our new custom started,  Amanda made a revision. We were all to say one thing that happened today that we were thankful for. 

What a difference “happened today” makes. 

There’s no longer the pressure to pick something of great importance–like “I’m alive and well” or “I’m a child of God” or “nuclear war didn’t start today.”

And I’m of an age now where many things I am most thankful for are memories.  

I’m thankful I had a husband who loved people and delighted in helping them.

 Once we went fishing down by the Snake River and so many friends and relatives showed up that Bill hardly had time to get a line in the water. He got two boats launched, a dozen poles ready, rebaited hooks for everyone under 8, and coached each kid with a fish on the line.  

And he could not have been happier.   

And just writing that brings others to mind. I remember my Dad once–in work boots and coveralls–twirling his way on tiptoe through a living room filled with practicing ballerinas. And my sister Joy baking cookies for the Hospice worker about to visit because she felt a need to cheer up a lady who spent her days visiting dying people.  

But memories evoke a range of emotions that I doubt Amanda had them in mind when she said “happened today.”   

And–you may not believe this–but some of my days are pretty bland. I’ve already been booed for saying I was glad I got my bathroom cleaned. It was better received when I added that it had been on my to-do list for a week and it was really, really great to get it off. 

So I’ve worked at noticing good things more. Last Wednesday I noticed a couple hundred sheep, standing parallel, as still as mushrooms, all facing the newly risen sun. 

And, right away, I started seeing  cows doing the same thing. Maybe one cow moving, grazing, but all the others just soaking in sunlight.  Have I just gone decades not noticing?

And yesterday I had that wonderful experience of seeing pines 60 feet tall with gleaming snow decorating their limbs and creeks running fast between high banks of snow.  Much of Idaho is truly a Christmas-card world.  

And I’ve gotten to hug and laugh with family members that I don’t get to see nearly often enough.  

I can feel that glow within growing–threatened by problems, yes–but growing.  

May your coming days be filled with hugs and laughter.      

Fulcher misrepresents impeachment issues

I found last week’s guest editorial by U.S.

MSNBC ohoto

Rep. Russ Fulcher about the impeachment of President Trump disturbing.  

It sounded reasonable and knowledgeable.  

Yet, a reader would hardly know that the central question is whether President Trump made gaining political advantage in the 2020 elections a higher priority than extending moral and financial support to a nation that serves as a buffer between Europe and the territorial ambitions of Russia.

 Fulcher dismissed the President’s hold on $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. “It is also important to note that aid was in fact delivered to Ukraine, who gave nothing in return.”

Yes, the aid was released six days after a Washington Post editorial implied that Trump was holding up aid to Ukraine for his own political advantage and two days after members of Congress learned of the whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s “request” for dirt on the Bidens.   

Trump stopped once people knew what he was doing.    

Had Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky felt threatened?

Zelensky scheduled a Sept. 13 interview with CNN, presumably to announce the investigation President Trump was demanding. He canceled it when the aid was released Sept. 11.    

Fulcher also wrote, “Witnesses were pre-interviewed and selected solely by democrats. Nearly all of them were not involved with the phone call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky in July of 2019.” 

The House’s job was to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial in the Senate. In every court such investigations are not required to hear the defense.  

The U.S. House, however, did ask President Trump to testify. Others who refused invitations included Mick Mulvaney, chair of the Office of Budget and Management; John Bolton, former chair of the National Security Council; and and Bolton’s former deputy Charles Kupperman. 

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman of the National Security Council was included in the July 25 phone call. He testified that he believed the President had committed a crime and talked with the NSC lawyer and was told to keep quiet. The call transcript was then treated as classified information. A summary written by the White House was released instead. 

The House hearings, moreover, revealed that U.S. officials had been urging Ukrainians to announce an investigation of the Bidens and Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 U.S. election for six weeks prior to that phone call.  

Fulcher uses careful editing to imply that most of the witnesses “selected solely by democrats” said the President did no wrong. Some said they would not call the President’s actions bribery; others were responding only about the President’s actions during the July 25 phone call.  

Fulcher quotes European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland as saying President Trump told him, “I want no quid pro quo.” 

Sondland’s full testimony, however, makes clear that there not only was a quid pro quo, but that he–along with Energy Secretary Perry, Special Envoy Kurt Volker, and Rudy Giuliani–repeatedly urged Ukrainian officials to go along with the President’s request. 

Originally, Sondland thought the President was only withholding a “working phone call” and an invitation to the White House. When he learned in mid-July that the military aid was blocked, he asked why. He received “no satisfactory answer” but continued pressuring Ukraine to give Trump the investigation he wanted in hopes that would lead to the funds’ release.    

Fulcher’s propaganda piece is an insult to the intelligence of every Idaho voter.

It sets him up as an authority figure dealing with a public too lazy or too dumb to comprehend the issues.