Do you and your legislator agree? Part 2

There is a major mismatch between Idaho voters and the representatives they elect. 

Okay, that is straight out my last column–but there’s more that needs said. 

You see, Medicaid expansion, voter initiatives, local option taxes, and adequate education funding aren’t the only issues where the majority of legislators disagree with the majority of their constituents.  

A survey by Colorado College for Conservation Voters of Idaho indicates 60 to 80% of Idaho voters want something done about issues our legislators ignore: public lands and climate change.    

Access to some public lands has been blocked by wealthy owners of private lands who have closed decades-old roads. After the 2018 legislature passed some serious penalties for trespassing on private land–a third offense could bring a year in jail and a $10,000 fine–families that had gathered for years on lands no longer accessible don’t want to risk charges; they want it made clear that the unauthorized blockages are illegal. The House Committee on Resources and Conversation voted 8-7 to refuse to accept a bill; the Senate committee accepted one but never voted on it.  

 A search indicates that S1317 is the only bill concerning ‘public lands’ printed by the legislature in 2019 or 2020. That may be an improvement over years when legislators were determined that the state take over Federal public lands that there was no way we could maintain, but is no harm the best we ask for?     

 On climate change Colorado College found that over 70% of those polled want the Governor to have a plan to reduce carbon pollution and nearly 60% would like Idaho to transition to 100% clean energy by 2050. 

In March 2019 a House committee held Idaho’s first official hearing on climate change.  Representatives from Hewlett Packard and the Idaho National Laboratory said that we have ample clean energy resources and it is essential we act.  BSU faculty shared what’s happening to agricultural yields, water supplies, and fire damage.   

Rep. John Vander Woude expressed disappointment that so little was known about how change would impact Idaho.And House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding introduced a concurrent resolution to create an interim committee to study what Idaho needs to be doing.  

The resolution failed. And climate change did not come up in the 2020 session. 

Idaho has no plan to deal with climate change and no committee working on one.  

I don’t know of other polls, but voters frequently mention other issues they feel the current legislature isn’t handling well.

Property tax reductions. Even with a homeowner’s exemption, property taxes now cost more than a month’s income for many, especially with over $200 million of school supplemental levies added to the mix. The Senate passed SB1417, but the House didn’t vote on it.     

Minimum wage. Idaho has a greater percentage of workers earning less than $12 an hour than any other state. Four of the six states bordering Idaho have minimum wages higher than $7.25 an hour. No bill was introduced in 2020.   

Legalized industrial hemp. There are 1500 licensed hemp growers in Oregon, 2300 in Colorado, and 0 in idaho. Idaho and Mississippi are the only two states where hemp with less than 0.3% THC cannot be legally grown, processed, or transported.  SB1345 was passed by the Senate, but the House did not vote on it.

Republicans hold 80% of the seats in the Idaho legislature. They not only control what gets passed but also what gets discussed. One-party government is not good regardless of what party dominates.  

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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