Idaho’s legislature doesn’t deserve additional powers 

This year’s legislature has set a new low for legislative conduct. They’ve attacked our schools, held appropriations bills hostage, and taken away voters’ ability to initiate or rescind bills. 

And now they expect voters to approve a Constitutional amendment to give them the power to call a session (SJR102).  

Have they never heard of karma?  

Yes, I’m aware that there’s danger in having one person in charge during an emergency. And I know that legislators in 36 other states can call themselves into session. But this power- hungry and immature legislature has proven itself unfit to handle emergencies.   

This legislature has been terribly inefficient. Members have introduced more bills while passing fewer than the five preceding sessions. Lack of research or communication prior to introducing bills has made dozens of amendments and complete rewrites necessary.   

This legislature doesn’t keep promises. For years, members have said they’d end the sales tax on groceries and do something about the high property taxes as soon as they had the money.  Well, this year they have the money–and the legislature is pushing for a bill primarily to cut income taxes for the richest Idahoans.  

This legislature acts on emotion and rumor rather than fact. Legislators claim to know of cases where students have been subjected to ‘critical race’ and ‘social justice’ theories, but they share no details that would allow fact-checking. The one parent to speak out described experiences at a school in California. Idaho school administrators have said no one has asked what is happening in their districts. 

Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation ranted about a newsletter directed to teachers in an unnamed Meridian middle school, “Colorblindness is a myth…We should see the differences that make our students who they are, and make sure that each person’s experience is celebrated.” It says nothing about indoctrinating students or one race being better than another. 

This legislature refused to take seriously a pandemic which once sickened nearly 2000 Idahoans a day. They fought every effort to slow the disease’s spread and have yet to appropriate funds to pay bills accrued under the Catastrophic Care Act. They are still angry that Idaho citizens passed Medicaid expansion that made treatment possible for thousands of Idahoans. 

Legislators refused to take responsible  precautions against COVID-19 themselves and then expected–and got–full pay for a two-week recess.  

This legislature doesn’t care what voters want. A BSU poll showed that only 10.2 % of voters thought the signature requirements to get initiative and referendums on the ballot was too easy. Yet, over two-thirds of the legislators voted to give Idaho the toughest requirements in the nation. 

And, in spite of Idahoans overwhelming support for education, many legislators continue to attack public schools. Defeating funding for all teachers’ pay over unfounded claims that schools were indoctrinating students was insulting and can only worsen our teacher shortage.  Other bills this session have aimed at leaving teachers out of discussions over wages and working conditions, at allowing school districts to issue “local teaching certificates” to college graduates not qualified under current laws, at giving “scholarships” to students switching from public to private schools, and at fining schools for not having in-person instruction even as the coronavirus continues to strike 200 people a day. 

Legislators claimed there was not time to discuss full-day kindergarten, and then introduced tax cuts that will leave the state again without money. Only seven states have lower tax rates than Idaho; 49 invest more per child in education. 

Now members plan to recess rather than adjourn–and we’re supposed to be grateful they aren’t demanding full salaries for an extra four months.

Published by Judy Ferro

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

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