Our representatives should represent us

Sincere thanks to all of you who turned out for levy elections last week. It’s great to be reminded that most Idahoans want good public schools, but it’s especially heartening this year while public schools are under attack. 

Too many legislators claim that, as members of a republic not a democracy, our representatives are not chosen to do what we want done, but what they know is best for us.  

The majority of us may want everyone to have health insurance, but our legislators believe people who aren’t responsible for their own needs deserve to suffer, even during catastrophes. We may want great public schools that meet every kids’ needs, but they are wary of government indoctrination. And we may want the power of initiative and referendum, but they see dictatorship by the majority as a danger.

Yet, my dictionary defines democracy as “a system of government by…all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.” It regards a republic as a form of democracy, and the people we elect are expected to represent us–like attorneys, real estate agents,and doctors who explain our options and then carry out our decisions.  Or resign.    

The Idaho Constitution supports this view.  “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same whenever they may deem it necessary.” 

It doesn’t say that the people are to be talked down to and corrected; it says the people have the power. This is why current and former attorney generals oppose SB 1110, which would make getting initiatives on the ballot so difficult as to be impossible.  

In 2012 Idaho voters challenged the Luna Laws, which silenced teacher voices and gave the state millions for school technology. Legislators responded by making it harder to get initiatives on the ballot. In the eight years since, we’ve passed one initiative–the one expanding Medicaid coverage. 

Now all but two of our Republican state senators have voted to make it even harder to get an issue before the voters. 

Meanwhile, legislators are working to divert public school funds to private schools, to guarantee charter school building funds cannot be cut when other public school funds are, to do away with collective bargaining, and and to allow schools to award teaching certificates to any college graduate who will work cheap.       

These legislators do not support local control.  The Idaho House has voted that no government entity should be able to rename any building, street, or statue with an historical name unless two-thirds of the legislature approves. It’s voted to void any school levy if the legal description reveals whether this levy is higher or lower than the last one.  And it’s voted to give school boards no say in whether faculty and staff carry guns while in school.  

These Republican legislators are not fiscally responsible. The House has voted to allow all state agencies to hire their own lawyers at costs of three to eight times as much as it would cost working with the Attorney General’s office. The Senate has voted to add $4 million for the legislature to fight lawsuits–they’ll need it for the fight over initiative and referendum bill, among others. And not only are they proposing to spend $5 million annually to oversee $10 million in expenditures through the Strong Students Grant Program/Scholarship Program, they are requesting an additional $30 million to initiate the program. 

Many of our rightwing legislators don’t follow the very principles that identify the Republican party.   

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