Some days I feel that people fall into two categories: those that work at mitigating problems and those that would rather intensify conflicts. And I suspect that solving problems involves a lot of research and negotiation that escapes attention while conflicts prove more entertaining.
Idaho had its share of problems even without Covid-19–a shortage of teachers, especially in math and science; a high number of young people who don’t continue their education after high school; jails crowded with reoffenders; a high suicide rate; wages too low to cover housing costs; rapidly increasing property taxes; and aging bridges-just to name a few.
Yet, somehow, legislation concerning transgender persons received more time and publicity this past legislative session than efforts to control property taxes or fund infrastructure. Even though Idaho had lost a major court case for not allowing transgender individuals to change their birth certificates, legislators renewed the restrictions. The estimated $2 million in legal fees didn’t deter them.
Now Idaho, having lost its second lawsuit on the issue, is gearing up for appeals.
Idaho’s legal costs in fighting gay marriage ran over $1 million. The cost of fighting an inmate’s sex change operation was over $430,000.
Our legislature–80% Republican–is willing to pay these fees because it animates the party’s base. It’s part of the “guns, gays, and God” trio that drives voters to ignore real problems that continue to grow year after year.
Last fall Caldwell City Council candidate Evangeline Beechler–by nature cheerful, courteous, and concerned about others–cited attracting good-paying jobs and holding listening sessions around the city as her major issues.
Opponents attacked her as a Democrat and, therefore, a threat to our gun rights. They spread word that Beechler–and all Democrats–had a “hidden agenda” menacing to gun owners.
It didn’t matter that Idaho law allows only the state to regulate guns and not even Boise’s Democratic-led city council has challenged that. Nor did it matter that the Idaho Democratic platform calls for limiting gun rights only for convicted domestic abusers and those who don’t pass background checks.
Idaho gun laws are among the most lax in the nation, yet Republicans see a need to attack some regulation each election year. This year they made concealed carry legal for all U.S. citizens here. They will probably reintroduce a bill allowing employees to carry guns on school grounds without informing administrators. But what can they do after that?
As with LGBT regulations and gun rights, Idaho laws have gone as far as the courts allow in limiting abortions. We require state-directed counseling; a waiting period; restrictions on private, AFA and state insurance coverage; parental consent; and no abortions after “viability” unless the patient’s life is endangered. (Idaho has lost cases limiting abortions after 20-weeks in 2013, 2015, and 2020.)
We even have a law stating that if court rulings ever allow it, abortion will be illegal in Idaho.
Yet, abortions occur whether they are legal or not. A 2018 study by the Guttmacher Institute found that in Latin America, where abortion is highly restricted, abortion occurs up to four times as often as in the U.S.
Making abortions illegal will shame, endanger, and, perhaps, jail women who seek them. But increasing access to contraceptives and improving economic conditions will lower the overall number of abortions.
Which route benefits Idaho the most?
By generating fears of extremes evident elsewhere, Idaho Republicans get elected year after year even though they fail to deal with an increasing number of problems affecting the state’s families, workers, schools, and infrastructure.