Idaho legislature: Perennial issues up front

by Judy Ferro

I’ve heard no Idaho legislature really gets to work until the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee presents a budget. Some make it sound like we could send everyone else home for three weeks.

Others point out each committee is now honing possible legislation and deciding whether to have public hearings before bringing bills to the floor.

Whatever, the news coming out of the legislature right now isn’t focused on the major legislation voters will remember at sessions’ end. Instead, some perennial themes are getting media attention.

Infighting between Republican centrists and extremists. Heather Scott’s slur against women in the Idaho legislature added some color to this year’s brouhaha—as did the description of her standing on her desk prying suspicious wires off the ceiling.

Calls for tax cuts. Idaho has the tenth lowest tax rate in the nation—and the potholes to prove it—but that doesn’t stop diehards from asking for massive cuts. Idaho Freedom Foundation put the bar at $200 million—a full $70 million more than the projected surplus. Legislators have talked of $45 million.

Kooky personal bills. This year’s winner for crazy abortion bill calls for criminal charges against every women who has an abortion. I imagine a prosecuting attorney’s nightmare would be arguing a case against a mother of three whose husband was just diagnosed with epilepsy or something equally career-maiming.

Perennial causes. Supporters of Add the Words Idaho earn the longevity award hands down.  The group is initiating its 11th campaign to get legislators to recognize that LGBT individuals deserve the same protections as other Idaho minorities.

The life-or-death award goes to those fighting for Medicaid coverage for the 78,000 Idahoans who don’t currently qualify because they have jobs, but don’t earn enough for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Failure to cover them costs lives, drags down our economy, and costs the state and counties millions of dollars.

Adjournment date. Everyone know that March 24th is the predicted date? That’s can be important to those participating in office pools.

Meanwhile, two unknowns at the Federal level haunt those considering bills yet to be introduced.

One, will a Republican Congress now abolish the Affordable Care Act?

The Republican platform leaves no wiggle room: “To that end, a Republican president, on the first day in office, will use legitimate waiver authority under the law to halt its (ACA’s) advance and then, with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans, will sign its repeal.”

The stage is set, but members of Congress are hearing from thousands of constituents who do not want to lose health care coverage.

Moreover, many counties and states can’t cover the skyrocketing hospital bills for indigent care if 18 million people lose their health insurance. Idaho’s Butch Otter was among nine governors who cautioned Congressional leaders last week about the economic calamities of full repeal.

Complicating matters more, President Trump has recently promised to give everyone better coverage at lower premiums. Republican Congressional leaders have been advocating personal responsibility and free choice, not better coverage.

The second unknown is the future Supreme Court. What difference will Trump’s nominee make? Certainly some legislators are sponsoring bills that clearly violate current interpretations of the Constitution and Federal law. They must be dreaming of appearances on national shows after the Supreme Court decides to decide challenges to “their” law.

Meanwhile, we can hope—and insist—that our legislators work for the best compromise they can under existing law.  If later changes require a special session, so be it

Politics: Note What Republicans Do

                I don’t care about your facts.  I can hate the President if I want.  I hated the last one, and, I’ll probably hate the next one, too.”

                “Obama is such a liar.  You know the hospital in Kenya where he claims he was born wasn’t even built yet?”

                “We don’t need government health care.  People should show some personal responsibility.  Medicare?  That’s different.  I worked for my Medicare.” 

                “My father didn’t vote.  My grandfather didn’t vote.  And you have some NERVE asking me to vote.”

                “Man isn’t causing global warming. Do you have any idea how much pollution is thrown out by volcanoes?”

                “The NRA endorsed the Governor and I listen to the NRA.  I’d die for my guns.”

                “Watch FOX news?  I don’t listen to any news.  I don’t read papers either.  I know to vote Republican without that stuff.”

I’ve heard a lot of scary nonsense working booths and knocking on doors during the last decade, but I’ve kept my faith in the American voter.

When the Republican leadership raged because Obamacare requires everyone to be insured, I trusted voters to realize this was a necessary tradeoff if insurance companies are to cover pre-existing conditions.

When the Republican House voted over 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I trusted voters to realize this was a costly publicity stunt to distract from real problems.

When the Congressional Republicans in five House Committees spent months investigating four American deaths in Benghazi, I trusted most voters knew what the investigation eventually found: early information had been inaccurate, but no one had acted irresponsibly.  I even expected voters to be angry that Republicans had cut funding for embassy security.

And when Republican candidates answered every accusation of incompetence and corruption by calling their opponents Obama liberals, I trusted voters to recognize the diversion—and resent–the insult to their intelligence.

Then came the election of 2014 where voters trickled to the polls to vote to weaken social security, public education, worker’s pay and protections, and the rights of women and minorities.

Some Democratic friends are saying we must work harder, present a vision, and be less negative.  One, however, voiced our fear.  “I thought it was enough that we were at the bottom, but now I don’t think people are going to wake up until the bottom falls out.”

Nothing will change until people see the Republican leadership for what it is.

They don’t want to see good-paying jobs available.

They don’t want to see affordable healthcare.

They don’t want to see a good public roads and bridges.

They don’t want to see America with great schools and teachers.

They don’t even want to stop Hispanics from sneaking across our borders.

And they certainly don’t want Americans free from fear.

How do I know this?

Because of what they do.   They know their policies have brought suffering to Americans, yet they show no interest in examining them, much less changing them.

No, they are pleased with their results and are moving full steam ahead.

If the American people don’t fight now, we’ll see a return of the 1920s—where workers saw wages declining from $5 to $4 then $3 a week while a boss could spend $1800 a month on his mistress; where the workplace death rate was ten times today’s rate; and where air, water, and soil pollution was uncontrolled.

Republicans are tightening their hold on America.  Democrats–their most serious challengers—now control the legislatures of only six states.  Moreover, more and more national Democratic leaders are being co-opted.

We fight now or we fight later—or, like those of ancient Rome, we settle for bread and circuses.

Elections: Republican negatives

by Judy Ferro

“Is the R enough?”

That question—posed by Randy Stapilus in a recent column—is a central one this election year.

Pit a Republican with no real qualifications against a Democrat with a good track record in civic activities and business or education, and the R is often enough.  But what if the Republican has some serious negatives?

This year we have Republican politicians running who have made bad investments with the state’s money, been convicted of domestic violence, overcharged the state for expenses, or failed to pay their bills.

Too many voters shrug it off as though saying, “Yah, he’s a terrible quarterback, but he’s our quarterback.” A recent Stanford survey found that 40% of voters practice extreme loyalty to a party that they disagree with on the issues –like Republicans I know who fight for public schools and a decent minimum wage.

I understand people being loyal to the Broncos or the Vandals; sports are sports.  But to continue supporting politicians who underfund our schools and send our economy to the cellar?  Baffling.

If only voters would regard selecting a candidate as similar to hiring a symphony member.  Pick someone who will contribute a tone and quality all their own, but still work well with others. And don’t choose all brass or percussion—create a balance with all the tension and give-and-take that entails.

Idaho has had politicians like that.  Republicans like Phil Batt, Darrel Bolz, and Jerry Evans and Democrats like Cecil Andrus and Marilyn Howard worked tirelessly with others to make Idaho better.

We get too many Republican candidates who, as one did last week, confidently drag out the “liberal bogeyman” as though it guarantees all the votes needed:  “My opponent is a liberal.” And worse, “If you like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, then vote for my opponent.  If not, vote for me.”

Republicans make the same accusations about one another.  Apparently, if you’re not to the right of 80% of our very conservative state, you qualify as a liberal  The label applies if you want to see our kids in classes of 25 students or less, our public colleges affordable, our roads and bridges safe, our public lands preserved, or our food and water free of toxins.

Such vapid attacks signal a determination to not play well with others.  When, after six years, an Idaho Republican senator still can’t work out a compromise with a fellow Idaho Republican senator, someone is being too stubborn.  And when a Republican Congressman votes against his colleagues in the Republican-controlled House time after time, he does Idaho no good.

Is the R enough?

By and large, it has been for the last 30 years.

Things are different this year.

The Republican state party is so divided that their convention collapsed without adopting a platform or electing its leadership.

Up to $80 million of state money has been lost in bad investments.

The Federal government is withholding $14.5 million in payments for school broadband while the courts decide if the contract favoring a large corporate donor is illegal—a contract which was renewed a year early without legislators being notified.

The $42 million invested in a school data system hasn’t given Idaho a workable system.

The $75 million experiment with a private prison system was a fiasco that is still under investigation.

And lawsuit-happy Republicans continue to waste our tax money on various schemes.

And Mississippians discussing schools or wages can now thank God for Idaho.

Is the R still enough?  In just over three weeks we will know.


Idaho politics: Republicans fight one another

Judy Ferro     [Published in the Idaho Press-Tribune on June 23, 2014]

No one should vote Republican this year.  Okay, maybe if your son or daughter is running, but that’s the only excuse.  I wouldn’t vote for my own brother this year.

I know, when the Republican politicians shoot themselves in the foot. Democrats should stay out of range—but it’s time to warn everyone to keep their distance.

Face it, when people turn against others who agree with them 95% of the time, they don’t understand the basics of leadership in a democracy.   I doubt many delegates to the recent Republican convention have even heard of their party’s Eleventh Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”   There was a 1000-word resolution (at least it seemed that long—it seems to have disappeared from the Internet) calling for Republicans to eject Patti Lodge from the Senate for failing to reside in District 11 during the past three years.  It was defeated—the Republicans did tend to some business—but somebody was willing to hand Democrats that kind of ammunition prior to the general election.

Media reports indicate that the Republican convention fell apart because the uber-conservatives in charge sought to reject establishment conservatives’ delegations from Ada, Bannock and Power counties.

The 245-170 vote against Bannock County’s delegates would indicate that the “tin-foil hats,” as one Ada delegate termed them, outnumbered the real conservatives pretty heavily in the remaining 41 counties.

An article by credentials committee member Brent Regan presents a different view—Ada, Bannock, and Power counties failed to hold legal elections.  One only missed the time period, but a petition from more than 70 Ada County Republicans claimed that the new Ada County chair, Fred Tilman, presented a list of delegates and alternates at the re-org meeting and did not accept any nominations from the floor.  Many of those listed—and elected– were not even in attendance.

Regan doesn’t describe “tin-foil” hats against true conservatives, but supporters of honest elections against Otter cronies.   Of course, Regan is an uber-conservative who serves on the board of the Idaho Freedom Foundation and has spoken at Tea Party conventions, but he presents a good argument that the Otter faction resorted to illegal tactics.

All this is just the preface to the battle of the lawyers.  Rep. Raul Labrador told the convention that the current officers, including chair Barry Peterson, will hold their seats for another two years.  Lawyers for both the Idaho and National Republicans have disagreed and said that Peterson’s term of office ended June 14.  Peterson has countered with an opinion from former attorney general candidate Chris Troupis that claims Peterson is still chairman.

Some Republicans seem to like paying lawyers.

Personally, I’m hoping someone will explain why supposed economic conservatives paid $18,000 to rent the 7,000-seat Kibbie Dome for a convention of 500 delegates.   The money didn’t even go to any of their favorite campaign contributors.  Maybe they figured the vast space would make it possible to “divide and conquer?”  Or did they fear delegates would come to blows in a tighter space?

Last week Randy Stapilus pointed out that Democrats have fielded some very good candidates and campaigns during the last twenty years without breaking the Republican stranglehold on legislative and state offices.  “Idaho Democrats…need to talk about what’s holding them back — what keeps a large segment of Idaho voters from crossing over and giving their stronger candidates a chance… and what’s keeping many prospective voters for Democrats from participating at all…”

I’m glad he didn’t suggest we look to Idaho Republicans as role models.  The Democratic candidates I know would need personality transplants to be that  power hungry and self-centered