Idaho legislature: Bad moves outshine good ones

by Judy Ferro

“I’m not convinced that anyone dies of the cold. I’ve known people who die in perfectly warm rooms.”

Okay, that’s not what Gov. Otter said, but it makes about as much sense. The Governor isn’t sure that people die because they lack insurance because people with insurance die all the time. That’s the logic skills that keeps Idaho on the losing end of lawsuits.

But the reaction of House speaker Scott Bedke (R) was no better. He sneered at the testimony of dozens of Idahoans. “Hyperbole and horror stories, while they’re useful to a point, I think that the House has heard those.”

Both men followed their harsh statements with assurances that legislators care immensely and are going to put great effort into studying the problem more.

It’s called covering your rear—act for those against while calling for the support of those being shafted.

And, deserved or not, those two statements—since broadcast across the nation—have branded the 2016 Idaho legislature as one where the unwise prevailed.

The legislature did accomplish enough to irritate the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

A 7.4% increase brought k-12 education funding almost up to the 2009 level—which would be great except Idaho schools have added over 1000 classrooms in the last seven years. New laws provide for literacy programs for those behind in reading, for year two of the teacher career ladder, and for support staff in the schools.

Idahoans will also benefit from reform of the public defense system, expanded workman’s compensation coverage for firefighters, suicide prevention measures, and merit pay increases for state employees.

In a newsletter summarizing this year’s legislative actions, Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett pointed out that several new laws benefit women. Protection from stalking is no longer limited to those in domestic relationships, and rape kits must be processed. In addition, a Women’s History Month may encourage more women to participate in the state’s boards and commissions.

But Senator Stennett also points out bad moves by this year’s legislature.

“-S1339 promotes the interests of a single oil and gas exploration firm over the rights of private property owners.

“-H487 inserts non-compete clauses into employment contracts to the detriment of entrepreneurs and start-ups and sends our best and brightest to seek employment elsewhere.

“-S1342 promotes using the Bible in public school lessons and passed only after language was inserted to include other religious texts…

“-S1196, which would add the words sexual orientation and gender identity to Idaho’s existing human rights protections, was refused a public hearing.

“-H463 not only hurts working folks, it undermines local control by forbidding communities from enacting minimum wage laws…The majority refused to even grant a hearing for H400 [which] would incrementally raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.25/hour by mid-2017.

“-H431 changes the indexing used calculate property taxes and shifts the tax burden onto families although businesses and agricultural interests will likely see a benefit.”

In short, the legislature attacked private property rights, free market competition, the Idaho Constitution’s ban on religion in schools, equal rights for citizens, local control, and a living wage. Plus, members okayed increased property taxes for the middle class.

Legislators from Idaho’s majority party may not have rejected the entire Republican platform, but they definitely blew holes in it.

What should haunt Idahoans, however, is that legislators turned their back on the sanctity of life. They learned that approximately one Idahoan a day dies for lack of health insurance, and yet did nothing.

May we all remember in November.

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