Legislative watchers were treated to some rare entertainment recently when ultra conservative legislators tried to blast a Democratic-sponsored resolution out of the House Ways & Means Committee.
Just what motivated an ultra conservative pair—Ron Nate and Heather Scott—to fight for a Democratic proposal?
House Resolution 1, sponsored by Boise Democrat Ilana Rubel, would require that any bill sponsored by five Republicans and five Democrats be guaranteed a hearing and a recorded vote in committee.
One would like to think that all bills with significant bi-partisan support are heard. Not so. Currently a proposal to end the sales tax on groceries has 48 sponsors—nearly half of the legislature– but Gary Collins, chair of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, won’t authorize printing. Collins says he supports ending the tax, but the time isn’t right.
It was no surprise that House members voted not to consider Rubel’s resolution—no attempt to by-pass a committee chair has succeeded in decades.
The surprise was that nine out of the 11 House Democrats voted against it. The few quoted by reporters praised Rubel’s proposal, but not the process. They were clearly reluctant to vote with far right representatives against Republican moderates they work with daily.
In explaining his vote, Minority Leader Mat Erpelding said the resolution wouldn’t have helped 10 Democratic bills currently held in Ways & Means because none would attract five Republican sponsors.
Imagine. Bills so “Democrat” that not even five of our 88 Republican legislators would support them. Could they be the same ten bills blocked in Ways and Means that Marty Trillhaase of the Lewiston–Tribune wrote of Feb. 14? None has advanced.
Two were proposed by Erpelding. HB 72 proposes increasing Idaho’s minimum wage to $12 by 2019. HB 69 would add the words “sexual discrimination and gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act.
John McCrostie’s proposals would outlaw attempts at forced “conversion” of gays and remove the ban against gay marriage ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Melissa Wintrow’s would have Idaho endorse the Equal Rights Amendment again and ban discussion of wage history from job interviews.
Do all Idaho Republican legislators oppose good wages and rights for gays, women, and workers?
Rubel, who once studied at Harvard under Elizabeth Warren, has three measures besides the ill-fated House Resolution 1 stuck in Ways & Means. HBs 59-61 would add Idaho to the list of states requiring presidential electors to cast votes for the candidate who wins the popular vote, allow Idahoans to update their voting registration when getting other state identification, and require that former employers prove damages when suing over breach of non-competition agreements.
Since both George W. Bush (in 2000) and Donald Trump lost the popular vote, Republicans are not about to change presidential elections any time soon. But it’s hard to imagine not even five support streamlining voter registration or making it possible for people to find a new job.
One might think there was a bias against Democratic bills, however reasonable, but last week the House Ways & Means Committee did pass a Democratic bill.
The bill, sponsored by Reps. Paulette Jordan and Sally Toone, would grant up to $3000 a year for four years in student loan forgiveness/payments to teachers and counselors working in rural Idaho schools. Republican Brent Crane of Nampa made the motion to pass the bill.
At least, some Republicans care that Idaho classrooms were short 120 teachers last fall.