Politics: Good news, bad news

by Judy Ferro

The news had us on a roller coaster last week. Or caught in a dance with a step back following each step forward.

But we had some flashy steps forward.

For one, Idaho’s Federal judge invalidated the Ag-gag law. I know some people—including my state senator—feel that allowing persons to take pictures in a place of employment violates the owners’ privacy rights. That argument died for me, though, when an Ag professor questioned how people would react to a law forbidding people to take videos of abuse in daycares.

For another, Sherri Ybarra’s package of recommended education laws includes one requiring the state superintendent of schools to be a licensed education administrator with experience in Idaho schools. Idaho went from Supt. Marilyn Howard, a professional educator, challenging teachers–“if it were easy, we would have done it already”–to a relative outsider blaming teachers for everything wrong in our schools. Morale went down; turnover went up. Hopefully, the legislature joins many Idahoans in saying, “Never again.”

And both houses of Congress designated 275,000 acres of the Boulder and White Clouds Mountains as wilderness, a bill that Rep. Mike Simpson had worked on for 15 years. Although some say it could be better—600,000 acres were up for consideration—most seem happy it’s finally settled.

And—we’re on a roll here—a full five years after authorization by Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission finally issued a rule requiring companies to release figures comparing CEO salaries to the company median wage. Transparency is good.

With a little effort, we can even find a positive side to some not-so-good news. It’s bad that two Idaho women have contracted West Nile disease, but, considering the number of infected mosquitoes found so far, we’re lucky it isn’t more.

It’s good that Gov. Otter has appointed a respected educator with experience in teacher evaluations—Lynda Clark–to the State Board of Education. It’s not so good that the West Ada School Board believes it may present a conflict of interest. (And Caldwell tax payers can appreciate that their former superintendent did not have a contract extending into 2023 as Dr. Clark does.)

Sen. Mike Crapo’s Sunshine quarterly report indicated that donations by Idaho individuals accounted for only 8% of his donations. (Many insurance and banking PACs donated the $10,000 maximum allowed by law.) Yet, the Senator issued a statement to reassure Idahoans: “I have always put Idaho first and will continue fighting in Washington, D.C. for our conservative values.”

It’s harder to find a silver lining, however, in the news that the state must pay an additional $223,000 in legal fees for the four couples who successfully challenged Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage. That makes a total of about $625,000 for the plaintiffs’ costs; the state’s are on top of that. Maybe we can be grateful that the amount is less than the $2 million the state will spend on a Republican presidential primary in February?

And, last Wednesday, a wildfire near Huntington, OR, forced closure of the interstate between Ontario and Pendleton. (This year wildfires have damaged about three times as much acreage as last year by this time.) On the positive side, the Interstate did reopen—and most of us weren’t among the hundreds of motorists trapped in their cars for hours.

Okay, I’ve skipped the Republican candidates’ debate and their total avoidance of Citizens United, jobs, income inequality, college debt, and voter suppression–and the audiences’ applause when Donald Trump defended his right to insult women.

All in all, it was still a better week than most.

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