Before the 2010 Idaho legislative session had even started, both leadership and Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter had called for a short session, likely ending by April 1. Not only is the legislature said to cost $30,000 a day when it’s in session — particularly pertinent in this tough economic year — but it’s an election year, and legislators want to get back to their districts and campaign.
However, the budget process doesn’t start in earnest until March, and the legislators who aren’t on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee are apparently bored. Moreover, since it is an election year, legislators running for re-election want a voting record on which to run — and a voting record from their opponents to point to. Consequently, as with last year, the Legislature is occupying itself with the usual run of Strongly Worded Letters and dog-whistle bills.
That’s right. It’s Silly Bill Season. Your tax dollars at work.
THE GIANT SALAMANDER BILL. Reportedly at the request of fourth- and fifth-graders, Representative Rich Jarvis, R-Meridian, put forth a bill designating the Idaho giant salamander as the State Amphibian. (Personally, my fourth-grader would rather the Legislature reinstate funding of field trips.) To give Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, credit, he sent the bill to the Ways and Means committee, where bills go to die, on January 20, and it hasn’t budged since.
THE MOUSE THAT ROARED BILLS. Continuing on from last session’s sovereignity bill are several bills insisting that the federal government keep its nose out of Idaho’s business (unless, of course, we’re asking for money, such as bringing the F35 aircraft project to Idaho). These include Representative Dick Harwood’s, R-St. Maries, Firearms Freedom Act, which copies similar laws in Montana and attempts in other states by saying that guns manufactured and used only in Idaho are not subject to federal regulation, and the Health Freedom Act, which says the federal government can’t make Idahoans buy health insurance.
GO TEAM BILLS. Representative Brent Crane, R-Nampa, put forth a bill to congratulate the Boise State Broncos on its Fiesta Bowl win. Vandals fan Representative Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, not to be outdone, also submitted a bill congratulating the University of Idaho on its Humanitarian Bowl win.
WE COUNT, DAMMIT BILL “Because of the winner-take-all rule, a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide,” explains the National Popular Vote website, bills for which are wending their way through numerous states. The bill, sponsored by Representative Donna Boe, D-Pocatello, Kelly, and Representative Sue Chew, D-Boise, specifies that the state’s electoral votes will be awarded to whichever Presidential candidate gets the largest number of votes nationwide. The theory is that, with the current system, candidates don’t bother visiting states where they are “comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind,” and that with a popular vote system, candidates would be more likely to visit more states. The problem is this: Idaho is a small state, and there’s no rational way of counting noses, electoral votes, or anything else that’s going to change that. With the current system, Idaho’s 4 electoral votes amount to 0.74 percent. With the popular vote system, Idaho’s 639,452 votes in the 2008 Presidential election amount to 0.51 percent.
BUT IS HE SIGNED UP TO TESTIFY? BILL. The tenth amendment sovereignity bill is back again, bigger and better than ever. Sponsored by Jarvis, Harwood, Representative Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, and Representative Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, it calls for “balancing the Federal budget, extinguishing the public debt, providing for government transparency, maintaining[sic] the growth of the Federal government, preventing unfunded mandates, prohibiting government from taking ownership of private sector enterprise and providing for the presence of “God” [sic] in the public domain.”
Of course, Idahoans have to take off their hats to South Carolina, where State Representative Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, introduced legislation earlier this month that would ban U.S. currency in favor of silver and gold coins. But fear not! Idahoans still have a chance to get behind this critical issue! The Sovereign Idaho Coalition, in their January demonstration on Civil Rights Day, reportedly called for support of a similar bill here, and claimed that the State Republican Central Committee had passed a resolution supporting such a bill. Interested? Sign up here.