Lord save us from bored politicians.
With the budgeting process on hold til mid-March, legislators are fulfilling predictions by legislative pundits that, by God, Idaho would get its money’s worth in proposed laws. Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey predicted in January at the City Club Legislative Pundit forum that while the primary focus of the session would be on the economy, the number of legislators who actually make decisions on the budget and craft the appropriations bills is very small, leaving “plenty of time to wrangle on social issues,” he said. And Boise State University professor emeritus Dr. James Weatherby said on Idaho Reports recently that, with the delay, “A lot of legislation, that you thought wouldn’t be on the agenda, will be on the agenda.”
So with the extra time on their hands, they’re coming up with all sorts of new and interesting things. One could think of it as the Journalists’ Full Employment Act.
Thank goodness for small favors — Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced the delay after the deadline for submitting bills to non-privileged committees, so there’s only a few committees still taking bills. Legislative Rule 24 states, “after the 36th day no bill shall be introduced except by the State Affairs Committee, the Appropriations Committee, the Education Committee, the Revenue and Taxation Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.” Think of the havoc that could be wreaked if bills could still be submitted in Transportation or Health & Welfare, for example.
Consequently, it’s State Affairs — as a privileged committee — that’s getting all the whacko bills.
Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, reportedly put forth a bill — and got the committee to agree to print it, no less — that Idaho should declare its sovereignty from the federal government.
No, this doesn’t mean we’re seceding from the Union, though to be honest it’s difficult to find out what it *does* mean. The bill, House Joint Memorial 4, is not yet up on the Legislature’s website (which is unusual; typically a bill is up on the following business day), so it’s hard to say exactly what it might do. However, since it’s a “joint memorial,” that basically boils down to “not much.” It is unlikely, for example, that it means Idaho will be turning down the billions of dollars it receives from the Federal government, not just from the stimulus package but for Medicaid, education, and so on.
A number of other states are reportedly working on or have passed similar bills, some of which are restricted to specific areas such as abortion. Basically the intent is to remind members of the Federal government of the existence of the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Another bill of the same ilk, regarding gun control, was submitted by Representative Russ Mathews, R-Idaho Falls, and assigned to State Affairs on Feb. 20, where it has languished since then.
Also in State Affairs is a “pharmacy conscience” bill, which would enable pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription based on their conscience. A number of states have worked on similar bills. Typically this is associated with prescriptions associated with birth control, but what is interesting about this bill — submitted by Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona– is that it would apply to any prescription.
In other words, pharmacists could refuse to fill antidepressant medication, Viagra, blood pressure medication, birth control pills, or any other medication that offended them.
Faith-based political lobbying organizations such as the Idaho Values Alliance have been pushing for such a bill specifically for the “morning-after pill,” a large dose of regular birth-control medication intended to deal with issues such as rape and birth-control failure.
Interestingly, in mid-February, Majority Caucus Chair Senator Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, had reportedly been working with Idaho Chooses Life — another faith-based political lobbying organization, which conflates the “morning-after pill” with the abortion pill RU-486 — after they approached him to develop such legislation. Fulcher had said it would need to be run by the Attorney General’s office. It is not clear whether that happened, whether the expansion to all medication was in response to a recommendation by the Attorney General, or why Loertscher is submitting the bill rather than Fulcher.
Both bills will now get heard before the State Affairs committee, with the opportunity for public comment. That should be interesting.
With luck, the Legislature will sine die before it decides to repeal the law of gravity or define pi as 3.