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Richard Larsen: Is America Still the “Land of the Free”?

April 27th, 2015 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

Is America really the “land of the free?” We may have been initially founded and constructed as such, but each year the land of the free becomes increasingly the land of the regulated, oppressed, disparaged, and dependent.

Gallup regularly conducts global polls to assess citizen’s perception of their levels of freedom around the world. In 2006, 91% of US residents were satisfied with their “level of freedom,” which was among the highest in the world. Last year’s iteration of the survey indicated only 79% of Americans are satisfied with their level of freedom. Such a precipitous drop in a few short years dropped the US to 36th place among the 120 nations sampled. Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Paraguay, and Rwanda are among the 35 nations more satisfied with their levels of freedom.

This seems to be confirmed by Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, which has seen the U.S. slip to number 12 this year. Countries with greater economic freedom, based on ten criteria, from personal property rights to personal financial freedom, include Chile, Estonia, and Mauritius, none of which could be considered bastions of liberty, as the U.S. historically has been.

America was founded differently than any other nation in human history, which is what we refer to as American exceptionalism. Our founding documents guaranteed rights of free exercise of religion, free speech, free association, freedom from government oppression and illegal searches and seizures, among others. These rights and freedoms, our founding documents asserted, were “inalienable rights” derived from God, not granted by government. That “all men are created equal,” and that among those precious rights were “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property).”

Every year those liberties are assaulted afresh by an ever-expanding governmental reach into our personal lives. Even those fundamental rights that are codified, by constitutional amendment as our Bill of Rights, are under assault. Freedoms of religious expression, speech, assembly, arms, illegal search and seizure, and due process are eroded with every congressional, legislative, and council bill, act, and statute, and are increasingly rarely upheld through judicial review.

In short, it seems that the machinations of government, politicians, and the courts, are arrayed broadly against the interests of individual liberty, personal accountability, and private freedoms. Our nation can only loosely be identified as a republic, where the enumerated powers of government are narrow and defined, with all non-enumerated powers residing in the states and the citizens, as the Tenth Amendment declares. The nation has morphed, and can be categorically and definitionally identified as a statist system, concentrating “extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty.”

This devolution of the republic and our individual liberties has only accelerated over the past several years, since the despicable attacks of 9/11. It was deemed necessary to relinquish some individual liberty for the defense of the realm, as the Patriot Act and other anti-terrorism measures sliced away at individual liberties for security purposes. In spite of the sunset provisions
incorporated into that measure, they were extended in 2011, and have been expanded by NSA surveillance, more expansive monitoring of financial transactions, and even more circumvention of the 4th Amendment with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. Sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA essentially classify the entire country as a battlefield, allowing extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, and enhanced interrogation against U.S. citizens here on American soil.

The omnipotence of government today certainly contrasts sharply with what our founding fathers envisioned for this “land of the free.” As Thomas Jefferson said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.” Or, in the context of abrogation of 4th Amendment rights, any government that is powerful enough to do everything we allow it, certainly is powerful enough to get away with everything it does.

Which also brings to mind Ben Franklin’s astute observation, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Clearly, the more ground we cede collectively as a citizenry to security, the less freedom and liberty there is. And that applies not just to issues of national security, but also to domestic fiscal policies as well.

Patrick Henry famously mirrored that sentiment, when he said, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” I’m sure the good governor would be aghast at the sacrifice of liberty for thralldom to government that has ensued these past several years.

Every election from here on out is a referendum on the future of our republic. Will we choose to elect those who embrace our founding principles based on liberty and freedom, or will we continue to cede our liberty for “security” provided by a statist government which is increasingly less attune to the concerns and interests of the individual citizen?

For those of us who are lovers of liberty, there has never been a more critical time to reassert our founding principles and the constitutional limitations of governmental power than today. If we want to have anything even remotely resembling the American republic surviving for future generations, it’s time to quit being a doormat to the politically correct progressive and statist agenda, and to proactively engage in the political process. Most of the statist “accomplishments” can be unwoven, but we need the electoral majorities to do it. Passivity and acquiescence are no longer options for those who would concur with Patrick Henry, “…give me liberty, or give me death!”

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

David Ripley: Hillary Assumes Pontifical Powers

April 27th, 2015 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Candidate Hillary Clinton, terminally corrupted by privilege and ambition, delivered a speech to the “Women in the World” summit recently. It was her first official campaign speech since declaring the continuation of her interrupted campaign for the presidency, and it was no accident that her central message was “Death to pre-born Children!”

We have known for some time that abortion would be Hillary’s primary campaign message.

What made this particular speech unique was Hillary’s bold declaration that God needed to get His act together on this whole abortion thing. It was past time to update the Ten Commandments.

Clinton proclaimed that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” if women were to come into full possession of their right to kill pre-born children.

Now, of course, most of those “religious beliefs” are based upon clear teachings within Scripture that teach us to hold children precious, to sacrifice ourselves for others – and, above all, not to kill the innocent. What Clinton and her comrades on the Left do not seem to understand is that our religious beliefs are not a matter of personal opinion, but, rather, one of submission to our Creator.

Clinton is not the first self-proclaimed leader to shake a fist at the Almighty. One can presume that He is not particularly impressed, though His heart is undoubtedly grieved.

And we can all be grieved that a person of such arrogance stands a chance of becoming president over this great nation.

Pro-Lifers need to be in earnest prayer that the Lord will not allow that to happen. We can ask Him to soften her heart and illuminate her understanding. We can ask Him to protect His little ones from her ambition and wrath.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Pro-Life Issues | No Comments »

David Ripley: Typo or Guilty Confession?

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Well… she’s back.

Hillary Clinton, gripped by inordinate ambition since high school, is certain that the world really needs her. She is once again foisting herself upon the public – now in a “Scooby Doo” van. Pity the poor folks of Iowa.

In making her public announcement, Clinton issued a press release in which she included the following claim to fame:

“From her mother’s own childhood – in which she was abandoned by her parents – to her work going door-to-door for the Children’s Defense Fund, to her battling to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, [Hillary’s] fought children and families all her career.”

Media smurfs immediately censored the Clinton Campaign, looking askance at the poor proof-reading skills of those extraordinarily gifted and talented people surrounding Team Clinton. How could they let such a big goof in her first official press statement?

But we believe there is more here than meets the casual glance.

For it is indeed true that Hillary Clinton has fought against babies in the womb during her entire public career. Her blind support for abortion on demand makes her among the most dangerous political figures in America. In her view, no baby has any claim to life or our regard unless the mother finds it convenient.

Clinton’s insistence that abortion is at the core of womanhood has also served to wreck havoc on families and our culture.

So, inadvertently perhaps, Hillary has finally spoken the truth about herself and her vision for this nation.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics | No Comments »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, April 13

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

The last two or three days of most legislative sessions are hectic and slow moving at the same time. This year was different and full of “firsts” from beginning to end, at least in my memory.

For the State Affairs Committee it was a year of long hearings on tough issues and hard votes. Most years we see a couple of bills that have some controversy surrounding them. This year there was not a week that went by without major and difficult legislation to consider. Add the words, historical racing, chemical abortion, special liquor licenses, gaming commission, Cananbidiol, agency purchasing, and open meeting law just to name a few. I can’t begin to express how hard the committee worked this year and even though everything didn’t turn out the way I would have liked no one around this place could claim that House State Affairs did not give them a fair and thorough shot.

Whether you agree with what the legislature did or not there were some milestones achieved. Amid continual cries that it was not enough, about $120 million new dollars are going into education. Career ladders for educators with a path forward to fund them are seen as a major step forward. Will these steps improve what our detractors call “Failing Idaho?” Time will tell. By the way and for the record, I for one think that we have schools that are achieving great things. I don’t know about the rest of the state but we have teachers, administrators and parents in District 32 who are innovators and work hard for our kids. The idea of long distance learning and dual credit courses had its real beginning right here at home.

Probably the most visible issue this year was transportation funding. Early on in the session the discussion surrounding transportation was about the same as usual, not enough money to keep the roads in good condition. Also as usual, the level of increase was argued back and forth. What came out of that early talk was an effort that could have provided some sweeping changes in tax policy in Idaho. That effort was summarily dismissed by the Senate. What happened then is what lead to a final week of turmoil on the issue.

This is what came from that process. A 7 cent per gallon increase in gas and diesel tax, a $21 increase in registration fees ($25 for trucks), and the return of the infamous ton mile tax for all trucks over 60,000 pounds which has a delayed implementation date. Most interesting of all is a method of tapping the General fund by sweeping half of any surplus to transportation. It is a little more complicated than that but in general terms that is how it would work. And that brings us to the last two days.

There was very little for most legislators to do except to wait for the results of a conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and the Senate. From the vantage point of the House it looked like the House flinched first. After four redrafts on Friday night, the amendments went to the Senate first and then to the House. The full House did not receive those amendments until about 12:50 AM Saturday morning and then voted on the measure about 1:15 AM. By that time most were willing to vote for anything just to get out of there.

I once asked my dad why he didn’t use the lights on the tractors and tried to quit when the sun went down. His reply has been good advice over the years. He said, “Tom, after dark is when the serious mistakes happen.” That is the feeling I had at the close of this session at 1:30 am on Saturday morning.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, General, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Politics in General, Property Rights, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

David Ripley: Ever Heard of The Society of Family Planning?

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

An article appeared last week of a controversial medical experiment underway at the University of Hawaii, funded at least in part by “The Society of Family Planning”.

The Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children (would that be only “dead children?) is conducting a clinical research project to study the effects of the drug oxytocin in reducing a mother’s bleeding during second trimester abortions.

The Center is asking women and girls who are between 18 and 24 weeks pregnant to come on in and submit to a little medical experimentation. Girls must be at least 14 years of age to participate. (And, given Hawaii’s casual attitude toward abortion, we don’t believe these girls will need a parent’s consent to either undergo the abortion or participate in the experiment.)

Apparently they will use only the D&E abortion procedure. (That is the really neat abortion procedure whereby the baby is torn apart limb-by-limb until it bleeds to death in the womb; a horribly cruel attack on preborn children which has just been outlawed in Kansas).

The outfit funding these medical experiments calls itself “The Society of Family Planning”. A number of doctors from around the country serve as Board members – but a review of its website does not give any hint as to how it acquires the money to finance these dark art practices.

Presumably, the 166 test subjects will be given free abortions, since the experiment is not without risks.

One of the goals of the study is to find out what happens to women who don’t get the drug oxytocin.

Pro-Life leader Troy Newman of Operation Rescue has publicly denounced the macabre experimentation upon women and their babies: “This study is reminiscent of Nazi concentration camp experiments. I pity the poor women who are being treated like lab rats, especially those are denied the drug to reduce the risk of hemorrhaging.”

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

David Ripley: You Are the Virus

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

The United Nations is working tirelessly to reduce the number of people living on the planet.

In a recent media interview, UN “climate chief” Christiana Figueres argued that we should all make “every effort” to cut down on the number of humans. Apparently one reporter pressed the elite activist on what methods she would support to achieve a “sustainable” human population.

While Figueres declined to be publicly specific, the U.N. has long been pushed abortion, sterilization and birth control upon the world. International elites like Bill Gates and Al Gore are outspoken in demanding “fertility management” – i.e., killing preborn children – as an essential component of solving the “global warming crisis”.

Al Gore told a troupe of believers at the World Economic Forum that “empowering women and making ‘fertility management’ ubiquitously available … is crucial to the future shape of human civilization.”

Such blather has been a dominant message from the Left since at least the 1970’s – to rather amazing effect, given the fact that virtually none of the dire predictions from social engineers and pseudo-scientists have materialized over those decades. Still the babies are being killed. Families are becoming smaller, and even more rare.

When one begins to see the connections behind the agendas of organizations like the U.N., the environmental movement and players like Bill Gates, we can better appreciate the fact that the fight to protect preborn children from their evil clutches is also a fight for the survival and dignity of each of us. Human beings are not some kind of virus to be cleansed from the earth.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, National Sovereignty, Presidential Politics | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Be Informed and Watch Government “Like a Hawk”!

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

It’s inevitable that citizens would often feel frustrated with their elected officials. After all, it’s impossible to please all the people all of the time, and if they are, they likely aren’t doing their job. But there is one thing that likely is felt universally by constituents, of all ideological persuasions; our elected officials work for us, represent us and our interests, and they should never forget their role of serving in our behalf.

Every once in a while something in our popular culture will capture such universally felt sentiments. Such was the case several years ago with a movie titled Protocol, starring Goldie Hawn (mother to actress Kate Hudson).

In the film, Hawn plays the role of a loveable, yet somewhat ditzy waitress in D.C., who happens to save the life of a visiting Emir from the Middle East. For her heroism, the State Department rewards her with a job serving in the Protocol Division, and then initiates a scheme to marry her off to the Emir whose life she’d saved, in exchange for a new military base to be constructed in the Emir’s country.

When the plan unravels and comes to light, Sunny (Hawn’s character) is hauled before a congressional committee to answer to her involvement in the scheme that has been affectionately dubbed “Sunnygate.” Her response is classic, and reminds us all of some of our responsibilities as American citizens.

As the committee chairman begins the hearing, he declares his intent to find out who was responsible. Sunny responds, “I’m responsible!” She then explained why. “You want to know something? Before I worked for the government, I’d never read the Constitution. I didn’t even begin to know how things worked. I didn’t read the newspaper, except to look up my horoscope. And I never read the Declaration of Independence. But I knew they had, the ones we’re talking about, the experts, they read it. They just forgot what it was about. That it’s about ‘We, the People.’ And that’s ME. I’m ‘We, the People.’ And you’re ‘We, the People.’ And we’re all ‘We, the People,’ all of us.”

“So when they sell me that ten cent diamond ring or down the river or to some guy who wears a lot of medals, then that means they’re selling ALL of us, all of ‘We the People.’ And when YOU guys spend another pile of money and when you give away or sell all those guns and tanks, and every time you invite another foreign big shot to the White House and hug and kiss him and give him presents, it has a direct effect on ‘We the People’s’ lives.”

“So if we don’t, I mean if I don’t know what you’re up to, and if I don’t holler and scream when I think you’re doing it wrong, and if I just mind my own business and don’t vote or care, then I just get what I deserve. So now that I’m a private citizen again, you’re going to have to watch out for me. ‘Cause I’m going to be watching all of you. Like a hawk.”

There are some notable principles embedded in that inspiring response. First, was the concept of personal responsibility. How often do we see people, whether in public life or in their personal lives, not take responsibility for their actions, or their refusal to stand up against those who ultimately are culpable? It’s becoming as uncommon as common sense. Someone, or something, else is always to blame for poor decisions, bad plans, and/or ill-spoken words. And regrettably it seems most obvious in the realms of government, where all too few feel they’re accountable to the electorate for their actions.

Next Sunny reminded us that, as citizens, it’s our responsibility to be knowledgeable and proactive citizens. If we let our elected officials get away with things that are unconstitutional or illegal, we’re at least partly to blame. After all, collectively, we are the ones who put them in their position of responsibility, and they are, or at least should be, accountable to us.

That’s one of the beauties of the American governance model, is we hire them to protect us and our interests, and our rights as citizens. If we’re not proactive, they can increasingly feel like they’re accountable to no one, least of all us. When they start feeling entitled to their perks of office, and taking us, their employers, for granted, they’ve outlived their usefulness and it’s time to retire them.

Such a level of pro-activity will only be efficacious if we’re knowledgeable of our founding documents to know the proper role of governance, and if we keep ourselves apprised of what our government attempts to do for, and to, us. Too many of us are illiterate when it comes to our founding documents, and don’t bother to keep informed of what those in government are doing. I think this is what Winston Churchill was referring to when he said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

I think FDR would have approved of Sunny’s response to the congressional panel, for FDR himself said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

It’s unusual to garner anything substantive from movies, and so something like Goldie Hawn’s eloquent speech before a congressional committee stands out rather starkly. Although she’s a fictional character, Sunny represents what should be the best in all of us, as citizens, as we educate ourselves, keep informed, and watch our elected officials “like a hawk!”

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Economic Benefits of Right-to-Work

March 26th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

This week Wisconsin became the 25th state in the union to pass and sign into law so-called “right to work” legislation. Despite the pejorative light oftentimes associated with right to Work (RTW) laws, in reality all they do is proscribe the requirement that a worker join or pay dues to a union as a qualification for employment.

Unions often view laws removing compulsory union membership for work in the private sector as “anti-union,” while advocates of right to work laws maintain it’s a matter of personal liberty and economic freedom. They argue that workers in given trades or industries should have the option to choose whether to join a union or not. Arguably, if a union is doing a good job representing the interests of its members, it should not be threatened by the freedom to choose, as the benefits of union membership would be self-evident.

Even some union leadership supports such a sentiment. Gary Casteel, the Southern region director for the United Auto Workers, explains, “This is something I’ve never understood, that people think right to work hurts unions. To me, it helps them. You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong.’ Versus, ‘If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.’ I don’t even like the way that sounds, because it’s a voluntary system, and if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”

One cannot be a student of history without recognizing the tremendous contributions unions made to the emergence of the middle class in early to mid 20th century America. They significantly improved working conditions, workweek hours, and compensation levels.

In today’s highly competitive economy, their focus seems to have changed, as they seem to be primarily political entities today, with compulsory union dues used mostly for amassing power in the political arena, and spent on candidates and causes that some members may object to. Even Bob Chanin, former top lawyer for the National Education Association, admitted that in his farewell speech a few years ago. “It’s not about the kids…it’s about power,” he said.

According to Department of Labor statistics, only about 7% of America’s private sector workforce is unionized. In post World War II era, it was nearly 40%. The trend is reversed for public employees, where 60 years ago the unionized segment of the public employees workforce was less than 10%, while it currently is nearly 37%. Logic leads one to surmise that maybe all those “evil corporations” have gotten it right, and are providing pay and benefits at a level that employees are satisfied with. While the same logic might lead us to believe that, following those trends, it is “evil government” that is taking advantage of employees and must be represented by collective bargaining.

Average wages do tend to be slightly lower in right to work states, as reported by The Wall Street Journal last year. But the differences may be attributable to other factors. As the Journal explained, “Many economists say when differences in cost of living are taken into account, wages are roughly the same—or even higher—in right-to-work states.” When looking at a map of non-right to work states, geographical and cost of living factors seem to affirm that distinction.

Last year the National Institute for Labor Relations released a detailed study of right to work vs. non-right to work states. The research was based upon data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Census Bureau, United States Patent and Research Office and Bureau of Economic Analysis. Five economic factors were analyzed in right to work and non-right to work states in the Midwest, with the following statistical conclusions:

Job growth is twice as strong in RTW states. The percentage growth of non-farm private sector jobs (1995-2005)?in right to work states was 12.9%?while non-right to work states came in at 6.0%.

Perhaps surprising to some, poverty is actually higher in non-right to work states. Average poverty rate, adjusted for cost of living was 8.5% in RTW states, and 10.1% in non-right to work states. This may likewise have more to do with geography and cost of living factors, however.

New company and new product growth is significantly greater in RTW states. During that same period, annual percentage growth in patents granted was 33% in RTW states, and only 11% in non-right to work states.

Income growth rates are higher in RTW states as well. The percentage growth in real personal income was 26.0%?in RTW states, while non-right to work states grew at 19.0%.

Even health insurance coverage in RTW states fared better. Note that this data was gathered before implementation of Obamacare. The percentage growth in number of people covered by employment based private health insurance was 8.5% for RTW states, and 0.7%?for non-right to work states.

Consequently, based on National Institute for Labor Relations research, right to work states create more private sector jobs, enjoy lower poverty rates, experience more technology development, realize more personal income growth, and increase the number of people covered by employment-based private health insurance. Clearly when looking at the big picture, the economy of a state is more likely to be more robust when the workforce has the freedom to choose.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Pocatello Issues, Property Rights, Taxes | No Comments »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 23

March 26th, 2015 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

I had a chance this last weekend to do a little plowing at the ranch. I couldn’t help but think of a fellow I met years ago that had given up farming in order to get a job in town. I asked him why he did that and he said, “I got tired of going around in circles and getting nowhere.” I’ve never felt that way about farming and in fact I was glad to be able to spend some time on the tractor, getting a little therapy as it were.

The two biggest unresolved issues for this session are education and transportation. While visiting with the Speaker late last week, he assured me that things have progressed to the point that an agreement may soon be reached for education but there is still a wide gap on how to best find new money for transportation. No matter where the Transportation Committee looks, it involves higher gas taxes, higher registration fees, and a minor shift to the general fund. All of these issues seem to have some support but not enough yet to find its way into law.

In State Affairs I presented a Gaming Commission bill for introduction which is now known as House Bill 279. If we have learned anything from this racing bill it has been that there is a definite need for better regulation. It would do away with the Lottery Commission and the Racing Commission and puts in place a regulatory framework that would oversee all gaming in Idaho including Tribal Gaming. Later on in the week we had a hearing on the proposal but the State Affairs Committee decided to not forward the bill for any further discussion. As with most things around this place we had several who testified on both sides. For the most part the horse racing community was very much in favor of the bill and representatives of lottery interests and the tribes were not in favor. The bill was held in committee. The bill to repeal historical racing was voted out of committee and sent to the floor of the House.

I keep thinking that the controversial stuff is going to go away but we still have a couple of issues that we will be deciding in the coming week. There never seems to be a dull moment in the State Affairs Committee. I was visiting with a couple of members of the committee and they told me that it is usual for this committee to be involved with one or two controversial items during the session, but this year has been much different. It seems like we’ve had one or two of those difficult issues each week.

On the lighter side, a resolution was passed by the Senate and sent to the House declaring the week of September 28 through November 4, 2015 to be recognized throughout the state as National Diaper Need Awareness Week. (I am not making this up, and you can read the Senate Concurrent Resolution number 110 online). Let your imagination wander about the puns that were flying around on this one. The members of the State Affairs Committee decided that if there was time to talk about diapers on the House floor, there was time to talk about the state salamander. House Bill 1 was sent to the House floor with a do pass recommendation. The young lady who has been bringing this to the legislature for the past several years was surprised and ecstatic. So at least we made someone’s day. It doesn’t happen often.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Property Rights, Taxes | No Comments »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 16

March 16th, 2015 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

A few weeks ago I was asked by a lobbyist when I would be scheduling a hearing on a particular bill. Kidding him a little I replied that I was looking at February 30th. He began to quiz me on why I had chosen that date. Another legislative advisor standing nearby began to laugh and then we had a good laugh together. We sometimes tend to take ourselves too seriously.

I was listening to some commentators on public TV and their lamenting that this has been a ‘do little” session. If that were true, some I know would say that’s a good thing. Also if it were true, it surely hasn’t seemed like we have been doing nothing. I imagine that comment comes because some of the larger things are still not resolved, namely education and transportation. Teacher career ladder legislation went down in flames in the Education Committee to the delight of teachers but not so much happiness for administrators. Work has begun on a different approach which might fare better.

As for transportation, three more ideas were introduced that don’t get to the level the governor wants or wouldn’t fill the gap that is said to exist. All of a sudden the effects of GARVEE bonds are settling in leaving us short on maintenance dollars.

All too often we encounter legislation that is aimed at fixing disputes between opposing groups. One of those issues that passed the House last week was the naturopath bill. Rather than fixing much it looks like it might cause more problems. If you read it carefully and if the Governor were to not appoint a board for the larger group of naturopaths, they would not be able to be licensed. The Attorney General sees some problems in the way the bill would operate. Because of the potential conflicts, I voted against the bill, but it now resides in the Senate.

We are in the middle of three other groups, the Racing Commission, the simulcasters and the Tribes. The historical racing repealer was heard in committee for a total of eight hours on two separate days. One comment from a conservative think tank that provoked some discussion was that this piece of legislation did not belong in the legislature because the result would be made by politics rather than sound principles of free enterprise. Maybe that’s fair but there is not a political safe haven on this one. A vote in favor of the bill makes it look like you favor one group over another , and a vote against it makes it look like you fully support gambling in Idaho. Being caught in the middle isn’t comfortable.

Looking toward an adjournment date, given the issues we have yet to resolve, looks like at least a week beyond the target date of March 27th. The test for an adjournment date in days gone by was that when the ground dried out enough for crops to be planted we’d head out of town. It isn’t that way so much these days. There is still serious business to do and in our part of the world, March seems too early to plant. Most of us are more concerned about water. With little or no snow pack, it’s going to take a lot of timely rain to make up the difference.

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