A strange affliction seems to overcome some members of the Idaho legislature after they are elected – a disorder which seems to afflict mostly the rabidly conservative Republican members.
These are men and women who, until their election, have spent years railing against governmental interference in state or local affairs and maintaining that decisions affecting our lives should be made at the local level; that mandates and controls, whether from Washington or Boise, are wrong.
Once these legislators have tasted the sweet water in Boise they are overcome with a need to dictate how things should or should not work at the local level and on restricting the rights of citizens to make decisions locally or to petition for action or relief.
Suddenly Rep. Christensen, whose mission seems to be making rabbit ears at hearings and ensuring that every person in Idaho is entitled to pack as much armament as he or she can carry, has decided that no local authority can restrict firearms being carried into schools and that gun free zones are forbidden, even though citizens and school boards at the local level may support those policies. The Proud Boys (think Jan. 6th insurrection) are delighted.
The Republican legislators, peeved that some upstart citizens were circulating petitions requiring those legislators to consider and actually vote on issues which are supported by the majority of Idaho voters, moved to severely restrict the right of citizens to present such petitions. Fortunately, the Idaho Supreme Court unanimously overturned that restrictive law and chose to preserve the Idaho Constitution.
That seems to be a pattern with those legislators. No proposed legislation is too goofy, provided it is accompanied with a nice campaign contribution, such as the “Ag-Gag” law, or has support from the extreme Republican right-wing fringe. Fairness, decency or constitutionality be damned.
The pattern is pretty consistent: the proposed legislation, often written by ALEC or the interested lobbyist, is presented to the very capable elected Attorney General. The AG advises that the proposed bill is probably unconstitutional for certain reasons. The offended legislators publicly declare that the AG is incompetent, move to restrict his authority, and then set off to find their own attorney (at our expense). They find an attorney who, for enough money, would charge Adam & Eve with poaching an apple. After wasting tens of thousands of our tax dollars, the court rules that the proposed legislation is, indeed, unconstitutional. So far, we’ve spent well over $500,000 on these larks.
The Republican legislature seems intent on establishing Idaho as a great white fortress, restricting voting rights, women’s rights, local control and, following instructions from Idaho Freedom Foundation, diminishing a well-rounded and funded public education. What good can possibly come from a broad education: a better job? tolerance and understanding of those whose skin is darker than yours? exposure to a wide variety of viewpoints? Independent thought? Not in Idaho!
Though fighting with several southern states for last place seems exhilarating to those insular legislators, many of us prefer not to drink the Kool-Aid regularly dispensed by the Great Orange Cockwomble.