Sen. Jim Guthrie

Sen. Jim Guthrie

Many years ago, when I was around twenty, I was sheeting the roof of the house I was building on a beautiful fall day. My radio was blaring, and I was as happy as if I had good sense. Then in an instant that euphoric feeling was gone, replaced by a knot in my stomach and total panic. I had brought my cows and calves home from summer range and they were grazing in the field behind my house. The calves were just days from being sold and a year’s worth of work was about to see a payday.

But when I looked up from my task at hand, I saw three of the twenty calves I owned lying awkwardly in the field. A closer inspection was not needed to know they had died. I was so upset I yelled, got a running start, and kicked my radio so hard it sailed off the roof and shattered into pieces. The veterinarian would later tell me the calves died from Blackleg, an acute condition in cattle.

Sometimes life deals us a bad hand and we react. Those reactions can be productive or not. We can learn from what happened or remain angry and dwell on the what ifs. In my case and on that day my reaction solved no problem and resulted in a loss of music as I continued construction on my house.

As a member of the Idaho state senate I have found that how we react to things can have a lot to do with how we shape our future. We need look back no further than the past thirteen months to find a glaring example of a once in a life-time event that has prompted both knee jerk and well thought out reactions.

A year ago, I was inundated with phone calls and emails from constituents with problems and concerns prompted by the pandemic. Many, including me were angry over the lockdown and the significant disruption to our lives. To an extent, those inconveniences continue, and I believe at a minimum most have had a belly full of masks.

From day one of this legislative session there has been multiple attempts to rein in our governor for what many perceive as an overreach of his authority during a declared emergency. The most current iterations of those efforts are H 135 and S 1136a. I will agree that I have not been thrilled with some of the directives and actions that came from the governor’s office and other state and local agencies. I will further opine that there is probably room to amend code sections to true up the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches. That said, I don’t believe that either H 135 or S 1136a achieves that objective.

The pandemic aside, I cannot find one example of when there was widespread disagreement over how any governor has ever handled any emergency. I believe the language in both H 135 and S 1136a could seriously compromise the much-needed smooth flow of everchanging events that unfold during emergent times. As such I voted against H 135 and voted not to override the governor’s veto of S 1136a.

These policy proposals would have inserted the legislature into that process and compromised the need for swift decisive action. By design the legislative process is deliberative and slow and does not lend itself to being nimble and immediate. One only need look at this session where decision making has been methodically painful to a fault. Not a good business model for success during dire times.

Over the past year I have heard Governor Little called a king, a dictator, an emperor, a tyrant and much, much worse. I have even asked myself questions in moments of disagreements with his decisions; what would I have done different? Could I have navigated our state through this pandemic and point to a better outcome? In all humility and honesty, I can’t say that I could have. Monday morning quarterbacking is great work if only it paid. Bottom line: in the heat of battle someone must lead, and in the absence of leadership you have disfunction.

Let’s face it, we are mad at the virus. The mental strain it has caused, the way it has compromised our lives, the uncertainty that exists going forward, or maybe it’s China we despise. And who can blame us, this past year has been overwhelming to say the least. An unfortunate side effect is that in so many ways it has become personal. Remember the enemy is the disease and we must steer clear of personal attacks and avoid further infighting.

When I kicked my radio, I further punished myself during a time of disappointment. That action became an outlet for my frustrations and the immediate release made me feel better but was short lived and foolish. I hope we don’t let a once in a century anomaly derail our common sense and good judgement. We all have opportunities to question, disagree, and replace our elected officials as we deem appropriate. We can agree or disagree with how Governor Little has handled the pandemic, but for me this is not the time to work on my field goal kicking skills.

This column was written by state Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon