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Legislature labored at length, but not for you

Marty Trillhaase
April 8, 2013
Lewiston Tribune

Thursday, Idaho's lawmakers concluded 88 days of labor and closed down for the year.

But who were they working for?

Obviously not Idaho's public school teachers. Left behind is a slew of bills that undermine the collective bargaining rights Idaho voters restored to educators last fall by repealing the vindictive Luna laws. School boards can arbitrarily reduce their pay. Money meant to hire teachers can be spent elsewhere, which means more crowded classrooms.

In case anyone is paying attention, lawmakers continued a string of state budgets without any permanent increase in teacher pay.

Lawmakers weren't focused upon the 94 percent of Idaho kids who attend a traditional school. The politicians didn't restore school funding to pre-recession levels, choosing instead to cut taxes or stockpile money in reserves. They lavished attention on the 6 percent of students who attend charter schools, which now are in line for state support for buildings. And lawmakers came close to funneling state money toward private - including religious-based - schools.

They weren't too concerned about helping the thousands of college students - and their families - who are watching tuition outstrip their ability to pay because the state has not reversed the recession-era cuts imposed on Idaho's institutions of higher learning.

If you own a home, lawmakers weren't looking out for you, either. They passed along a $20 million personal property tax cut to businesses. But over time, it will raise your bills. Plus, the one measure certain to lower your property taxes - repeal of the medically indigent program - was buried.

If you're among the growing ranks of Idaho's working poor, you're out of luck. This Legislature had a whole week to waste licking Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde's boots - but not an hour or a day to help you.

It wouldn't consider expanding Medicaid coverage to 104,211 Idahoans. The federal government would cover 100 percent of it for the first three years and no less than 90 percent thereafter. It meant saving Idaho state and local taxpayers $40.5 million next year. Doing so would have spared the lives of 593 people because they got better health care.

Who else got dissed by this crowd?

Anybody who enjoyed his dinner hour undisturbed by telephone solicitors. Doing the bidding of Minnesota-based Frontier Communications and Louisiana-headquartered Century Link Inc., lawmakers gutted Idaho's do-not-call list.

All who treasure access to Idaho's abundant public lands. Taken to its logical conclusion, the Legislature's attempt to wrest control of the national forests and Department of Interior lands would lead to a massive sell-off to the highest bidders.

Retailers large and small who have invested in Idaho. By law, they're forced to collect the state's 6 percent sales tax. Businesses that sell goods over the Internet are not required to do so. Yet again, the House tax committee has refused to join with other states in lobbying Congress to close that loophole.

Female hunters and anglers. Whittle down the list of arguments hurled against former Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Joan Hurlock of Buhl. She hadn't maintained her hunting or fishing licenses continuously. She came to Idaho from another state. She lacked "passion" for hunting. There are people serving on Fish and Game who answer to all of those descriptions. But Hurlock was only the second woman appointed to the panel. For lawmakers, that was one too many.

Northern Idaho motorists. Will expanding truck weight limits by 12 tons put you at risk and tear up your highways and bridges? Lawmakers signed on to this experiment. You're the guinea pigs.

Urban voters. You can't be trusted with Idaho's initiative and referendum process. So lawmakers pushed the law to its limits in an effort to extend rural communities a veto over which initiatives and referendums can get on the Idaho election ballot.

That's a rather long list of forgotten people, don't you think? Who elected these legislators anyway?

Originally posted at

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