Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dems complain of GOP ?obstructionists?

Stennett, Jaquet, Pence convene in Ketchum

Express Staff Writer

Sen. Clint Stennett, second from right, gets a hug from Gail Severn Saturday in Ketchum, as Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael, left, and Carol Harlig look on. Stennett is receiving ongoing treatment for brain cancer. Photo by David N. Seelig

The only remedy to what state Rep. Wendy Jaquet described as the problem of "the same old Republican obstructionists" is electing more Democrats to the state Legislature to give more balance to votes on legislation.

And on that, Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said she's encouraged by more Democratic candidates showing up in legislative districts around Idaho to challenge Republican incumbents.

Jaquet and the two other members of the Wood River Valley region's legislative delegation—Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, and Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding—spent nearly an hour Saturday at a breakfast meeting in the Roosevelt Tavern highlighting some of the legislative activity since the annual session began in January. It's expected to end later this week.

Clearly, GOP opposition to bills that Democrats thought would benefit the public has been a major concern.

Jaquet cited, for example, legislation requiring some affordable housing in development projects, an increasing necessity in areas such as Blaine County where housing costs have skyrocketed out of range for workers. "It didn't go anywhere," she said of the bill. She also deplored the proposed constitutional amendment that makes it more difficult to create local option taxes for transit.

Stennett, who's been undergoing radiation treatment for brain cancer but showed no slowdown in his criticisms of Republicans, said Republicans and Democrats alike were baffled by Gov. Butch Otter's veto of funds for a drug diversion program. He said the funds would offer rehabilitation without just "warehousing" drug offenders in prison.

When a resolution was proposed to accelerate efforts in Idaho to study and take action on climate change and global warming, it was killed on the Senate floor after Republican critics began citing what Stennett called information from rightwing think tanks that claim global warming is a myth.

"We're a weather-dependent state," Stennett said, pointing out the need for adequate water for agricultural irrigation. He said rejecting climate change as a major concern shows GOP lawmakers have a "disconnect between what people on the ground think and the Legislature."

Rep. Pence had a similar experience. When the education committee on which she sits attempted to propose a resolution calling for more international studies in public schools to prepare students for work in a more global economy, it was rejected by Republicans who said education should focus on American interests, rather than worry about international affairs.

After the lawmakers spoke and answered questions, an Idaho-based representation of the Democratic National Committee, Randy Johnson, urged Democrats to volunteer for a new statewide program, "Neighborhood Leaders," that contacts Democratic voters in their communities to develop a larger Election Day turnout.

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