Friday, April 2, 2010

Legislature turned in poor performance

The Idaho Legislature has ended its session of force and folly. Now the citizens of Idaho are left to face the consequences of what was arguably one of the most difficult sessions in the state's history because of the deep national recession.

The Legislature turned in a less than average performance on bigger than average problems. Even so, a student with a grade point average like the Legislature's would risk expulsion.

Here's a report card.

C—Finance: It cut a whopping $128 million, or 7.8 percent, from education along with cuts in nearly all other areas. It gets a poor grade because it utterly refused to consider new sources of revenue.

F—Tax and fee policy: Refused to overhaul state sales tax exemptions and refused to impose a 6 percent sales tax on Internet sales while bricks-and-mortar retailers pay through the nose. Also refused to charge non-hunters for use of wildlife management areas largely supported by hunting and fishing licenses.

F—History: Picked expensive legal fights with the federal government over health care insurance and firearms.

D—Politics: Imposed a one-time 4.2 percent salary cut on the governor in 2011, along with salary cuts for other state-level elected officials in 2011. Nice symbolic gesture, but the same bill restores the cuts just one year later and then increases them in each year following. In other words, pain now, guaranteed raises later.

F—Drivers Ed: Defeated a ban on texting while driving, which research shows is a hazard as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Also defeated a bill that would have required separation of 3 feet between a vehicle and a cyclist.

A—Asset management: Stopped a bill to change the Constitution to allow sales of state lands without a public auction.

A—Hunter harassment: Made records of some hunting permits confidential to protect hunters from harassment. The action was sparked by reports of harassment of wolf hunters.

F—Animal husbandry: Killed bills to make cock-fighting a felony and another to require enough space for a chicken to spread its wings in a poultry farm.

D—Political courage: Backed down from requiring employers to verify citizenship when the dairy industry complained it couldn't get enough workers.

F—Health: Let a legislator married to a tobacco lobbyist defeat a bill to ban tobacco pellets that dissolve in the mouth.

F—Philosophy: Made the conscience of health care workers superior to the views of women and the dying by letting workers refuse to issue medications and treatment they may object to as a matter of conscience.

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