Wednesday, April 4, 2012

You get what you vote for


In reviewing the work of the 2012 Idaho legislature it becomes clear that many of our Republican legislators have become quite adept at being inconsistent, perhaps even hypocritical. Simply put, our Republican lawmakers have contradicted themselves so much this year that it seems amazing that their heads didn't explode. Let's review.

Republican leaders make a lot of noise about getting government off our backs. They hate the federal government mandate on health care.

Yet, in almost the same breath, they wanted to mandate an invasive medical procedure before a woman could terminate a pregnancy. Can there be anything more intrusive than a government inserting itself into the most difficult and painful decision a woman might ever have to make? So strongly did they believe in this mandate that they even refused to make an exception for rape, incest or medical emergency.

And what about those legislators who claim to be pro-life yet vote to cut education and medical care for children?

Along those same lines, they decry unfunded mandates on education from the federal government, yet support telling local school districts that they have to spend money on computers instead of teachers, all the while cutting funding to the point that teachers cannot do their jobs at all.

What about those legislators who, again, abhor the federal government's telling the states what to do, but pass a law preempting local control over oil and gas drilling?

And what about those legislators who shout that we cannot continue to spend our children into oblivion, but have no compunction about cutting taxes for the wealthiest Idahoans, making revenue even more scarce.

And, finally, how about those legislators who decry waste, fraud and abuse in our government but who are blind to their own behavior? Those legislators take a higher per diem while sleeping on the couch in their law office or staying at their parents' house because they say they can't drive from Caldwell or Nampa to Boise during the legislative session. There's a lawmaker who sat on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee who refuses to pay his taxes.

One lawmaker introduced a bill to give him more hunting permits on his own ranch. Another lawmaker signed an oil and gas lease on his property and then pushed a bill through the Legislature that will undoubtedly make development on his property easier and more likely. And another lawmaker introduced a bill to shut down parking meters around the Statehouse while failing to mention that his son has received numerous parking tickets in the area. Can they really not know the difference between right and wrong?

The Republican answer is, of course, that they did not break any rules. But that is only because the rules are so lax that it would be difficult to find a way to break them.

What we really need is an independent ethics commission to handle instances of questionable behavior by officeholders. Of course, Republican leadership rejects any ethics reform whatsoever. You have to wonder why.

But this is what happens when ruling majorities go unchecked. Somewhere along the way they begin to think of state government as their kingdom and the rest of us as rabble. In their self-made culture of entitlement and arrogance, they forget that they are supposed to be serving the public instead of the other way around.

Thank goodness, we still have free elections in this country. This November, Idahoans will have the opportunity to decide whether they approve of the behavior of our Republican-controlled legislature. You get what you vote for. Period.

Larry Grant is chair of the Idaho Democratic Party.

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