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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of February 27 - March 5, 2002

  Opinion Column

Idaho’s Speaker blunders

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

"Vision" and "deep thinker" are not words that come to mind when discussing attributes of Idaho House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, who acts more like a bank bench freshman spear-carrier for special interests rather than a leader.

Despite warnings and advice from the best legal minds in the Idaho Attorney General’s Office as well as in Idaho local governments to not proceed, Newcomb stumbled ahead with this legislative session’s most bumbling proposal — and with his name and reputation attached to it.

Marching to the drums of Idaho’s so-called "resource lobby" — cattle, mining, lumber, agriculture industries — Newcomb introduced a proposed constitutional "takings" amendment whose net effect would be to hogtie government’s traditional right and responsibility to regulate land use for changing times.

Then, slow to catch on as he is, Newcomb awoke one day to the disaster this proposal would visit on the state. He withdrew the proposal for more study. One devoutly hopes it will die from a dose of common sense.

If this "takings" amendment were imbedded in the Idaho Constitution, courts would be clogged with thousands of petty lawsuits whenever cities, counties or the state tried to regulate land use, change tax policies or require owners to comply with new restrictions. Court costs and reimbursement would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over time.

Speaker Newcomb and his special interest patrons seem to believe that property ownership includes the right of willy-nilly usage and to be immune from regulation.

Newcomb and the interests he champions oddly want to avoid seeking relief in the courts, which still provide remedies for property owners who have genuine, not cockeyed, claims of government abuse.

Speaker Newcomb’s idea is not original: it’s straight out of the textbooks of right wing fringe groups who’ve had a rough go peddling their "takings" plan all over the country. Newcomb’s willingness to mollify peevish lobbyists by tinkering with the state Constitution is a disappointing weakness in a man who should have a better understanding of government as well as his leadership duties.

While on the topic of constitutional amendments, consider the international spectacle at the Olympics had the U.S. Congress approved and 38 states ratified the so-called flag desecration amendment to the U.S. Constitution when it first was proposed years ago.

Hundreds of Americans rooting for their Olympic team in Salt Lake City might’ve been charged by Utah police with abusing Old Glory. Stands at various venues were packed with Americans wearing an array of fashions — scarves, jackets, coats, hats, towels — resembling the U.S. flag.

This sort of makeshift adaptation of Old Glory for hip fashions, which has become a multi-billion dollar industry, presumably would’ve been outlawed by the vague, proposed amendment ¾ "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States" — that happily has failed four times to muster enough votes to be approved.

One of the failed amendment’s most ardent proponents is Utah’s own dour, humorless senior U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch. Had the amendment been on the books, Hatch presumably would’ve happily had Utah police rounding up merchants selling inventive, but disrespectful, renditions of the flag and fans wearing flag-like fashions, and had them ticketed, or worse.

Yessir, terrorists and flag desecrators alike are no match for America’s super patriots.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.