Hill faces primary fight from Smith

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Post Register will preview contested races for state legislative offices within its coverage area prior to the May 20 primary.

State Sen. Brent Hill faces a primary challenge from political newcomer Scott O. Smith in the District 35 race.

The contest marks Hill’s first primary challenge

in his 13-year Senate career.

Both candidates are Republicans from Rexburg. With no Democrat running for the position, the winner of the May 20 election will take office in 2015.

Hill, the Senate Pro Tem, said his leadership position and legislative experience make him the best

candidate to represent Madison and northern Bonneville counties.

Smith, an editor and ad salesman with thelocalreview.com, criticized Hill’s support of the state’s health insurance exchange, arguing Idaho should assert its authority over the federal government through a “nullification” law.

“Experience does count,” Hill said. “I am the leader of the Idaho State Senate. That gives our side of the state a lot of influence in the Idaho Legislature… I don’t think that’s something we want to discard.”

But Smith claimed his political inexperience as an asset.

“I haven’t been in the political realm,” he said. “I’m coming to it with fresh eyes, with fresh ideas.”

Chief among Smith’s fresh ideas is passing a law that would nullify the Affordable Care Act in Idaho.

“Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that states must implement every law that comes out of Congress, only the ones that are constitutional,” he said. “The state can say: within the boundary of the state of Idaho, no citizen will be prosecuted or taxed under the Affordable Care Act for not complying… That’s the first bill that I would seek to pass if I get elected.”

Hill argued a nullification law would be toothless.

“I can’t support the doctrine of nullification,” he said. “It’s not constitutional and it’s not even logical…. The constitution itself says that if a state law and federal law are in conflict, the federal law has supremacy.”

It is beyond a state Legislature’s authority to judge the constitutionality of federal law, Hill said.

“That right is reserved in the constitution to the judiciary, to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said.

Smith criticized Hill for backing the Idaho health insurance exchange.

“My opponent … was a driving force for the state health care exchange, which I am opposed to,” Smith said. “I am opposed to doing anything to assist the national government in implementing socialist regime ideas.”

While Hill opposes the Affordable Care Act, and supported efforts to repeal it or challenge it in court, establishing a state exchange allowed for Idaho to reduce health care costs and ban abortion coverage.

“There are those who want to sit around and let the federal government have free reign — running its own exchange with its own people back in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Those of us who wanted to keep as much state control and state sovereignty as we could felt like the state exchange was the best option. It’s run by Idahoans.”

Smith rejected that argument.

“The establishment in Boise has presented a false set of choices for the state in saying that either we do a federal exchange or we do a state exchange,” he said. “Really, they’re the same thing. The state exchange is just a watered-down version of the federal exchange.”

Hill pointed out that several states passed nullification laws, but all failed in practice.

“Every single one of those states has an exchange of the state, either state-run or the federal one,” he said. “What good did it do them? It didn’t get them out of having an exchange. It’s just run by the bureaucrats in Washington.”

Both candidates said education was a high priority.

For Smith, getting rid of the Idaho Core Standards tops the list. He also would promote job growth by working to minimize taxes a priority.

“I’m opposed to any top-down, one-size-fits-all (education) solution,” he said “I think (we need) more control and decision making at the local level.”

Hill, too, would emphasize “making sure that we retain as much local control, as well as parental involvement. (Parents) have the right to make their concerns known and be involved.”

Strengthening the family also is a priority for Hill.

“Every time I vote on a bill, in my mind the first question is, ‘How does this affect the family?’” Hill said. “I think there are inherent threats to the family unit out there that I am in a position to defend (against.)”