BOISE — The new lieutenant governor from Idaho Falls and a former lawmaker from Rexburg were honored at the state Republican Party’s winter meeting last weekend.
The state GOP Central Committee also adopted resolutions opposing the construction of wildlife overpasses over U.S. Highway 20 in Fremont County and condemning former Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter for backing a write-in challenge launched by a local lawmaker who lost the Republican primary.
Ron Nate, who lost the May 2018 Republican primary to current Rep. Doug Ricks, received the “outstanding Republican legislator” award and was inducted into the party’s Hall of Fame. So was Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who got the “most valuable person” award.
The anti-overpass resolution lists the impacts on human recreation and land use as reasons to be against them, and notes opponents include local politicians, District 35 lawmakers and Gov. Brad Little. Overpass supporters say they will reduce vehicle/animal collisions. The county’s voters rejected the idea in a non-binding referendum in November, and it is looking less likely that overpasses will be built, as the Idaho Transportation Department recommended putting up warning signs instead in a report last week.
The central committee also passed a resolution condemning Otter. After current Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, beat longtime Rep. Tom Loertscher of Bone in last year’s primary for the 32B House seat, Otter endorsed and contributed money to Loertscher’s write-in campaign to keep the spot. The resolution cites support for Christensen from other Republicans and says Otter’s endorsement was “wholly inappropriate, casts a dark shadow on Governor Otter’s tenure of service, and is not in keeping with our values as a Party.”
The party adopted several other resolutions. One urges Idaho’s federal lawmakers to work with Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to pass legislation limiting “birthright citizenship.” Under current law, anyone born in the United States is a U.S. citizen, including the children of tourists and undocumented immigrants. King has repeatedly sponsored legislation to restrict citizenship to babies born here who have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident or non-citizen serving in the military. Such a bill would almost certainly end up in court were it to pass, as the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has traditionally been interpreted to mean almost anyone born on U.S. soil, including the children of undocumented immigrants, is a U.S. citizen.
One resolution opposes “red flag laws,” which have been passed in some states and which allows law enforcement to take guns away from people who a judge has said may pose a risk to themselves or others.
Another urges state lawmakers to adopt a more far-reaching “stand-your-ground” law. Last year lawmakers passed a bill clarifying the circumstances under which someone can use deadly force in self-defense, but a more far-reaching bill that was backed by some more conservative Republicans and the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance didn’t get a hearing. Loertscher was chairman of the State Affairs Committee at the time, which has authority over gun bills, and the controversy over this bill was a major factor in Christensen’s challenge, as the resolution condemning Otter notes.
The party also adopted several rules changes. One of the more notable ones would require Republican candidates to sign a statement either saying they agree with the Idaho Republican Party platform or noting the parts with which they disagree.