We’ve got a lot going on in Idaho right now. It can be tough to keep up with everything our so-called representatives are doing, since the legislative session is like drinking from a firehose and there are all sorts of bad — and sometimes downright harmful — bills being introduced into (and sometimes making it through) committee.
It’s hard enough to keep track of what’s going on in Boise, and even in our own city councils, without local county political “leaders” doing their best to mischaracterize our own neighbors while they use misinformation to whip up outrage over non-issues.
But that’s part of the game, isn’t? Get everyone bickering over things that don’t actually impact us — and might not even actually be happening — so that you won’t have the attention or time to pay to how our current “representatives” aren’t actually, well, representing us.
We need to pay attention, though. George Washington was wise, in his farewell address, to caution against the excesses of party adherence. When we worry too much about labels and our perceptions of those labels, it’s easy to overlook the people and policies at play.
The results of ignoring people and policies are easy to see. Our current legislative session is one that has been marked by our “representatives” acting in a way that is almost hostile toward their constituents.
First of all, in spite of Bonneville County’s overwhelming passage of Medicaid expansion, at least one of our local D33 legislators is actively working against what we voted for — and even taking money from a Florida-based PAC to continue his crusade against our wishes.
Next, we’ve got a state Senator from Eagle trying to push an effort to make it even harder for us to get initiatives on the ballot. In a hastily-scheduled committee hearing earlier this week, the Senate Affairs chair decided to listen to lobbyist testimony and dismissed the dozens of people who showed up to testify against the bill.
I’d like to think that our legislators from Bonneville County would vote “no” on such restrictions to the rights given to us in the Idaho Constitution, but we are talking about folks who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a bill that would have ended child marriage for those under the age of 16. If we can’t count on them to protect the rights of children, can we count on them to protect the rights of actual voters?
And, on top of this, we’ve got an actual good, bi-partisan bill on sentencing minimums that just made it out of the Idaho House with strong support. But that bill is being held up in a Senate committee by a single man who thinks being Chair means that he’s more important than anyone else and should be the main arbiter of what’s “worthy.”
Throw in the anti-public lands items that have been circulating through our legislature, and it’s pretty clear that the values reflected in the state legislature aren’t, in fact, the values that most Idahoans — regardless of party affiliation — share.
Paying attention to what’s happening in our law-making bodies is an important part of being an engaged and informed citizen. However, we shouldn’t have to babysit them all the time, or be in a constant state of taking matters into our own hands when we’re neglected. And we certainly shouldn’t be fighting our “representatives” quite as much as we seem to be this session.