House Ways & Means 3-25-19

The House Ways & Means Committee meets on Monday, March 25, 2019 at the Idaho state Capitol.

When the House convenes today, it should restore its dignity, which it tossed out the window Thursday.

With one of the few remaining major outstanding issues before it — whether to pass a Senate Bill 1159, which would eviscerate the right of the ballot initiative — the House evidently found itself at an impasse.

The House GOP spent hours cloistered in a closed-door meeting, working out a deal. Then they held a surprise meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee to print a new bill. They didn’t announce the meeting. No public testimony was permitted.

Betsy Russell, the most experienced journalist in the Capitol, asked Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, whether the House had violated Rule 55, one of the approved procedural rules by which the House conducts its business, which requires meetings to be announced. He flatly refused to comment.

Dignified representatives of the people tending the public interest do not behave this way. Thieves, spies and their ilk — people with something to hide — behave this way.

At least a thief will only make off with your valuables. The House aims to take constitutional rights from the people of this state.

Four former attorneys general have quite clearly warned that the original Senate bill constitutes an assault on the Idaho Constitution. Former Secretary of State Ben Ysursa told the Idaho Press that he agrees. Retired judges also have warned that it’s likely to be unconstitutional, as has the American Civil Liberties Union. Hundreds of common citizens testified against the original bill, while those who supported it can be counted on a single hand.

Are their concerns resolved by these changes? There won’t be a chance to find out, because the House majority has plugged its ears and covered its eyes.

The House GOP plans to develop sweeping, new public policy in an hourslong secret meeting, shielded from all public scrutiny and transparency? Without hearing a single word from the public whose rights it would strip? Whose business do lawmakers think they are doing?

This is not a deal that was crafted with the public interest at heart. It is a crass, cynical attempt to resolve the Republican Caucus’ own internal political divisions, sacrificing the public interest on the altar of political expediency.

Planting season is upon us, so the Legislature, which has a large contingent of farmers, is anxious to return home.

But lawmakers have not yet earned that privilege.

They asked the people for this job, and the people gave it to them. Now they must either let the people’s will stand unaltered, or, at the very least, run a proper process. If they cannot get this job done right, then their fields ought to lay fallow.

The Post Register’s editorial board consists of Publisher Travis Quast, Managing Editor Monte LaOrange and editorial writer Bryan Clark. Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.

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