There have been several references made in the paper lately linking perceived California problems to the Democratic Party and then implying that Idaho is better because it is predominantly Republican. Such simplistic linkage does not solve any problems for either state.
Wayne Hoffman’s concern for our part-time Legislature’s attempt to take over more space in the state house is well founded in that it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense when legislators are there for three months. But the concern about losing a small state, part-time legislative system may be misplaced. California legislators had better be full-time since they are attempting to govern a state that is the seventh largest economy in the world. You can’t compare apples to potatoes.
States can be on the forefront in implementing innovative solutions. One California solution that worked well: Legislators don’t get paid for any days beyond the budget deadline date. That might not work for Idaho but would be a good idea for the U.S. Congress. For Idaho, it would seem trying to create a balanced budget before knowing the revenue is backward.
What Idahoans need to give serious thought to is what changes might improve our governing in the years to come as our state continues to grow. Idahoans like to be prepared. Let’s apply that thinking to the changes in governance that will be necessary for the future.
One problem with a part-time Legislature is that large segments of the population simply can’t take weeks of time off from work, so the membership is skewed and is not truly representative. Having a bicameral system may provide more points of view, but perhaps more would be accomplished with half as many people who, incidentally, use half as much office space. It always takes at least a year to become acquainted with a new work responsibility.
If legislators were elected to a full-time four-year position, they could devote their energy to becoming knowledgeable and proficient while actually earning a living. Half could be elected every two years with three terms max to ensure new blood but allow keeping the experienced. If there are half as many legislators, they can be paid a living wage without blowing out the budget. Nebraska has been operating successfully since going to a unicameral system to save money. Save money? That should catch the eye of Idahoans.
Other problem areas crop up periodically. Gov. Little is taking care of one by seeing that arcane rules and language are being eliminated. Committee chairs can arbitrarily block a bill so that it can’t even be debated, which doesn’t seem right. What’s a better way to control frivolous bills?
It would be interesting to see constructive suggestions made by past or present state legislators as well as interested citizens on how our systems might be made more representative of the population as well as more efficient and effective. Those who are newer residents from other states can be a resource of ideas for improvements. Rather than throwing partisan stones and coming to erroneous conclusions, looking to other states for innovations that might work is a good thing.