Every year, Republican legislators like to see what they can get away with by attempting to pass bad bills that chip away at Idahoans’ civil liberties, public services, and government transparency. There are often attempts to shift the tax burden onto hard-working Idaho families too. Although this year wasn’t any different, the people of Idaho paid close attention and spoke out when their representatives went against their interests.
These bad bills included a restriction on early voting, an anti-immigration bill that could rip apart agricultural communities, a tax shift from the richest in the state to hard-working families, and a proposal that would inhibit government transparency.
It’s the people’s voice that strengthens our democracy; it’s public pressure that keeps legislators in check. Keep paying attention, keep writing your legislators, and keep holding our state government accountable to the people of Idaho.
Below is a list bad bills that the Idahoans wouldn’t let stand:
Restricting Early Voting:
Freshman Republican, Representative Dustin Manwaring (R-Pocatello) brought forward a bill that would restrict early voting to as little as six days before an election. Currently, Idaho Statute allows counties to decide when early voting will be accessible, after all, these local jurisdictions understand what their communities need. This is especially important in rural areas where residents don’t have access to many polling locations and need to plan ahead of time when voting. This bill would limit fourteen counties in Idaho from carrying out their current early voting procedures. Many county clerks, the hard working people who make our elections possible, opposed this bill. Henrianne Westerburg of Latah County voiced concerns, saying “We already have so many restrictions on how we run elections.” This bill clearly limits local control and obstructs people from exercising their fundamental right to vote. Idahoans and the Idaho Association of Counties voiced their concerns about this voter suppression proposal, knowing that the legislature should focus on strengthening our democracy, not eroding it. Fortunately, outspoken citizens and Democrats in the Senate State Affairs committee were instrumental in killing this bill before it progressed any further.
Chaney’s Immigration Bill:
Earlier this year, Representative Greg Chaney (R-Caldwell), introduced a bill aimed to discourage “sanctuary cities” in Idaho, even though we have never had any sanctuary cities. This bill would have forced our overburdened local law enforcement agencies to do research that federal immigration authorities already do. Rep. Chaney even admitted that he didn’t bother to vet the bill through local law enforcement. This bill threatened to deeply impact our economy and agricultural communities. Idaho farm groups from across the state voiced opposition to the bill, stating, “If this bill plays out the way it appears it could, it could be really devastating to Idaho’s agricultural workforce…We’re very concerned about (it).” The Food Producers of Idaho also unanimously voted to oppose the bill. If it weren’t for so many Idahoans voicing their opposition, this bill would have led to specific members of our communities being targeted and profiled. The legislature should be passing laws to protect every person from discrimination rather than driving a wedge between communities and law enforcement. In order to build a stronger and more prosperous Idaho, we must focus on uniting all of our communities, not dividing them.
The Constitutional Convention Con:
In a movement pushed by ALEC, a corporate-backed group of special interests, the Article V Constitutional Convention was a wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing. Proponents of the movement led people to believe that this effort was aimed at incorporating a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution. However, this assembly would not be limited to adding a single amendment, but would allow for the complete destruction of any part of the Constitution. This convention would have unlimited power over the supreme law of the land at a time when America is deeply divided. Senator Marv Hagedorn (R-Meridian) and Representative Christy Perry (R-Nampa) put forward Senate Concurrent Resolution 108, which issued a formal call to Congress for a Constitutional Convention. Assistant Minority Leader, Representative Ilana Rubel and Representative Judy Boyle voiced bipartisan disapproval for this proposal, while the people of Idaho came out in droves to voice their concerns. The message was clear: Idahoans refuse to surrender the sanctity of our founding document. Thanks to the many engaged citizens and supporting organizations, the call for a convention was put to rest and our Constitution was protected.
Cutting Government Transparency:
Representative Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) proposed a bill that would create a substantial change to the Idaho Public Records Act by denying citizens and journalists their right to uncover corruption within state government. This law would have exempted lawmakers, like Representative Barbieri himself, from research requests for e-mail and text communications with other legislators and special interest groups. As stated by the Idaho Attorney General, Lawrence G. Wasden, “Open government is the cornerstone of a free society.” House Bill 233 was an attack on free speech and freedom of the press. Condemned by Idahoans, journalists, and even some Republican legislators, it would have left our state government dangerously susceptible to corruption and ethical misconduct. In a statement from the Democratic caucus, we expressed that this legislation is “another attack on our democracy,” and “would do a great disservice to the citizens of Idaho who have the right to know what their elected officials are doing with their time and taxpayer money. House Democrats strongly oppose this bill and will fight to stop ongoing attacks against government transparency.” People everywhere let their representatives know that passing bills that erode government accountability don’t do any service for our state. After public pressure, this bill was halted in its tracks.
We live in a vibrant democracy where people are encouraged to stand up for what is right and take lead in our political process. It’s engaged citizens that won’t stand for bad bills that are the real heroes by protecting our state’s future. Thank you, Idaho!