Common Sense and the Idaho Legislature
- 9 March 2008 by Author 0 Comments
Common Sense and the Idaho Legislature
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 03/09/08
When my father, Allan Larsen, was first elected to the legislature in 1967, the legislature was constitutionally required to meet for no more than 60 days every two years. He argued that we would be better off if the legislature only met for two days every sixty years. His rationale was simple, that the longer and more frequently they meet, the more time they have to pass laws that infringe on our liberty and the more money they spend that they have to collect from us. He admonished his family and his constituents to be vigilant and watch their wallets and watch their freedoms, for they were both at risk whenever the legislature is in session. The same principle holds true at the Federal level, although Congress is much more proficient at assaulting our liberty and our wallet.
He was of the enlightened opinion that, in spite of the potential for damage inflicted on Idahoans by the legislature being in session, that it was an anomaly when that occurred. He maintained that so many of Idaho’s legislators come from an agrarian background that they’re steeped in common sense, and their education is practical, having had to fight the system and bureaucracy and idiotic laws every day in eking out their subsistence. As the state becomes more urbanized, that tradition is less dominant, which demands increasing vigilance on our part.
Because of that common sense based history, trust is easier to foster for our state legislature than it is for the Federal Government, or even for our local governments as far as that goes. You’d think it would be easy to trust our local entities since they’re much closer to us and affect our daily lives more in so many ways. But it’s hard to have full faith in local entities that set budgets based on what they want, and then assesses the tax collections to support those wants, versus the state process which projects tax receipts, and then establishes a budget based on reasonable expectations for state revenue.
The legislature has engaged in some good common sense based legislation this year, although there are an increasing number of anomalies. Perhaps of little interest to more urban citizens, the passage of H0557 making provision for farmers to burn off crop residue after it had been declared “illegal” by the Berkeley-based ideologues of the Ninth “Circus” Court of Appeals. The effort, led in the Senate by Sen. Steve Bair from Blackfoot, illustrates how common sense can prevail even on environmental issues.
It appears that a similarly logical solution is in the works regarding the wolf management issue. Senate Bill 1374 passed the Senate unanimously allowing for livestock owners, and domestic animal owners to “dispose” of wolves that are threatening or molesting their animals, without fear of being thrown in jail for doing so, or even requiring a permit from Fish and Game. That issue still dredges up considerable angst when I think about how the problem came to be. If wolves were so good for the ecosystem, why didn’t Congress also require their reintroduction into the New England states where they were also indigenous? Of course we must remind ourselves that such an order was made by the same legislative body that illogically prevented hydro-electric production because of a snail and nearly destroyed the logging industry because of an owl. Such legislative idiocy is to be expected when bills are passed because it makes the legislators “feel good” instead of making sense.
Common sense prevailed in the defeat of SCR128, the greenhouse gases bill. In essence it called for something as innocuous as a report (which is already in the works anyway according to Toni Hardesty, DEQ Director) to be submitted to the Governor by mid-summer on greenhouse gas emissions as they relate to state energy policy. But the philosophical basis of the bill was so fallaciously founded on mythical assumptions, universally acclaimed yet unproven non-scientific premises, and unwarranted presuppositions regarding man-made global warming as to make the legislation untenable.
The so called “green building” bill, HB422 that calls for all state buildings to be 30% more energy efficient than comparable buildings should be of concern to us as taxpayers. The bill itself claims there is little cost difference in such energy-conscious construction. However, further research reveals that the construction costs to achieve even 25% greater efficiency can increase as much as 40%. That means that a $10 million building could cost as much as $14 million. Granted, energy efficiency would eventually offset much of that increased construction cost, but after how many decades? Gratefully the Senate version seems to recognize the inefficiency and impracticality of the House version, and as amended now states “to the extent it is practical and feasible” that 10-30% efficiency should be sought for state building projects.
For the most part, we get the quality of government we deserve, or vote for. Consequently, the imperative that we be as informed as possible is as applicable at the state and local level, as it is on the Federal level. For as Edward R. Murrow said, “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.