Mr. Cope's Cave: Just When You Thought Your Legislature Couldn't Get Any Dumber...

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The Official State Dumbshit

Friday, I introduced yet another continuing series, "Just When You Thought Your Legislature Couldn't Get Any Dumber...," and pardon me for saying it twice within the first 50 words, but I just love the way it rolls off my tongue.

This particular dumb Legislature story deals with a rejection of the Idaho giant salamander as our official state amphibian, in spite of the time and effort that young Ilah Hickman, 14, has invested in the project over the past five legislative sessions.

The ax fell on the salamander in the House State Affairs Committee, ensuring that it wouldn't reach the full Legislature. The vote split almost entirely down party lines, with 10 Republicans voting to kill it, and four Democrats and two Republicans voting to let it go forward. The prevailing reason the nay-voters gave for killing the proposal was that they feared any such designation could result in an excuse for the federal government to step in and mandate protection for the salamander and its habitat, as though it's some kind of spotted owl with gills and webbed feet.

The Idaho attorney general issued a statement that there was no foundation for such a thing happening, that what any state designates as an "official" entity—be it fauna, flora, mineral or any other classification of matter—has no bearing whatsoever on how the Endangered Species Act is enforced. But, of course, nothing so trivial as facts, evidence, legal precedent or actual reality would matter to those who operate on the principle, If I can imagine it might happen, it probably will.

However, as I hinted in Friday's blog, that sad-ass argument about federal overreach was not the dumbest dissent to come out of the proceedings. That distinction must go to one Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, and I quote from a Spokesman-Review article: "When I grew up, and I was a young boy, in our swimming hole there were salamanders. We called them water dogs. ... I learned to despise them. ... They were ugly, they were slimy, and they were creepy. And I've not gotten over that. So to elevate them to the status of being the state amphibian, I'm not there yet."  

Following Mr. Andrus' line of reasoning, I guess we must be thankful there wasn't a grudge-inclined legislator back in 1931 whose newly-washed car had been shit on by a mountain bluebird, or to this day, we might not have an official state bird.

And what would we do for a state flower if some early incarnation of Rep. Andrus had been allergic to syringas?

Yes, with this statement, His-Most-Elevated-Self Andrus (and I pray he is no relation, even distant, to the non-dumbshit former Gov. Cecil Andrus we Idahoans remember with wistful pride) has demonstrated clearly what I suspect makes so much of our local majority party's collective brain tick, whether it be in regards to recognizing unique amphibians, the rightfulness of expanding Medicaid, the validity of science, the value of governmental oversight, the importance of education... or the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In his rambling way, Andrus has acknowledged that within the tight confines of what passes for his brain, his role as legislator is not about what is, but what he feels about it.

Of course, that would be bad news for anything he feels is ugly, slimy, creepy... alien, different, unlike himself... beyond his capacity to understand, outside his experience over there in Lava Hot Springs, not worth considering if it doesn't fall within his narrow perspective. And for being such an inarticulate specimen of everything that's wrong with this state's leadership, I submit the name of Rep. Ken Andrus for consideration as Idaho's "Official State Dumbshit."

However, since the legislative session has from two to three months yet to go, I'm confident he will have plenty of stiff competition by the time the last gavel drops.