Opinion » Bill Cope

Legislature '13

Not quite as bad as I think it was


I have an apology to make. During the week before the state legislators went home, I was preparing a summary of what they had been doing to us since January. It was to be in two parts, as I am much too wordy a writer to summarize anything like an entire legislative session in one measly column. I had tentatively titled it "Brats '13--What we got for $3-and-a-half mil."

"Three-and-a-half mil" is approximately what the legislative session cost Idaho taxpayers, and "Brats" should give you an idea of how I perceived the legislators' performance. And when I say "the legislators," I mean the Republican legislators, seeing as how the body is so overwhelmingly one party that virtually everything noteworthy that comes out of it--be it noxiously noteworthy or not so noxiously noteworthy--almost inevitably comes from a conservative mouth, a conservative brain or a conservative caucus.

In my summary--which you shall never see as I've already dumped it into the sentence recycler--I was not kind to the Republicans, to put it mildly. I led the piece off with the issue of the Capitol parking garage they seem to want in the worst way, and the legislation they slammed through, which exempted them from any authority the city of Boise might have over the construction of that garage.

I suggested the title of that piece of legislation be "The When in Rome, Screw Rome! Bill," and insinuated that the reason for the garage had much to do with "how far they believe they should have to waddle their exalted fannies from their cars to their padded lawmaker chairs."

I mentioned these lawmakers who come to town every winter for their "cock-and-bull display" are a "plague," and I managed not only to call them "a collection of goat herders, turkey farmers and stunted ideologues," but I slandered their home districts with references to a notable lack of "sewage disposal systems and paved streets."

Not feeling like I had insulted the "rubes and hayseeds" quite enough, I talked about how, when the session finally came to a close, they could scoot on home to "slop the llamas and hose out the chicken coops." I also suggested, pointedly, that if they didn't like the way Boise was treating them, they should feel free to hold their future legislative sessions "somewhere more commensurate with the caliber of individuals in attendance. A potato barn in Burley, perhaps. Or maybe an abandoned B.P.O.E. hall in Athol."

Keep in mind, all of that was just in the first three paragraphs of the article. For the remainder, I went on to illustrate how I felt their behavior in the parking garage stink was typical of the way they had conducted themselves throughout the session.

For instance, the way they were resurrecting elements of that bitter pill (the education reforms), which had been so robustly spit out by voters last November. Even worse were the efforts to throttle citizens' initiative process that put those Luna's crapass reforms on the ballot in the first place.

Other actions further reflected the same attitude: the proposal to order Idaho law enforcement personnel into resisting any federal enforcement of new gun laws; the pressure to not comply with the Obamacare mandates; the demand that U.S. Forest Service and BLM lands to be handed over to state management.

In toto, it seemed obvious they are more than willing to impose their ideological straight jacket on Idaho citizens, but the hell with anyone--be it the city of Boise, the federal government, or a resounding majority of Idaho voters--who would deny them having their way. In a word--brats!

But I missed something. On the very morning of my deadline for Part One of "Brats," I finally looked at other summaries of the session that I had set aside for later.

In reading them, I realized I had made an embarrassing mistake. You see, I had assumed that even the most repulsive proposals to come up during the session had passed and would soon be official state policy.

I had it figured that if such legislation was being promoted by rubes and hayseeds to a legislative body run entirely by rubes and hayseeds, then surely they all passed.

But, not quite. Yes, the legislation to hamstring the citizens' initiative process succeeded, and yes, they once again repeatedly slapped the faces of those professionals who have any chance at bringing meaningful reform to education--the teachers. Yes, they launched the public lands issue into an orbit that will eventually cost Idahoans millions before it inevitably comes down to a loss in the courts, and yes, as in all sessions past, they ignored the plight and pleas of gay-rights activists.

Certainly, in almost every way, they behaved with the same pompous dickishness we have come to expect from Republicans.

Yet, with all the disappointments, Idaho came out of it with a health insurance exchange--something that other red states resisted--and the effort to turn Idaho cops into Johnny Rebs failed--for now. Unlike other conservative legislatures, there were enacted no further voting restrictions--yet. There was no further stripping women of their reproductive rights--yet. There was no further talk of delivering Idaho students into the maw of the corporate education machine--yet.

In other words, for one year running, they managed to not be the worst legislature in America, and I apologize for taking such a harsh tone in the column I originally intended you to read.

I did not see the bright side, hopeful side, of the 2013 Legislature--that with such a collection of goat herders, turkey farmers and stunted ideologues running the state, this may be as good as it gets.