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Spuds & Duds 2011

Looking back on the highs and lows of the year that was


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Your Lawmakers at Work ... and Play

Nullificating Idaho

"We're simply saying, as a sovereign state of Idaho, we respectfully decline to recognize the federal government's action in this area." --Meridian Republican Sen. Russ Fulcher, explaining why he and other legislators from Idaho's ruling party wanted to "nullify" Obama's health-care bill.

Historically, Southern states have been the biggest fans of the long-discredited notion of nullification. They have tried using it repeatedly--from the Civil War era to the civil rights era--almost as a rule to get out of doing the decent thing in regard to race. Our own bunch of elected white people tried it out in an effort to deny uninsured Idahoans their best chance for affordable, unrevokable health-care insurance. In spite of warnings from the state Attorney General's Office that such a bird-brained move would never fly, the matter was pursued during the legislative session by people old enough, but clearly not smart enough, to know they were wasting time and money trying to polish another one of those turds on which the extreme right loves to waste time and money.

"Fibber" McGee

Many will question how I could possibly give Caldwell Republican Sen. John McGee a Spud for getting so shit-faced he could not recall how he ended up barefoot, after jack knifing a utility trailer on the property of someone he didn't know, in an SUV that didn't belong to him.

Listen, I don't condone anybody driving around in a stolen car at 3 a.m. with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit. And that goes double for folks from Canyon County, who aren't renowned for their motoring skills under the best of circumstances.

However, after reviewing four months' worth of news about legislators and the 2011 legislative session, the McGee escapade has at least the quality of being funny. You know, in a sad sort of way.

And as a legislative leader, he suffered no lasting consequences or penalties for his behavior or the subsequent stonewalling over it. The story allows me another opportunity to demonstrate that no matter what an Idaho Republican hot shot does, his little family values buddies are willing to forget the whole thing ever happened. Right, Butch?

Idaho Redistricting Commission

"I have a really good idea. Next time, you put your hand up to do this job." --Dolores Crow to Rod Beck

Now listen, be careful not to get the second redistricting commission confused with the first redistricting commission. The first commission couldn't redistrict squat, let me tell you. It spent 92 days trying to draw new legislative and congressional lines through Idaho, and in the end all it had was a big steaming pile of nothing.

But then six different people took over--three Democrats and three Republicans, just like the first bunch--and got 'er done in a couple of weeks, give or take. So to Dolores Crow, Ron Beitelspacher, Shauneen Grange, Sheila Olsen, Elmer Martinez and Randy Hansen, I say Spuds to you. And a special, special "You Go, Girl" Spud to Crow, who told Rod Beck to go Dud himself (my words) when he wouldn't stop bitching about their successful and bipartisan accomplishment.

Elected Officials Spending Badly

Limo License

You would think that during this frenzied time of budget-slashing and "ain't guv'mint the shits?" rhetoric that the men and women elected to Idaho's offices would at least make an attempt to not look like self-serving swine who are out to take advantage of every perk, loophole and cronyism they can find in their arrangement with the people who elected them. I mean, wouldn't ya?

Take State Treasurer Ron Crane. We learned in 2011 that when he goes to New York City on state business (which he claims he has to do at least once a year ... you know, as though conference calls and the Internet and fax machines haven't been invented yet), he prefers to travel the Big Apple in stretch limousines. He claims it's easier to keep the "Idaho delegation" (wink, wink) together, even though the limos run about four times what a comparable taxi cab ride costs. But it seems the "Idaho delegation" often includes wives, relatives and anyone else from Idaho's ruling caste who might want to open a line of credit at Tiffany's or catch a matinee of The Book of Mormon.

Perhaps we should just be thankful that we have yet to read (in The New York Times) reports of "clans of Idaho hillfolk, hanging out of limousine sun roofs, plinking road signs with varmint guns."

Land Board? Or Circle Jerk?

Then there is the case of the Idaho State Land Board--the agency that oversees the endowment to Idaho public schools--handing out $279,000 for public relations work to Mike Tracy, the same man who worked on the campaigns of Butch Otter and State Controller Donna Jones, both of whom are members of the Land Board. By my reckoning, $279,000 equals seven teachers.

Per Diem Dullards

And as if Sen. John "Hey off-cer, where-the-fug am I?" McGee hadn't already grabbed enough of our attention this year, word got out that he and another Canyon County legislator, Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie of Nampa, were each getting $122 a day to pay for a Capital City home-away-from-home during the legislative session. This in spite of the fact that when McKenzie didn't want to make the torturous 30-minute drive back to Nampa, he slept on a couch in his Boise law office, and McGee stayed at his parents' Boise home rather than hump it all the way over to Caldwell.

It is worth noting that McKenzie tried to excuse his hand in our pockets (in a guest opinion to the Idaho Statesman) by blaming the media coverage. He finished his argument complaining that he makes less in a year as a lawmaker than a library assistant in Georgia or a barista in Denver.

I feel compelled to point out the difference--library assistants and baristas actually do something useful for the money they get.

Nothing for Something

Incidentally, you know that redistricting commission I mentioned earlier? I mean the one that didn't get anything done, as opposed to the one that did get something done. OK, the truth is, the one that didn't get anything done actually did get something done. It spent $300,000 dollars without a thing to show for it. That's really something, isn't it?

Oh, and that $300,000 wasn't its money. It was mine. And yours. You know, the money we send in every year hoping something gets done with it.

Alan Shealy, Bye Bye

Some called you the smart-aleckiest member of the Boise City Council. I talked to you once or twice. I found you to be warm, smart and funny--qualities that don't always go together in one skin. I didn't think you were the least bit smart-alecky. And even if I had, it beats the hell out of dumb-alecky.