The Idaho Legislature is being governed by the second Golden Rule. This can only happen when one political party has complete control of the legislature (it doesn’t matter which party).  Once the majority party controls over 66% of the seats in the legislature (super-majority control), they can do what they want – including overriding a Governor’s veto.  


In Idaho, the majority party controls 80% of the legislature, and has 100% control over the writing of laws. This year it passed new laws that: 

  • Raise property taxes for thousands of residential property owners, including those who are disabled or living on a fixed income (H389). 
  • Give hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts mostly to the wealthy, while taking over $160 million a year away from education and other state services (H380). 
  • Shift $80 million away from sources that fund education to pay for neglected transportation needs (H362) – robbing Peter to pay Paul. 
  • Cut $2.5 million from higher education while the state enjoys its largest revenue surplus in history (H387).

The belief that “He who has all the gold makes all the rules” is literally in effect. In today’s Idaho Legislature, “making the rules” often means suspending them.  When the rules are constantly suspended, there are no rules. There are five procedural rules that ensure the public is aware of a potential new law before it is voted on: 

  1. The draft of a bill is publicly introduced in a committee hearing. If approved, it is given a bill number, allowing the public access to it. 
  1. The new bill appears on the First Reading Calendar during the meeting of the full House. This informs the public of the new bill’s existence. 
  1. The bill is then introduced in committee with a full public hearing. After public testimony, the committee votes whether to recommend the bill. 
  1. If recommended, the bill appears on the Second Reading Calendar, providing public notification of its progress.  
  1. The bill then moves to the Third Reading Calendar, where the bill is debated and voted on by all 70 House members. 

This process is deliberately diligent and lengthy to ensure the public has sufficient advance notice and ample opportunity to be aware, understand, research and give testimony on a proposed new law before it comes to a vote.
 
But when the rules are routinely suspended, all of that goes by the wayside. That’s what happens with many bills, including the new so-called property tax reduction bill (H389) that is now causing the City of Meridian to raise property taxes

This 26-page bill was introduced on the House floor within a few hours of being unveiled – without sufficient committee notice, without in-depth analysis, without input from key stakeholder organizations, and without any public testimony. I debated against this bill for that very reason.

This is how perpetual one-party control undermines good government. It allows political leaders to suspend the rules because they have enough “gold” (control of legislative seats) to do what they want.

The solution toward a less lopsided legislature is simple, but not easy.  The simple part is this: Vote for the person, not just a letter or a color. The difficult part is knowing enough about the candidates to know who to vote for. This is why you see simplistic political messages like the “Keep Idaho Red” stickers at the Western Idaho Fair. It’s easier to just vote for a color than to get good, reliable information about the person from credible sources.
 
I knock on doors, over 27,000 during the course of my campaigns. I do this to give voters an opportunity to meet me in person, learn who I am, know where I stand on the issues important to them, and help me best represent my constituents. It’s why I am the first Idaho Democratic party candidate ever elected – and re-elected – by my conservative Republican district.
  
It’s why I choose the first Golden Rule – treat others as you’d have them treat you – with respect, even when we disagree. Regardless of party affiliation.

 




Rep. Steve Berch
District 15, House Seat A
208-890-9339
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