At the onset of this Legislative Session, we had strong proposals to enact, opportunities to seize, and problems to solve. Sadly, progress on Idaho’s most pressing needs has stalled. As we zoom toward a target March 24th adjournment, it is past time for the Legislature to get on track.
Idahoans spoke clearly in their advisory vote last November: We resoundingly endorsed a new $330 million investment in K-12 public education and $80 million for in-demand career training.
Idaho Democrats were eager to enact these investments as our first order of business. We hoped our Republican colleagues would be just as eager to take up the charge.
Instead, these common-sense investments are threatened by political hostage-taking, infighting, and general hostility toward education. The in-demand workforce bill squeaked through the House by a single vote. It took every Democrat to overcome the majority of Republicans in opposition. It is now languishing in the “amending order” in the Senate. Zero steps have been taken to bolster teacher and education support staff pay as rural schools, in particular, are struggling with hiring. A bill to start addressing the nearly $1 billion backlog in school facilities needs failed in committee.
This theme keeps repeating itself. Idaho families and employers rely on child care, yet Republicans just rejected $80 million for child care business support. Idahoans want better infrastructure. So far, not one budget has advanced, whether it’s for shovel-ready wastewater projects or the maintenance backlog for our beloved state parks.
What are Republicans in power advancing? One far-right folly after another: criminalizing certain vaccines, bringing back firing squads, attempting to ban drag shows while taking down our entire cultural arts sector, taking away the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children, ensnaring libraries in endless frivolous lawsuits, banning most absentee voting so that people with vacation homes can vote by mail but not those traveling to a loved one’s funeral, amending the Idaho Constitution to effectively eliminate our ballot initiative rights, allowing armed militias to parade down Main Street, and restricting bathroom use.
These bills will not bring good jobs to our state. They will not improve our schools. They will not make raising your family more affordable. They will not lower your property taxes so you can stay in your home.
These manufactured issues are worse than mere distractions from voters’ real concerns. These bills are outright harmful. They attack our fellow Idahoans, stoking fear and hate for our LGBTQ community. This toxic environment makes business owners and talented employees think twice about putting down roots in Idaho, causing lasting damage to our economy.
We know what the people of Idaho want. The Idaho Legislature needs to start delivering.