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The outcome of the $100,000 session: Not a single bill passed

Steve Berch

One of my west Ada County legislative colleagues spilled the beans. Arguing against being too hasty, this colleague countered during floor debate: “We haven’t been hasty. We’ve been working on some of these bills since July.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Exhibit A for political malpractice. A majority party that controls 80% of the Senate and over 82% of the House has been working for nearly four months writing bills behind closed doors — four months to draft legislation, consider long term consequences, finalize a few well-crafted bills, and build a consensus to pass them.

Instead, we got a hodgepodge of 29 bills introduced in the House, which were withheld from the public until the first day of the reconvened session and voted on the next day. Some read as if they were written on the back of a napkin. Most of them where so poorly written you could drive a truck through the gaps in logic, legality, and fiscal impact.

The outcome: Not a single bill passed. The majority party spent $100,000 of your tax dollars to reconvene the Legislature with nothing to show for it.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. One legislator confided in private it really didn’t matter if any of the bills actually passed. What mattered was creating talking points for reelection campaigns next year just by introducing them (e.g. “I tried to do . . .”).

In fact, the political malpractice put on display makes a convincing argument for not allowing the Legislature to call itself into special session. This can happen if voters pass a proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on next November’s ballot. The events of this week took place a year before the 2022 election. Imagine if the legislature could pull this political stunt a month before Election Day! The opportunities to pervert the legislative process for purely political campaign purposes are endless — which would be endlessly paid for by you.

A question of balance

Many of the bills, either singularly or in combination, gave the unvaccinated the right to work anywhere, anytime, in any environment and without disclosure. The rights of those who want to avoid being exposed by those who are unvaccinated were never considered. One scenario would not allow you to ask or confirm if a caregiver employed by a business or government entity was unvaccinated, thus preventing you from denying them employment and entry into your home to take care of your kids or elderly parents.

The honest, mature, professional debate we should have had this week was how to balance the rights of the individual with the rights of others and the public at large. Allowing anyone to do anything they want, anywhere, at any time, without any responsibility or consequence for their actions is anarchy.  Conversely, government control of everything at the cost of individual liberty is oppression.

The best path forward is somewhere in the middle, rather than either extreme. It’s what discerning and disciplined legislators do in the face of highly emotional and inflammatory circumstances. In the words of J. K. Rowling, “We must face the choice between what is easy and what is right.” It’s easy to play into the emotions of the moment. It’s a lot harder to step back and discern the right course of action that may not fully satisfy those emotions.

This is why we need to elect critical thinkers who understand they represent the interests of all constituents, not just those who voted for them.

This is why we need to vote for the person, not a letter or a color.

Rep. Steven Berch

Rep. Steven Berch

Rep. Steve Berch is serving his third term in the Idaho House, representing District 15. He sits on the Education, Business, Local Government and Joint Legislative Oversight committees.

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