The following information comes from Rep. Ron Nate's latest Legislative Update. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at (208) 403-3609.
Incorporation by Reference - Environmental Rules
During the first couple of weeks in the legislature committee work is focused on administrative rules reviews. Each year, state agencies propose adjustments to state rules to reflect new laws passed in the last legislative session and/or to reflect changes in federal laws requiring Idaho's conformity.
This last category is especially troublesome. The federal government requires Idaho to adopt federal environmental laws. The process for doing this is called "incorporation by reference" (IFR). According to Idaho statutes, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ, a state agency) is required to adjust its rules to meet the minimum federal standards. Also, according to statute, DEQ is prohibited from adopting more stringent statutes. Do you see what that means? Idaho's DEQ will do exactly what the federal government says it will do.
Furthermore, the DEQ spends around $65 million to enforce these rules in Idaho. About $37 million of that is federal money, but the other $28 million or so is Idaho tax/fee-payer money. To be clear, Idaho will spend nearly $28 million from Idahoans to enforce federal environmental rules.
Last Thursday, the rules review in our Environment, Energy, and Technology committee covered adjustments in Idaho rules to incorporate by reference the National Air Quality Standards. I asked the state official how many pages of federal law we were incorporating into Idaho law. Her response was stunning. These few IFRs in our rules were adopting changes in tens of thousands of pages of federal law about air quality. They had no estimate of how many businesses and individuals would be affected nor the costs they would bear.
There has to be a better solution for Idaho. Here's one idea. Instead of Idaho adopting every new federal mandate into our own statutes and then paying to enforce those rules ourselves, why don't we eliminate the DEQ enforcement and leave it to the federal government? The federal laws would still apply, but we would not go through the charade of making them also be Idaho law, and we would not incur the expense of $28 million of Idaho taxpayer money to enforce rules we don't choose for ourselves.
To see the opportunity cost of our DEQ adopt-and-enforce policy, imagine we didn't spend the money on enforcement of federal environmental rules and instead spent the money on Idaho teacher salaries. With 15,985 teachers in the state, $28 million would be enough to give every Idaho teacher a $1,752 raise. Perhaps that would be our money better spent.
Boise Bullying and the Voice of the People
Idaho is a conservative state, but the policies coming out of the State Legislature are not conservative. (See the adoption of Common Core in 2010, the Obamacare exchange in 2014, the huge gas tax and hybrid fee increase in 2015, and the huge spending increases last year and projected again for this year). People across Idaho don't feel their voices are being heard.
I was one who felt misrepresented. So I ran for office two years ago. I planned to be an agent of change. I ran on a platform of writing and supporting legislation that is Constitutional, Economically Efficient, and Morally Sound. You can see the bills I've sponsored and observe my voting record to see how I've kept my word.
I went to the capitol excited to introduce bills, have healthy debates, and win or lose on the merits of the proposed legislation. I love the idea of a fair public forum to hash out ideas and improve public policy. I have even been successful with a few pieces of legislation regarding abortion and gun rights.
My values and successes have not pleased everyone though. Conservative voices like mine are threatening to those who are in control of the legislature. Conservative legislators disrupt the gravy-train, special-interest, business-as-usual politics that yields liberal policies even in a conservative state. Conservative legislators draw attention and even ire from those who are threatened—mostly from those who like their positions of power and have aspirations for higher office.
People across the state are often dismayed at what our legislature has passed (again, Obamacare, Common Core, taxes, spending, etc.) What is less obvious, is how legislators who promote conservative principles are treated in Boise. There is a pattern of intimidation, bullying, power plays, and every dirty trick in the book used to alienate and isolate those who threaten the status quo.
From my very first week in office, I was threatened with losing committee assignments or never getting bills heard if I did anything that went against "the process." "The process" is the operating procedure of how representative government works. We have a set of rules for the House and Senate and the procedures of how legislation is to be introduced and heard and voted on. It is a clear set of rules intended to allow all voices to be heard and for representatives to truly represent their districts.
In Idaho, the process is broken. In the Idaho House, the leadership controls and manages what bills get heard, what bills get canned, who is appointed to positions, and what the overall agenda is. Conservatives and others who are not in good graces of leadership are shut out of the process. Bills get "put in the drawer." Representatives are told to pipe down and "stay in their lane." Committee spots are threatened. Representatives are told they could end up as "a committee of one" if they don't stop pushing back.
Legislators are taken into offices, left to face alone two or three "leaders" who tell them how "the process" works. "Stay in line, or you will 'not be effective.'" That is code for, "If you ever want to pass your bills, you will do what we say." The messaging is crystal clear. "If you push too hard, you could end up like Representative XX, who lost his committee assignments a few years ago." "We are just telling you how it is."
All of these tactics have been used against me. Other new legislators—especially the liberty minded ones—report the same pattern of intimidation and bullying. "The process," abused in this way, is how conservative voices are stifled and ignored.
At its extreme, one member of leadership even broke his own established ethical standards to try and push me out of the legislature. He claimed, years before, that certain conduct is unacceptable and could result in "sanctions [or] disciplinary action." In 2016, that very same leader did what he himself said was punishable. But, that is supposed to be okay now, because he is a member of leadership and is protecting "the process." It is a disappointing and unfair double standard. It is not ethical.
It would be understandable to lose effectiveness or even lose one's position in the legislature because of rules violations or true misconduct, but that is not the messaging. No misconduct is ever cited, except the "offense" of pushing back against "the process" as defined by the "leaders."
This is not how representative government is supposed to work. So here we stand, a group of legislators in Idaho trying to cast sunlight on a broken process. Citizens voices are not being heard because of intimidation and bullying. When a few legislators point to the glaring problems of failed leadership and inequitable treatment, punishment is applied.
Is a private comment by a legislator grounds for removing her from committees? Give me a break! I have heard (but never said) many vulgar and objectionable things said in the capitol on a regular basis. But when an objectionable comment comes from a champion of liberty, it becomes punishable. To pick on this one legislator is proof positive there is an agenda to intimidate, harass, isolate, and eliminate those who threaten or even merely disagree with the Legislature power structure.
I didn't go to Boise to be a "disruptor," however my views and my agenda have been disrupting nonetheless. If this disruption costs me my effectiveness or even gets me tossed from the legislature, it will be because I have stayed true to my principles, have not conformed to a broken process, and have stood up for citizens whose voices were being frivolously and callously taken away.
Idahoans are tired of corruption in politics. They don't feel their voices are heard. The election of Donald Trump as President is evidence of the disgust of current politics. We need good men and women who will come in an fix the broken process and even disrupt the politics-as-usual mentality.
I am willing to fight that fight. I didn't ask for it, but I find myself in it. But if the end result is a fixed politic, a better process, free and open debate, fair chances to have legislation heard, and the voices of the citizens to fully be heard, then I am willing to make the effort and take the sacrifice. I will do everything in my power to make Idaho a better state and the Idaho Legislature a true representative government again.
Congressman Davy Crockett (Tennessee) once said, "I would rather be beaten and be a man, than to be elected and be a little puppy dog." I agree, and I hope my actions testify as much.
Growing Freedom - A Healthy Start
In case you didn't see it last week, we have a new website to help citizens be more involved with what is going on in the Idaho Legislature and how to effectively make their voices heard. The site includes a Freedom Agenda of legislation brought to the legislature by citizens and is what liberty-minded legislators will be pursuing this session.
Stay in Touch!
As always my goals are to best represent District 34's views and interests, keep my oath to protect and defend the U.S. and State Constitutions, restrain government influence, keep taxes low, and support legislation that is constitutional, economical, and moral. I always appreciate feedback from voters and citizens. As you probably know, citizen input is very important and influential. When you and others contact legislators, they have the power and incentives to protect rights and keep their oaths. Together, we can keep Idaho great and free.
You and your friends can contact your legislators to make your views known by emailing or calling them. To find your representatives' and senators' contact information you can click here for Representatives, and here for Senators.