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Op-Ed: What we learned from the ill-fated special legislative session

by JIM JONES/Special to The Press
| November 21, 2021 1:00 AM

As legislators departed the Capitol following their tumultuous and unconstitutional special legislative session, many Idahoans wondered: “What’s up with that?” There was not much to show for the spectacle, other than a substantial bill left behind for the taxpayers to cover.

Well, the Legislature did pass a resolution telling President Biden it “strongly opposes” his vaccination mandates. Then, we learned that legislative leadership had already filed to join litigation challenging the mandates, leaving folks to wonder why a constitution-defying special session was needed.

But, the House did accomplish one other thing. It issued a slap to the hand of Representative Priscilla Giddings, for outing and traumatizing a rape victim. Giddings took it in stride, vowing she “would not have done anything differently.” At least we got a clear picture of where she stands on the issue of standing up for accused rapists.

A couple of other legislators chimed in to downplay Giddings’ egregious conduct. Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, stood up for Giddings, calling her the “underdog.” Many regarded the teenage victim of the sexual assault charges as the underdog. Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, said the punishment of the process was enough for Giddings. Expulsion from the Legislature, plus a suit to recover damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress would seem to be more appropriate.

The session produced a blizzard of bills designed to facilitate the spread of the coronavirus--everything from preventing masking and impeding vaccinations to preventing the discipline of doctors who promote fake Covid cures. Thanks to some grownups in the Capitol environs, including Senators Chuck Winder and Patti Anne Lodge and Representatives Fred Wood and Greg Chaney, the bills failed to gain traction, bringing the session to a screeching halt.

The bad news is that they will all be back in the Capitol building in January. The good news is that the special session demonstrated, just like the regular session earlier this year, that we have a dysfunctional Legislature and there is a crying need to cull out the extremists in the 2022 elections. We have received a clearcut message that legislative turnover is essential to the future of our State.

Too many of the Republican legislators, particularly in the House, have little time to work on positive measures to improve our educational system, to provide property tax relief for seniors, or to address any of the other chronic problems facing our State.

It is easier for the extremists, whose voices have been loudest in every recent legislative session, to harp on nonexistent problems, like critical race theory, than to deal with real-life problems confronting our people. All they have to do to keep their perch in the Legislature is to repeat talking points issued by the inappropriately-named Idaho Freedom Foundation. Senator Winder correctly called the IFF a “huge threat” to democracy in our State.

Just as the futile session ended, another troubling factor presented itself. As Idahoans well know, there has been a man who has kept the misguided Legislature from going off the rails a number of times in past years--Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. The Legislature has often disregarded his legal advice on the constitutionality of ill-advised legislation, only to have to pay attorney fees to those who successfully challenge the legislation in court.

Former legislator Raul Labrador has just announced his run for Attorney General, vowing to be “a true partner with conservative lawmakers in the Legislature.” The AG is not there to coddle misfits in the Legislature. The AG’s job is to stand up for the rule of law and act as a constitutional check on legislative over-reaching. The last thing we need is an AG who will give aid and comfort to the extremists and cause the taxpayers to shell out additional funds to lawyers who take the State to court to overturn unconstitutional legislation.

LINKS:

Rep. Julianne Young:

https://www.idahostatesman.com/opinion/editorials/article255839351.html

Senator Winder correctly called the IFF a “huge threat” to democracy:

https://www.eastidahonews.com/2021/06/gop-senate-leader-calls-idaho-freedom-foundation-a-huge-threat-to-democracy/

Raul Labrador:

https://www.idahoednews.org/kevins-blog/labrador-enters-attorney-generals-race/

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Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served eight years as Idaho Attorney General and 12 years as a Justice on the Idaho Supreme Court (2005-2017). He is a regular contributor to The Hill online news outlet.