Sunday, September 19, 2021
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Bad year for legislators gets worse

| September 12, 2021 1:00 AM

Next to the top-of-front-page story Wednesday on the crisis bringing Kootenai Health to its knees was a blow to the back of our medical professionals’ heads. Maybe it was a merciful attempt to just go ahead and finish them off, end their suffering.

The cudgel spoke, loud and clear: “Lawmakers voice their opposition to vaccine mandates,” it declared.

No matter how big a pool of blood spreads across Idaho from the pandemic’s many devastating impacts, our legislators are doing their darnedest not to get any on their shoes. And they would be quick to claim they have no idea how the bloody cudgel in their closet got there.

A year that has not gone well for the Idaho Legislature is nothing if not consistent. We’ve had ethics investigations, public education witch hunts, a scathing legal decision against the body as a whole and, when it’s all said and done, not much showing up in the positive column on the ledger. Even the Legislature’s attempt to fix property tax problems is a bust, merely bolstering the trend of residents hefting an unfair share of the burden while commercial interests don’t even break a sweat.

Which brings us back to the pandemic, back to our medical personnel being smothered under the weight of terribly sick citizens, back to the reality that the apparent strategy is to close the blinds and hope the serial killer skips our house.

Many of our elected leaders are motivated to hop back in session for the pure joy of telling businesses, including hospitals, what they can or can’t do with employees and vaccines. Which is particularly amusing after President Biden's astonishing pronouncement Thursday, one that will surely end up before the Supreme Court.

Legislators' bid to ban such mandates (which is a mandate itself) is a perfect illustration of the ideological disconnect between many of the brains in Boise and what’s most needed by the people they’re supposed to be serving.

Instead of trying to prevent businesses from requiring their employees to be vaccinated — COVID-19 is the greatest threat to every Idaho business today, in case they hadn’t noticed — a different approach could lead to far more effective results.

If they’re hellbent on calling themselves back into session, why not do so with the open agenda of figuring out how to help, rather than hinder, Idaho businesses?

They could work with the governor, instead of against him, in providing every ounce of aid possible to hospitals and their health care workers. What do you need?, they might ask, instead of thrusting their own mandate down organizations’ throats.

They could reach out to cities, counties and the broad business community and ask how they can address a housing situation that is rapidly draining the pool of prospective public and private employees. Recruits aren’t moving here because they can’t find or afford a home, and good workers are leaving because their rent has gone into orbit.

Even out of session, legislative committee members could be working hard to make meaningful advances in the state’s war against this pandemic. Instead, their heads are in the ideological clouds while below them, the pool of blood just keeps spreading.