Democrats including James Ruchti and Elaine Smith at the Governor’s State of the State Speech
In front of an impressive bank of cameras our Minority leadership just presented our state of the state response. It is important to understand what Minority means in a legislative context. We as Democrats, because we occupy less than 50% of the seats in the house (and Senate) are a Minority. On the day when we occupy 36 of the 70 seats here we will be the Majority party. (We are at 19 now, up 6 from the 13 we were in 2005.) At 36, Democrats would nominate the Speaker of the House who manages our floor sessions and theoretically arbitrates between the parties to make us one body, one whole. We would appoint committee chairs and ourselves serve as committee chairs in every one of the House’s 14 standing committees. It is an all or nothing system where those with the greatest numbers do not have proportionally greater power, they have immensely greater power. As Democrats we debate our colleagues and propose solutions. We vote as part of the body and in committee, often forming fluid alliances with moderate colleagues or those with issue concerns like ours. Can we blocked entirely if Republican leadership so chooses? Yes. And I promise this year I will watch to see whether force or discourse will prevail as a Majority party strategy for shaping policy and leading the Republican dominated legislature in its dealings with Minority opinions and legislation.Will we be allowed to persuade and ally ourselves with Treasure Valley Republican Legislators and others from around the state to fund public transportation, ensure safety and quality in day cares, eliminate the tax on food or pass more robust ethics legislation? Or will this Majority Leadership use a heavy hand and hard power to subtly or not so subtly tell members what issues they may support and what ones they may not.