Being Quiet

One of the hardest things in legislative policy making strategy is knowing when to be quiet. On some legislation we have a delicate balance of Democrats and Republicans who agree on an issue.
    In committee it is often a matter of who makes a motion. We have to think about who will be most persuasive to the opponents of the bill. Always for Democrats, because we are in the minority now, on tough bills we need to work carefully with our Republican colleagues to strategize as to which co-sponsor or supporter will make the motion to send a bill to the floor.
    Someone making a motion at the wrong time or when they have just made a motion to kill a key swing vote’s legislation, is obviously bad strategy. Two years ago I made a motion to kill a bill in the Judiciary and Rules Committee right before I got up to present my own bill. (It was legislation to provide mental health and substance abuse counselors to High schools and Jr. Highs.) Needless to say I had to wait until the following year to pass this bill through committee and eventually through the House and Senate and into Idaho law.  Hard lesson learned. I now know that there are times to sit quiet and pass a note and ask someone else to make a motion.
    In the House where we have 70 members, right now we need all 19 Democrats plus 17 Republicans to pass or kill a bill once it comes out of committee onto the floor.  Most bills we see pass unanimously and many which are contentious do not fall on party lines. If anyone in Republican leadership is voting with the Democrats on an issue, things are easier.
    When we debate close bills we are careful as Democrats not to get too enthusiastic so that it feels to our colleagues like Democrats are the only ones who feel strongly about an issue. I guess you could say, we need a comfort level here for those voting with us so that they don’t feel like they will be accused of being RINOs (Republican in Name Only.)
    And this does happen. Republicans can be divided within themselves. The issue of closing their primary elections to Independents and Democrats is very much dividing Republicans here with leadership leading the charge against moderates to close them.
    Republican leadership in the House on the Republican side is very assertive. There were days last year when a delicate alliance will fall apart just because a member of leadership stood up to assert that leadership had an opinion on the issue. I guess you might say there is a measure of fear at crossing leadership. I don’t know this year how often that will be evident. It is yet to be seen.
    Being quiet isn’t easy, especially when you want to debate against a bill because you passionately oppose it and you have something to add that’s not been said. Yet if a lot of members of our caucus have already debated with no Republicans debating with us, we have can lose the bill. I had to sit quiet for a long time the other day and it killed me because I didn’t want a single one of my constituents to think I did not oppose the bill. I stood up briefly at the end. The speaker called out as he does, "Good Lady from 19?"
    I answer as we are supposed to, "Mr. Speaker to debate against the bill…." But still I felt I did no justice to the issue.
     There are people like Senator Edgar Malepeai who have mastered silence. Edgar holds his words close and so, on the rare occasion when he speaks, people listen. I think of him often. He is home in Pocatello and has a substitute this session because his wife is battling cancer. I miss him. I think of him when I sit quiet. I could sit quiet more often but am often torn between the value of words and the value of silence. Silence when used correctly is powerful. So far I have spent time mastering words.

Torturing Freshmen

Photo

The Idaho legislature has a very mild form of hazing. No wedgies, no dunking anyone in anything. We keep a good distance in fact and, from the comfort of our seats on the floor, just vote a Freshman legislator’s first bill down. Of course we wait until the speaker says "Does anyone whish to change their vote?" and we do change our votes. You might call it a charming rite of passage. Even after the years and long ranks of new law makers, it seems to make us laugh every time. Today, to set up Rep. Thomas from Emmett, there was some debate about what the meaning of "is" is in the bill she presented. If you watch on IPTV live at 11ish each day you’ll see our antics. We are typically as lively as slime mold but on occasion get moving. This is the time of year where we are actually beginning to debate issues so it might be worthwhile.

IPTV Live aprox 11 AM, Mon-Fri House and Senate. The schedule will vary more and provide for longer debate as the session progresses. http://www.idahoptv.org/leglive/

Bootstraps

Some days committee is just depressing. Today a stream of Idahoans testified eloquently to the overly punitive nature of Rep. Bayer & Senator Fulcher’s grocery credit bill (it says no grocery credit for any month a person gets any food stamps — even if the amount of food stamp assistance is small and they have paid tax on the remainder of their groceries for the month.)
    Just as I was feeling good about the day, Bryan Fischer got up to testify as to how the Idaho Values Alliance aims to "Make Idaho the friendliest place in the world to raise a family." According to his testimony, it will make Idaho friendlier if we make sure that no grocery credit at all goes to families struggling to feed their children and getting even $50 a month in food stamps.
    But that wasn’t the hardest part of our committee meeting. Next, the discussion digressed into an estimation of which form of tax policy more effectively keeps "illegal aliens" from benefiting in any way from a grocery credit to the income tax (which many pay when they have taxes withheld from their wages using made up social security numbers –trying to do the right thing mind you by paying their income taxes.)
    Never mind that many of the 30,000 or so people in Idaho who don’t have proper documents may have lived here for decades. Never mind that many parts of our economy depend on them or that they are frequently wives of legal citizens or others who have struggled for years to maintain legal status or were at some point in the long, long, sometimes ten year long, impossible waiting line for citizenship.
     It was a depressing day. On the floor debate stayed just short of ugly on a bill to further complicate driving for those who do have legal status. If a person’s legal papers lapse (which happens frequently due to the nature of temporary visas) they must wait six months for a new drivers license. In the mean time how do they drive for work, for taking children to the doctor in rural Idaho?
    Some work places will have the resources to help employees keep up with the new requirements so that they do not lose their drivers license and insurance. Others will not and this will become just another hurdle to working in Idaho if you come from India, China, Britain or Mexico.
    For a state trying to bring in collaborative talent to our universities for research and trying to be a safe haven for refugees, for a state struggling to maintain rural economies, we are going to find ourselves with ghost towns where once there were vibrant, bustling communities. If we are not careful we will allow our hostilities over immigration to generalize further and will only incite more of those awful incidents around the state when a student at a university, a mother with a child with brown skin and an accent is harassed or even shoved or beaten, called a wet back and made to feel afraid for her life. What kind of a nation are we that we allow our concerns over broken federal policies to spill over to hatred of people working hard to make a living, working to hold families together and make a better life for themselves. Where is our humanity? Where is the soul of our nation? A nation where the vast majority of us are immigrants.

I wonder if perhaps too few of us know someone who has struggled to maintain legal status. Maybe more of us need to sit down with someone who came to Idaho as a small child or decades ago on a work visa, married here and stayed. There are heart breaking stories out there. People who worked hard to maintain proper legal status and all their paperwork for years, getting caught at the boarder trying to return to Mexico for a funeral or birth and losing their status because as long as they wait for citizenship we don’t let them leave the U.S. Even if that wait is ten years we make them jump through impossible hoops just to stay and remain legal as they long to. No, I suspect we don’t hear these stories in person often enough.

More on Senator Obama

Obama Photos

Campaign Organizers Kassie and TJ with Senator Obama

Obama Photos

Kassie and Katie with Gov Andrus and Bob Kustra

Obama Photos

Former Mayor Munroe meets Senator Obama

Obama Photos

The Senator speaks of a united America, health care specifics and Idaho’s hopes

Obama Photos

The Julie Fanselow and Audience on the Floor

Obama Photos

Elected Officials Leave the Speech Smiling

………………………………….

Carol
& I woke at 4 AM and lay in bed a bit before deciding just to get
dressed and drive down to BSU and the arena. There were very few cars
stirring at 6 AM but here and there you could see people in neighborhoods scraping off ice, headed down
the dark streets to hear Senator Obama speak. We walked through the
snow with people cheerful and still warm from their cars. At the gates,
some had clearly been there waiting at the arena for hours already.

I think the idea of getting the general public inside was simple for
organizer Kassie
Cerami and the bee hive of people of all ages at the Obama office. They
have endured impromptu auditions from folks off the street and children
who want to perform for the next president. The had to turn back offers
for food, music, and who knows what else from Idahoans who have been
inspired to generosity by Senator Obama.

I have a feeling though that we
public officials were the head ache to manage. Local organizers had to
get creative with seating for dignitaries at such a huge event where a
chance to meet the Senator was almost
everyone’s dream. I’ve not been too much of a fan of sports heroes,
musicians or rock stars, though I know a few who are pretty fabulous,
still this feeling of really wanting to get to say hello, face to face
to someone I admire so much is a
little new. For some people meeting senator Obama might be connected to
their perception of what power is. Some
think power is about who you know.

Frankly I never would expect to have Senator Obama remember me,
though it astounds me both times I have met him that he seems to.
(Carol pointed out there are not a lot of lesbian elected officials
from Idaho so maybe that could be helping him a bit.) There is I’ll
admit, also something wonderful in
being able to tell good stories. I heard this same story today from
several ecstatic
Idahoans: "And then I reached out and shook his hand. He smiled at me
with his big smile, looked in my eyes and he said, thank
you for coming!"

Volunteers who made 100 calls and a mixture of other folks got green
tickets for
the standing room on the floor. We opened the doors for them at the
same time as the general admission in the seats. People flowed in like
a cold, bouncing river for literally hours. Once the floor filled, I
went inside, done with my job of directing legislators, super delegates
(I’ll explain later) candidates and other Democratic Party folks who
were supposed to go to a special section of the bleachers together. I
think it
was no small feat to be sure everyone in this section felt equally, or
perhaps I should say, appropriately treated. Remember a legislature is
a hierarchy and right or wrong there is an order of seniority and
tradition which is pretty foreign to the lives of most of us. As
forceful as that whole order may be, it was beautiful today how hard
work on Kassie and TJ’s part went so well recognized and how they and
Brett Adler and others who have dedicated their lives often without any
pay got time with the senator.

Kassie and TJ were to open the rally with chants and talking about
the caucus, but I missed it because they heroically pulled me out of
the crowd on the floor and hauled me backstage to the green room
through a maze of black cloth clad tunnels to where Governor Andrus and
BSU President Kustra were waiting for Senator Obama. I was supposed to
stay with them, my staff badge and my Obama buttons on, feeling like
I’d just been mistaken for someone important and had made it under the
rope so far undetected.

I waited and the super delegates were brought down from the special
section of the bleachers. Gail Bray explained what the mysterious super
delegates are. I think there are five of them out of Idahos 23 total
delegates. Cecil Andrus and two Tribal leaders, Chaiman Axtell and
Chairman Allen (none of whom are super delegates) came in with the
delegates so together they looked like a wonderfully dignified group
which included new Democratic party chair Keith Raork, Grant Bergoin,
House minority leader Wendy Jaquet, Gail Bray, Jeanne Bhuel and Jerry
Brady who I understand is the Idaho Obama Campaign co-chair.

Super delegates exist in all states. They are not like other
delegates and so are not bound to vote for who the caucus goers choose.
They are free agents elected in parts of our party process and can go
to convention and choose the presidential candidate they please. In my
opinion, the number of them and power they have potentially skews the
simple democracy of the process, though I am sure there is a reason for
it which relates to the power of states. In some states in fact many
super delegates have long times ties to the Clinton administration and
that has fueled speculation that Hillary Clinton, while she has won an
equal number of primary races and fewer state delegates than Obama, may
have more total delegates when you count super delegates. If
presidential primary races are anything like Idaho’s recent House
Speaker’s race, the idea that you might promise those voting for you
something in exchange for a vote is not unheard of.

So I stayed in the green room with its
TV-set-simulated-mini-living-room corner and striking photos of rock
stars and athletes on the walls, until Senator Obama himself came in.
Let me just say this, as someone who has spent far too much time at
caucus-watching parties getting my photo taken with a card board cut
out of the senator: he is about as tall as his card board cut out.
(Which went missing last weekend from the Bouquet on main street where
a music event for Senator Obama was taking place. Let me know if you
have it. Jerry Brady, who carried it everywhere for a week, is heart
broken.)

The Senator came in the room talking casually with Kassie who has
met him several times now I think. How can he not be grateful and
pleased by Idaho today? He seemed it. Cassie, TJ, Brett and others came
together last year spontaneously as soon as he announced he was
running, some even before, and put together a grassroots campaign
determined to organize Idaho for the senator whether Idaho was a
targeted state or not. That Idaho now does matter only makes those
efforts more amazing. With staff here now there is groundwork, and
networks, and a base of volunteers in place ready for the caucus on
Tuesday.

The local Obama campaign created a community, one of the few things
I suggested early on and which I’m sure this group of warm, passionate
young people would have done anyway. It makes being involved feel good.
It reminds you how much you are part of something greater. If Change is
the operative word of 2008 then may Idaho politics look like this day
for decades to come.

One arena filled beyond capacity with more cheering bodies than
probably caucused statewide for Democrats in Idaho ever before. For
Democrats everything has whispered to us that this would be a great
year. This day today yelled at this sleepy state that if we work at it,
this will be a year where our hope sees strides rather than simple
steps. Senator Barack Obama is giving voice to something we all feel.
We tire of so much of the same leaders who look and sound and limit
themselves to what they have grown accustomed to limiting our nation
to. We can be more than a nation which promises prosperity and
equality. We can inspire change in a nation, ask ourselves to give a
little more to make this place grow closer to the dreams those leaders
generations ago had for us. Why would we give up on hope for that?
Compromise is an option after all else fails, but where lives are at
stake, no other skill is as valuable as rolling up our sleeves to
persuade, bending down to listen and ask for consensus, knowing how to
look into the eyes of others to change minds and change what is broken
in health care, in energy production and consumption, in poverty, in
overcrowded classrooms, in our bullying relationships with other
nations and our wordless relations with each other. We don’t ask enough
of ourselves in terms of what we can give others in need. If we did,
what might we accomplish as a nation? What might we finally be?

We are ready Idaho. Tuesday is the day that matters. The votes at
caucus are proportional, and are not "all or nothing" so every vote for
Obama could mean another critical delegate.

Obama Photos

The Line Stretches Across Campus

Obama Photos

Inside Where it Was Warm

Photos

Senator Obama Arrives

Obama Photos

The Green Room with Super Delegates and Dignitaries

Obama Photos

Arena Full to the Rafters

Obama Photos

Senator Stennett Looking Good After Surgery with Chief of Senate Democratic Staff Marie Hattaway

…………………………………

 

Obama in Idaho

Obama Photos

The Line Stretches Across Campus

Obama Photos

The Green Room with Super Delegates and Dignitaries

Photos

Senator Obama Arrives

Obama Photos

The Senator speaks of a united America, health care specifics and Idaho’s hopes

Obama Photos

Senator Stennett Looking Good After Surgery with Chief of Senate Democratic Staff Marie Hattaway

………………………………….

Electric. Amazing. Who believed there were so many Democratic inspired
people in Idaho. Thousands had to be turned away because the place was
filled to the rafters. What a powerful, genuine man. He looks in your eyes and seems to reserve nothing. I thought, meeting him in person for the second time, how real he is. So many people laud his intelligence, his ability to articulate what our nation is missing and what we need. I see in his eyes a President I trust to be true to his words.

…………………………………

Carol
& I woke at 4 AM and lay in bed a bit before deciding just to get
dressed and drive down to BSU and the arena. There were very few cars
stirring at 6 AM but here and there you could see people in neighborhoods scraping off ice, headed down
the dark streets to hear Senator Obama speak. We walked through the
snow with people cheerful and still warm from their cars. At the gates,
some had clearly been there waiting at the arena for hours already….. for more of this story go to More on Senator Obama

………………………

Senator Barack Obama is giving voice to something so many of us feel. We tire of so much of the same leaders who look and sound and limit themselves to what they have grown accustomed to limiting our nation to. We can be more than a nation which promises prosperity and equality. We can inspire change in a nation, ask ourselves to give a little more to make this place grow closer to the dreams those leaders generations ago had for us. Why would we give up on hope for that? Compromise is an option after all else fails, but where lives are at stake, no other skill is as valuable as rolling up our sleeves to persuade, bending down to listen and ask for consensus, knowing how to look into the eyes of others to change minds and change what is broken in health care, in energy production, in poverty, in overcrowded classrooms, in our bullying relationships with other nations and our wordless relations with each other. We don’t ask enough of ourselves in terms of what we can give others in need. If we did, what might we accomplish as a nation? What might we finally be?

Credit for Food

Monday is the day we start to delve into the issue of grocery taxes, asking whether or not you should pay a the full sales tax on the food you buy. Philosophically, food is an essential item which people have no choice but to buy, so it should be taxed minimally if at all.
    The only bill which the committee will hear on Monday is a grocery credit bill, not one to remove the tax on groceries or food. The grocery credit is that same $20 you get to take off your income taxes. Some of our Republican colleagues propose to increase that to $30 for all tax payers, except to $55 for all those over 65 or earning less than $1000 Idaho taxable income. They propose that the credit on your income taxes would increase in $10 increments over the years and so could eventually climb to $90 or so depending on how much food costs and what rate the sales tax is set at.
    As Democrats we have a bill to actually take the tax off of food at the cash register over six years, one penny at a time. The grocery tax brings in about $180 million dollars which we spend on education, prison programs and staff, health care, state employee salaries and other budget items. If we eliminated the tax on groceries all at once we would have to come up with $180 million in other money to fix this hole in the budget.
    I personally am curious if many people out there would be willing to exchange paying a tax on services for not paying a tax on food. It probably depends largely on your income and spending habits but people living on modest incomes tend to spend more on food, in fact a huge portion of their incomes is spent on food. As more and more of our economy shifts from goods to services, we tax less and less of people’s purchases. Even in feeding themselves, people in higher income brackets may eat out more and spend far more on attorney fees, hair cuts, tax preparation and a whole host of other services, none of which come with a sales tax the way food and clothing and other items do.
    In what seems like a cruel twist on the idea of relieving the cost of the tax on food, the grocery tax credit bill we will hear on Monday doesn’t let people have any grocery tax credit for the months in which they get any food stamp assistance at all. Even someone getting $25 a month in food stamps will get no grocery credit. While there are some good provisions in the bill, like letting people donate their credit to our state heating assistance program, I believe the food stamp provision is a major flaw of the bill.
    If you pull away from the statehouse, up through the many snow covered trees into the sky, you look down and see in our three legged stool of a tax system — sales tax, property tax and income tax. You see that the income tax is the one place we try to take into account how much people earn and adjust the taxes to account for their ability to pay. To give away $30, $50 or $90 to all tax payers within the income tax part of our system is potentially irresponsible. This is the one place we are even able to consider people’s income when we tax them. It is the one place we can try to make up for the fact that lower income people pay a higher portion of their incomes in sales tax paid on taxable essential items like food.
    Philosophically I know I pay my income taxes hoping that my money will go to pay for urgent needs like education and providing health care or housing to those who can’t afford it. I don’t want my tax dollars given back to me or to someone driving a hum vee. Fifty dollars can be hugely meaningful to people in lower income tax brackets, but in the upper incomes, this expenditure of state funds will cost the state over a hundred million in a few years without making much of a difference in those lives. Should we choose not to charge the tax in the first place the debate is different. We can ask ourselves how would we rather pay that tax? What is a more fair way to raise that money other than taxing something which every one has to have in order to survive?

Levity

Levity

Crystal White, Stacy Falkner my Interns with Democratic Staff Member, Cathy Downs in the Snow

Levity

Les Bock Watches as Our Chairman Gets Gaveled by His Co-Chair

Levity

Lenore Watches the Mayors Sing

Levity

Kassie, Carol and Barack Obama Speechless

……………………………………..

When it is tense, how do we survive?

  •     Carol makes me laugh when things are the most difficult. She knows how to make me stop banging my head against the wall and how to help me see the humor in really anything, including having a bill die.
  •     I have two hard working college interns who are researching fiscal impacts, making phone calls, keeping the e-mail from over taking my computer and reminding me to stay focused so I don’t unravel in
    an unsightly way when I have way too many balls of legislative yarn in the air.
  •      My upper house colleagues sense of humor keeps it all from
    spiraling down with the paper and binder clips and anything which might
    fall off the balcony. Someone in the back row passed around a 1955
    pamphlet on keeping women in their place and called it the report from
    Steve Thayne’s Family Task Force.
  •    It is nice to be just a fan for awhile. Barack Obama coming to Boise Saturday morning fuels me to remember how big things are out there and how hopeful this state looks for Democrats this year. Maybe there will be more balance and more than 19 of us in the House in 2009. If we work hard enough, at this time next year we could have a Democrat as president, real health care reform in the making, smarter energy policy, strong, intelligent, articulate leadership to make us respected again as a nation.
  •     Even Lt. Governor Risch whispered a joke about how, before Governor Otter’s hip surgery, he had offered to administer Butch’s anesthesia. He said was told that wouldn’t really fly.
  •     Chairman Clark has a wicked sense of humor but had two bills up today. He treats even defeat like a game and laughed when his Vice Chair Leon Smith gaveled him during the presentation of his highly technical supreme court retirement fund stabilization bill.
  •     At one of the million receptions, lunches and functions today, two Mayors sang and even I found myself singing the star spangled banner, probably the most risky thing I could do to my re-election since I absolutely can not carry a tune.

Messages Sent

Tense days. Finalizing legislation, seeing the deadlines looming. The friction is palpable among factions of our Republican colleagues over brewing debates about the grocery tax, open or closed primaries and more. Everyone seems yet more on edge as we close the week. Some of us stay late calculating fiscal impacts, writing statements of purpose (SPOs) which you find at the bottom of the bills on the legislative web site. In committee they appear as a sort of green cover sheet on a House bill (yellow on Senate bills.) They say what legislation does and why we feel it is necessary.
    This afternoon in the Senate, a long list of us as Senators and representatives, expect to introduce the bill to get PERSI, our public employee retirement system, to divest from Darfur. If we pass it, we sell .03% or less than one third of a percent of the stocks PERSI holds. Those oil, weapons and other companies sit on a list of businesses flagged nationally as contributing significantly to genocide in Sudan. If we pass this bill we join congress and the even the president and send a message that we won’t participate in the deaths and torture of thousands in Africa, where, far off there today, it is nighttime in the heat of summer.

Taxing Mabel

Photo

………………..

Let’s say there is a woman named Mabel and she lives in Star. She is 80 years old, lives in a tiny house which she has paid off. She survives on social security. She has asthma, drives very little and buys her groceries once a week at a local store.    
    As a member of the House Revenue and Taxation committee I sit with a group of 18 people every day to decide how we should tax Mabel. Yesterday we debated when to let her choose to tax herself. This is a debate which has burned for a decade in the Idaho legislature.
    To understand the debate better, let’s say Mabel doesn’t like kids (in fact on Halloween she pus cans of green beans in a bowl on her front porch for trick or treaters.) When asked to vote for a plan that would put $20 more on her annual property tax to pay for vocational and technical programs for teens in four neighboring school districts, she votes no.
    Prevailing tax policy in Idaho says that, because a minority of tax payers in any taxing district may own a house or property, there should be a 2/3 super-majority vote to approve any property tax increase. This gives as few 1/3 of the voters in the district the option of rejecting the tax, denying the funds for a project and imposing their will on the district if they choose. To me that’s not generally unreasonable since those voting for the tax sometimes may not pay it themselves.
    However, yesterday the Rev & Tax committee went a bit deeper in. What if several school districts get together to do a cooperative project. They create a new taxing district which encompasses several school districts. Now lets say one of the school districts within this new bigger district does not get the required 66.6% while the other school districts get more than enough votes to pass the tax? Should the vote fail? Is there a fair floor we might want for the vote across all the distircts? Or shall we call a district a district if all those like Mabel living inside it have access to benefits from the services this district provides.
    The same issue is being raised almost daily here in the legislature in reference to the Community College election held here in the Treasure Valley this past May. Ada County voted over 70% in favor of the tax and the college while Canyon County voted only 61% in favor. Many law makers have characterized Canyon County’s vote as a rejection of the community college and the small property tax it imposed.   
    Is it accurate to say then that they (Canyon county as a whole) rejected the tax and the services the College will provide to the community? Actually a very healthy majority of the voters voted yes.
    In contrast we might note that every day Legislators (all of whom were elected by a simple majority) are empowered to raise or shift property taxes and change policy all across the state, again by a simple majority vote in both the House and Senate.   
    If we have given a taxing district very limited taxing authority (preferably to raise only very small amounts of tax which they must get voter approval for) should we arbitrarily be looking at how sub sections of the district vote, even though all the lines we draw in creating a taxing district follow random features of the land, latitude or longitudinal boarders or roads or fences built by local residents to navigate the land or pen animals in? Just because a school district line falls in one place does that mean that those people on opposite sides of the boarder have different interests or are not dependent on each other economically? Mabel may vote no but actually may benefit by having lower cost plumbing services because of the number of plumbers being turned out by the technical college. She may get her car fixed more quickly or inexpensively. She may have fewer kids wandering the streets board, unemployed, and causing trouble in her neighborhood. She may have to spend less to white-wash graffiti off her garage.
    Let’s say today that the tax we want to ask Mabel to approve is a sales tax to fund a new bus and rapid transportation system for the entire two county area. Mabel will pay this tax on her food, her annual trip to buy blue jeans and white cotton shirts and will pay it on the washing machine she has to buy this year when her old one breaks down. Mabel, because she doesn’t drive much and has never sat in a traffic jam in her life, votes no on the half penny sales tax. She is, at the time of the vote, unaware that the new frequent buses and trains will reduce traffic and improve the air quality which is aggravating her asthma. She is also is not able to predict that her failing eyesight will cost her her drivers license and that she will need a bus soon just to reach the grocery store. She doesn’t consider that she will soon be able to visit her grown nephew in Nampa without ever having to navigate another freeway interchange.
    Mabel’s nephew, looking forward to the day a few years off when he can walk the 1/2 mile to the train, get ten minutes exercise and avoid a 45 minute commute morning and evening, votes yes. He will pay this tax on his new car, his TV, his new fishing rod and hunting riffle.
    Because this is a sales tax the transit district is asking voters to approve, all the voters in the two county
area will pay the tax. Should we still then require a 66.6% vote at the time of the election?  Those voting yes will be the same ones paying the sales tax, unlike with the property tax where those who benefit most may at times be different from those who actually pay it.
    If Mabel and her neighbors in their local county, school district or mosquito abatement district should vote to approve the tax at only 60% should the entire two county area be denied the ability to address pollution, traffic jams, and access to local services for the disabled? Should the majority be allowed to solve their urgent local problems or should they not? 
    Maybe Mabel will vote yes on a half penny tax. Maybe she will vote no. But someday, depending on what we do in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, all the way out in Star an older woman will ride a bus to the grocery store and breathe easier when the inversion sets in, or she won’t. 

Greener Pockets

Today the House Energy, Environment and Technology Committee, which I serve on, approved a bill to require 30% more energy efficiency in the construction of state buildings in coming years. The bill, swallowed by the committee last year on largely partisan lines, passed today with only Rep. Steven Kren and Rep. Curtis Bowers voting no. I am sure Steve and Curtis have reasons for voting against saving state dollars by building structures which use less energy. I might not know what they are exactly but I know they have them. I might hazard a guess. It may be that deluge of fun publications which offer article after article about the evils of government regulation of everything from day care centers and water quality to building construction, carbon emission and fuel efficiency. I’m pretty sure that the Heritage Foundation, which publishes these newspapers, is largely an organization by and for businesses which are making strong profits for their shareholders doing things exactly as they do now. Not surprisingly they work hard to try and persuade legislators that there is no sense to arguments that human health or taxpayer dollars may be at stake if things (designs, materials, emissions, effluents, or the ingredients of their products) stay as they are right now. But that’s just a guess. We all have our own legislative priorities and values systems within which we operate. We each have to weigh out how we prioritize human health, our feelings about government regulation, short term vs long term costs and what ever else enters our reasoning from the recesses of our minds.

Posts navigation

1 2 3 21 22 23 24 25 26 27