Only Cosmetic Changes

After three days of intense and powerful testimony it is clear how vast the concerns are with Tom Luna’s education proposals. Today Tom Luna pulled back the two bills 1068 & 1068 and brought us virtually identical proposals in the form of three bills with the pay for performance legislation separated from the other two bills we had previously considered. Make no mistake these bills still eliminate funding for 770 teaching positions and will force districts to lay off experienced teachers in a desperate move to save money by hiring new, less costly teachers. Tom Luna now calls the increased class sizes "optional" for districts, but there is nothing optional about eliminating the money for 770 teachers.

I consider the changes no more than cosmetic and it astounds me that the Superintendent would so completely fail to hear the thousands of people who have spoken to and written to us as policy makers strongly opposing these misguided proposals.

How to Tank a State Economy

Easy Steps for Lawmakers.

Many Idahoans wonder when their state will begin to feel the national economic recovery.  They worry as January's Idaho jobless numbers showed the state's economic crisis deepening rather than improving. Yet today the state faces a third year of dire fiscal crisis with budget cuts now exceeding half a billion. Below are real strategies that Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction and / or members of the Idaho Legislature is currently contemplating, has proposed or has actually legislated during the 2010 and 2011 sessions.

How to Tank a State Economy: Easy Steps for Lawmakers.

1. Destroy Jobs

A. Lay off as many state employees as possible

• Tom Luna's proposal to eliminate 770 teaching jobs is particularly effective since these are people with benefits that hundreds of families rely on. Losing health insurance effectively makes these families more economically fragile.

• The thousands of "vacant positions" in state government guarantees increases in unemployment and reductions in consumer spending in every sector of the economy. This helps weaken struggling restaurants, shops and producers of consumer goods who rely on local spending.

B. Reduce wages

• Any legislation which offers economic incentives to school districts to lay off more experienced teachers in a budget crunch is highly effective at reducing wages and the quality of education and can half the annual salaries going to 20% of teaching families in any given community in a single budget year. This pulls hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars from local economies, small businesses and consumer spending.

• Low levels of educational attainment, high drop out rates and high cost education all decrease the wage earning, consumer spending and tax paying potential of a state's residents.

• Furloughs while less effective at harming an economy in the short term, when carried out over multiple years can ensure that family savings dwindle, can reduce discretionary spending and may produce out migration and loss of population which is one of the most effective ways to ensure economic decline. The cost of retraining workers who leave government jobs is very effective at increasing net costs to government and accomplishing goal 3 below.

• Eliminate Unions or anything that resembles an organization that would help raise wages, monitor working conditions and the quality or its members work.

C. Be sure that businesses doing contract work for the state go bankrupt

• Using a strategy that claims a state budget is balanced but which relies on not paying bills owed to private businesses is effective politically and in terms of creating an unstable environment for businesses that have agreed to contracts with the state.

• Lowering reimbursement rates not just for a single year but for multiple years to economically squeeze mental health, medical, residential and out patient care providers is an additional effective strategy.

• Long term freezes in state purchasing and construction are ideal strategies for reducing economic activity and driving many segments of the economy into decline.

D. Repel Businesses Seeking to Move into Your State

• Be sure your public schools rank last in the nation for per pupil spending, class size and adequacy of school facilities, course offerings, text books, lab supplies and equipment and materials essential to teaching.

• Create an environment of political extremism to clearly establish that the majority of those who might choose to re-locate businesses or families into the state would feel unwelcome or unrepresented.

• Ensure that premiums charged by insurance carriers are unregulated and that affordable health coverage for small business is unavailable.

• Underfund your regulatory agencies so that getting permits and compliance assistance with basic health, safety and water quality standards takes a long, long time.

• Provide no anti-discrimination job protections for gay people. Technology companies are full of gay employees. Even if a company provides its own job protections, a state needs to project a hostile enough atmosphere to guarantee that other family members seeking jobs or educational opportunities will face discrimination in employment, housing and education in any given town across the state. Companies avoid states like these and high wage workers or business owners will often leave such states in search of safer places to live and do business.

• Ensure state leaders talk as much as possible about large predatory animals decimating wildlife populations and killing domestic animals.

• Even if you can not pass such a law, at least claim you will enact Arizona-style immigration policies so that employees and business owners with darker skin or names like Martinez or Perez will fear eminent racial profiling, detainment or arrest. The out migration of skilled agricultural labor, small business owners and families will assist in achieving objective 1C above.

2. Increase Costs to Families

A. Force Families into Crisis

• Increase class sizes so struggling students fail to get help and those facing depression and suicide are less likely to interact with a teacher who has the time to notice their struggles.

• Reduce access to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment. Long treatment waiting lists are helpful but eliminating the waiting lists and just failing to provide treatment is also effective and creating crises.

• Reduce services and in-home supports for seniors and people with disabilities. Independence is less costly than dependence. Children without adequate therapeutic interventions will be far more costly to families and state taxpayers.

• Fail to fund or develop a network of low cost health clinics. The fewer options families have, the more likely they are to fail to access preventative care and fall into costly medical crisis and personal bankruptcy.

• Stop funding water quality monitoring, refuse to extensively regulate day care facilities and provide as few counseling services as possible in local schools to ensure an adequate supply of physical and mental health crises statewide.

• Ensure that parole officers and health and welfare case workers carry case loads far exceeding national standards so that minimal supervision and assistance is provided to Idaho individuals and families. The added stress on the case workers themselves can create additional pressures to achieve this goal.

B. Make Education More Expensive

• Eliminate public Kindergarten. Make sure your state's children start out behind the rest of the nation.

• Fail to provide text books, paper, pencils, field trips, lab supplies, transportation and other basic materials in public schools.

• Force parents to pay fees before their children can attend certain public school classes or participate in sports, arts, field trips or other enrichment opportunities. Ensuring poorer children never participate is helpful in ensuring a state continues to have a high poverty rate, a high rate of need for public services, a greater level of of need for crisis medical care and higher need for tax increases.

• Increase class sizes to increase failure rates, decrease social and emotional support for students and increase alienation and drop out rates in upper grades. The cost to families of addressing remediation, tutoring and juvenile corrections court costs and incarceration can effectively weaken the economic stability of tens of thousands of families.

• Require public schools students take on-line classes in order to graduate. Decreased teacher interaction and the lack of support for those who struggle can be highly effective at wasting years of college tuition as students fail classes or need extensive remedial coursework. The impact on families of students with disabilities can be impressive as those with certain learning styles have higher failure rates and are more likely to fall into cycles of dependence later in life should support in these early years be inadequate.

• Fail to fund higher education so that college tuition and fees continue to increase. Making a college degree too expensive for most college graduates also helps achieve goal 1B above.

C. Remain Dependent on Fossil Fuels

• Deny local communities the ability to fund public transportation. In urban areas this guarantees tax dollars are sucked rapidly into perpetual freeway widening projects which produce few jobs but expend state revenues on raw materials. A lack of public transportation also directly increases costs to families who struggle with with car maintenance or gas prices or for those commuters who waste time in traffic during their commute.

• Make sure not to create state level car fuel efficiency standards or electric utility renewable portfolio standards. Being vulnerable to high oil prices or out of state coal generated electricity ensures that business and residential consumers pay high prices and remain vulnerable to world political strife.

D. Increase User Fees for Everything

• After all these are not taxes. Increasing costs to families and businesses through fees works just as well to fund the costly crisis care that is sure to follow a lack of adequate tax payer funded preventative care services.

• Get creative. Fees on prisoners or parents of those in the Juvenile Justice system work really at creating additional stressors for families already in crisis. Asking the general population to help fund government by paying taxes will only give those leaving prisons a chance at economic stability and ruin an opportunity to push them into a lifetime of crime and costly incarceration.

• Ensuring failure of your public school system can help bring on privatization and a stratification of the quality of educational opportunity available to families of differing incomes. User fees in education are not a new concept. They are a bridge to stratification and ensure that some kids will not be able to reach the same levels of academic attainment that the more wealthy do. This perpetuates poverty and assists in achieving goals 1B and 2A above.

3. Keep State Government in Perpetual Fiscal Crisis

A. Turn away federal matching funds or any form of money paid to the federal government by taxpayers in your state.

• Cut medicaid and with each $3 million reduction in state spending, presto $7 million in federal dollars will also be lost.

• Violate federal laws so that your state faces sanctions. Refusing to enact federal health care reform for example may well result in the state losing all federal funds for medicaid –meaning a loss to health providers, businesses and families of nearly a billion in federal dollars.

B. No matter how well the national economy is recovering, predict doom for your own state.

• Keep revenue projections artificially low so you can cut government services across the board again and again.

• Call any revenues over the low projections a "surplus" and use those to fund tax breaks for large corporations and the most wealthy. (Do not restore funding for jobs, purchasing, construction or to fund schools, classrooms, mental health treatment, substance abuse prevention or disability services.)

C. Create Political Strife.

• Make sure the super majority of your Republican party fights with itself so any moderates who happen to be re-elected in any given year will be forced to live in fear of actually voting as moderates and thus will ensure the perpetuation of your disaster.

D. No Matter How Much Things Fall Apart, Don't Raise Taxes.

• Don't think about what Jesus would do. Not raising taxes ensures that all of the above policies seem like necessary if not critical budget cutting measures.

• Raising taxes might ease the conscience in the short term as the morale of state workers improves; schools again begin to meet the needs of more fragile students; seniors, the poor and those with disabilities stop losing their homes, entering institutions and dying of preventable disease or untreated mental and physical aliments. But, in fact, raising taxes creates an expectation within a state population that government can do positive things.

• And we all know that's silly.

 4. Reduce The State's Population

A. Nothing says economic disaster like death and out migration. (See above.)

Unthinkable

There come moments when, as busy as I am this year, the absurdity of this place strikes me and I want to say something, I want to sit down and tap my frustration into this computer. Today is the worst of those.

Last night the co-chairs of the budget committee sent out letters to legislators saying that, as hard as the budget cuts last year were;

as hard as looking at intentionally increaseing class sizes to fund on line courses and lap tops has been;

as hard as contemplating cutting services to seniors and people with disabilities, contemplating risking their independence in their homes has been;

as hard as decimating state jobs and family incomes has been — we've go to to cut more. Like 5% more.

That's like another $80 million out of public schools. That's like laying off the 770 teachers Luna is already plotting to eliminate but not even pretending to replace them with on line courses & laptops — just cramming kids into classrooms with no new text books, no new desks, no lab equipment and just saying, good luck, we don't want to look bad to tea party voters who want government to vanish. So good luck.

Already we struggle knowing people are being denied mental health and substance abuse treatment and now we are contemplating making others with disabilities stay in their homes alone without help — without the services some might need to go to work or others might need to avoid ending up back in state hospitals.

And dry-eyed Maxine Bell and Dean Cameron say our only job is to cut more.

Where is the leadeship? Where is the vision that in past years brought our state through crisis without costing lives or risking the future of our children? Where is that sense of patriotism that pulls us together and has great leaders asking us to step forward and share the burden when there's pain to be had?

No, we are in a time of the most unthinkable of low aspirations. We will make children and the most vunerablle pay it all rather than giving up something of ourselves, paying a bit more sales tax or asking our well-to-do neighbors to join us in payng a bit more through the income tax. No, we will just cut, calling the pain we inflict "the new normal" as if there were no other option in the world.

 

Making Sure It Gets Better in Idaho

Many times in my life i have struggled to promise young people that their lives will get better. All these decades later as so many still face school bullying, harassment and even violence, I know I am not the only one who feels the growing weight of obligation to make sure that the lives of young people actually do get better. Not someday, but now.

FIRST: Idaho's anti-bullying law doesn't even mention gay kids.

SECOND: Tragically Idaho has the third highest suicide rate in the nation.  Nationally 1/3 of teen suicides has to do with young people's struggles coping with issues of sexual orientation or gender identity. Too many American kids do not feel safe at school, welcome at church or accepted in their own homes.

THIRD: Suicide is not the only tragedy to come from rejection, fear and a lack of legal protection. Too many young people find themselves more vulnerable to drug addiction and depression as they face these issues alone in rural communities or in silence in our cities.

FORTH: Anti-gay bullying is one of the most common forms of bullying in schools. Here still some teachers fear addressing anti-gay harassment in classrooms because at times teachers have faced disciplinary measures simply for mentioning the word gay. And because Idaho's anti-bullying law doesn't mention any specific kinds of bullying, it leaves open for some students, teachers and parents to believe that gay kids might be an exception to the anti-bullying rule.

If we are going to plead with Idaho's young people not to despair or ever consider self destructive acts like suicide, then we have an obligation; That obligation is to be sure that we change Idaho law so that gay kids are clearly safe and protected.

We must do all we can to make sure it gets better now– not years from now, but now.

 

Saturday, January 29th will be a statewide day of vigils, rallies and events to support safe schools and fair employment legislation to protect gay Idahoans from job discrimination and Idaho kids from anti-gay bullying. If you are a business person, straight ally, young person or anyone who wants to help organize an event, large or small in your community, let us know. I will pass your information to Lindsey Matson who will work to connect you with other people in your community or area who also want to help.

See photos and more from events in 11 towns across Idaho on Jan 29 and get involved in passing legislation this year. http://4idaho.org/humanrights

 

Bake Sale Schools

Rock to Read gathered fabulous and quirky musicians and song writers in a spot-light lit room full of books, authors, teachers, parents, kids and auction items. The benefit was to try to buy books for school libraries since state budgets eliminated library fuding last year.

Hard to believe something as basic as books have to be bought through benefits and bake sales. But that's what we've come to. Many kids are going without some of the key tools they need to succeed.

And yet now, as bad as this current year has been for crowded classrooms, cuts in teacher pay and loss of student class time, we're looking at an even deeper crisis in the year ahead. Just to keep school budgets at the level of cuts we had last year, we'd have to raise taxes (temporarily for a year or two until the economy recovers) by more than $300 million dollars. (That's like taxing business and professional services with a sales tax for the first time or like a penny and a half increase in sales tax or a percent and a half more in income tax for a year.) If we don't raise taxes (since we won't get another federal stimulus like the ones that saved us the past two years) then we have to cut schools yet deeper.

Can you imagine struggling kids after another year of even deeper cuts and even larger classes and less teacher time? Can you imagine not funding schools to hire the 200 new teachers we need just to guide class rooms filled with the 5000 new students who showed up in the state this year?

Is there not a finite limit to the number of bake sales and benefits a school can hold?

This is the poem I read at Rock to Read Benefit Friday night.

 

I dream of Idaho on fire.

I don’t mean the incendiary flame of combustion

I mean the simple spark of some saintly prayer that our schools will fly.

 

I sleep blocks from the capitol, that marble palace

with wings that could have lifted classrooms, libraries, teachers and minds

from survival to spiral orbits of aspiration

where children would dance with spirogyra

microscopes would raise mitochondria and mitosis to the heavens of the known

where English would flow with French, Russian and Chinese from the red lips of scholars

where numbers would glow in galaxies of geometric gem stones

where formulas and proofs would speak like poetry

 

When I sleep under the huge white pine in the turn-of-the-century Victorian that creaks

in the wind and with the whisper of tectonic secrets

our schools do spark and fly

lawmakers plot to proliferate brilliance, invention and art.

We’d fund mock courts and student Senates

celebrating teen poets and novel writers, making heroes of young physicists

and the teachers

who inspire it all again

and again

and again.

 

But I sleep still

strange slumber of frightful dreams where a marble building sinks deep in a mire

political pandering screams

and teachers cry over stacks of papers in the wee hours of the night

where there through the fogged glass students wait with hands raised

in row after row of desks.

 

But I stand here

for in waking I swear I dream for more

just as you dream.

We imagine Idaho on fire

minds sparked to lift a marble dome from the depths, high up over the trees to the sky.

With you I'll not rest as long as books must be bought by benefits

and marble wings and shiny new highways stretch to each horizon.

I will dream.

I will dream in the marble building.

There I will beg others to dream.

Leadership in Flux

Legislative Council has assembled around the big wooden table in the Senate Republican Caucus room in the top of the statehouse. The showing is sparse. Missing are the members leaving us whose terms end a month from now. In December we will be sworn in again and joined by six new senators and twelve newly elected house members. That is not unprecedented change. Compared to other states, Idaho simply stayed its red self. Interestingly we stand now at the same numbers we had six years ago when I was first elected to the house.

Legislative Council is an ongoing committee made up of Democratic and Republican leadership plus members elected by their caucus to serve in overseeing policy, procedure and the general workings of both houses. We discuss everything from whether the dining room will welcome the public, to whether committee secretaries will be detailed or vague in writing up the minutes of legislative committee meetings.

This is my fourth year on Legislative Council. I've looked around in the past and realized that the committee has been used at times as a consolation prize for members not elected to leadership positions in their respective caucuses.

And it's that time again. Leadership elections. Speaker in the House, Pro-Tem in the Senate, in both houses a Majority Leader, Assistant Majority Leader, Caucus Chair, Minority Leader, Assistant Minority Leader & Minority Caucus Chair.

Already the Pro Tem is telling people to save Friday morning after our one day December organizational session and swearing in just in case leadership races get drawn out. This year with the surge of far right or tea party Republicans one can expect some leadership challenges within the two Republican Caucuses. Never mind that, in the House, Majority Leader Mike Moyle is rumored to be taking on Speaker Denny.

Last time we had a serious Speaker's race, after Bruce Newcomb retired as Speaker of the House, committee chairships changed, new people were given JFAC seats and the tone and feel of the legislature turned from a moderate and congenial place to an often far more difficult and contentious one.

I am holding my breath about the Senate. Some say that with the final numbers there will be enough relative moderates to keep the Senate from radical change.

This year, for Democrats, members of leadership retired in both the House and Senate. New leaders will be elected from among those not serving on the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. In the Senate in our tiny seven member Democratic caucus with two JFAC members and three leadership positions, our choices are a bit less wide ranging than in the House. We have some pretty wide ranging personalities though.

Sunday, across the state, we legislators will pack our bags for the Northern Idaho Legislative Tour which always follows on the heels of the election. We will travel and mingle for three days getting to know new members and discussing legislative ideas. Both parties will hold caucuses to begin to brooch the topic of leadership races. We will know then who will run and begin to contemplate the temperaments, the strengths, weaknesses and personalities that will shape our lives and policy in the next two sessions and possibly in many more to come.

Thirty Percent

Last night as all unfolded here in Idaho, I had to breathe in, look around the old ballroom decorated to feel cheery and know in my gut that I represent a tough state. Candidates who poured their lives into races hoping to make a difference in protecting their schools or creating jobs or public transportation, go home now to surreally quiet homes.

Idaho. We Democrats serve in politics here knowing we are the minority. Democracy doesn't work if someone isn't up to the challenge of representing the 30% of the state that clearly prefers not to have public schools decimated by budget cuts. The 30% that will willingly pay taxes so that neighbors don't go without food, housing or medical care. The 30% that worry how expensive it is to lives and budgets when we cut mental health and substance abuse treatment, driving people and their families into desperation and cirsis.

To the other 70% of the state, I say this: what is invisible to you, the bridges, the police cars, the prison walls, the detox rooms, the teachers reading essays into the late dark of night, the prison guards, the parole officers, the social workers making sure someone takes their medication, the program that pays an 88 year old woman's electric bill, the agency that inspects day care centers: these things break down when you starve state government, when you cut it again and again and again.

Idaho, I will always see the best in you. I still hope we will pull together in crisis, look inside classrooms at the beauty and loss there, see our neighbors as people and rise above this as a state.

 

September 11th


DSC02816nicole-wash-mon


May
today we remember the fundamental value of respect for religious
difference and the loss that comes from believing violence can resolve
conflict from past or present. May we look at the people of the world
not as faceless categories based on faith, race, national origin or
political affiliation, but as individuals worthy of life and human dignity. That, I believe, is how we hope the world will view us, as Americans.

Nicole’s 2010 Legislative Quiz

So you think you followed the 2010 legislative session? Let's see how you do on this Quiz. Answers provided Tuesday May 6th, 5:30 – 8 pm at my End of Session Party at Sun Ray in Hyde Park. (The cool old Lucky 13 garage.) And I'll also post them next week here after the party but you will miss the fun commentary.

In 2010 how many bills were killed on the Senate floor where legislation needs 18 votes to pass?

a. 19
b. 5
c. 2
d. 0

In 2010 how many times did Brad Little have to break a tie on the Senate floor?

a. 21
b. 7
c. 2
d. 0

How many bills were killed on the House Floor when they failed to get 36 yes votes?

a. 47
b. 22
c. 11
d. 4

How much was Idaho's 2011 public school budget cut by in the 2010 Session?

a. $128 million
b. 7.5%
c. the most it had ever been cut in Idaho history
e. All of the above

Which part of the school budget that passed was added by Rep. Fred Wood and other members of the House over the objection of teachers, after the negotiating stakeholders had agreed not to include it.

a. Provisions requiring all schools to add a simple Buddhist prayer at the start of classes each day
b. A prohibition on the teaching of any science in Idaho classrooms
c. A chunk of legislative language rendering the bulk of every teacher's work contract null & void
d. A ban on school nurses because they provide government health care

What school programs were completely not funded and thus eliminated by the legislature?

a. Luna's classroom supply stipend for teachers $4.68 million
b. Gifted & Talented teacher training $1 million statewide
c. None of the major student programs (like ISAT remediation, math initiative, reading initiative or English Language learning) were eliminated. They were just cut so much that schools will just have to bear the burden themselves of deciding which kids to serve or which will go without help.
d. Technology funding $9.1 million for computer replacement, software licenses, maintenance etc..
e. Textbook funding $5.9 million to replace outdated or damaged text books
f. All of the above answers apply

What was the deepest public school budget cut previously made and in what year?

a. 3% in 1914
b. 3% in 2010
c. Many years over the past decade, if you consider inflation and population growth, the increase in Idaho school budgets has been so small that frequently the total budget, when the increase in students and the rising cost of transportation fuels, heat, electricity and insurance is taken into account, the total budget is a cut from the previous year.
d. Idaho school budgets have never previously been cut

Which Idaho agency budget was cut the least?

a. Mike Gwartney's Department of Administration
b. The Department of Transportation/Roads
c. The Governor's office
d. Legislative Services

Which Idaho Budget was cut the most?

a. Idaho Public Television
b. Idaho Parks & Recreation
c. The Governor's Office
d. Mike Gwartney's Department of Administration

Which of the following are quotes from actual language from real bills passed by the Idaho legislature in 2010?

a. “The phrase "In God We Trust" should appear on all coin and currency and references to God should be welcome in all public places and public verse.”

b. “WHEREAS, small business is the backbone of Idaho’s economy and local food production can help promote entrepreneurism and self ­sufficiency in Idaho’s small towns, revitalizing regional small farms, creating local jobs, business opportunities and the recirculation of capital within Idaho.”

c. “The state of Idaho hereby exercises its sovereign power to declare the public policy of the state of Idaho regarding the right of all persons residing in the state of Idaho in choosing the mode of securing health care services free from the imposition of penalties, or the threat thereof, by the federal government of the United States of America relating thereto.”

d. “No health care professional or employer of the health care professional shall be civilly, criminally or administratively liable for the health care professional declining to provide health care services that violate his or her conscience, except for life ­threatening situations as provided for in subsection (6) of this section."

e. All of the Above.

Some have said that Idahoans will die because the legislature refused to do simple things like use Millennium cigarette funds, part of the grocery tax credit or eliminate certain tax exemptions to avoid cutting so deeply into health & education budgets. Which groups of people might actually face the most dire health and life consequences because of the choice to cut 2011 budgets so deep?

a. People with Cystic Fibrosis who face tens of thousands of dollars in medication costs each year just to stay alive. The legislature eliminated all funding for assistance to adults.

b. People facing trauma, depression or other mental health issues including suicide. Mental health services for adults have been reduced since 2008 in what is already a bare bones system. The suicide hot line that once existed is gone leaving Idaho as the only state in the nation without a hot line.

c. More people needing mental health services. Rumors are that in an attempt to cover a $18 million deficit in Medicaid that mental health services to those on Medicaid will also be cut, leaving people to lose jobs, families & homes. Many will find help only if they enter an Idaho prison.

d. People wanting help and ready for treatment as they facing addiction to methamphtamine, heroin, alcohol and other drugs.The legislature refused to fund a $4.5 million deficit in the program. Over 2,500 people who were on a waiting list have been turned away.

e. Some of Idaho's most vulnerable adults & children with disabilities. Deep cuts to care & therapy services put lives at risk as those who struggle to stay independent face a loss of supports to keep them out of institutions or at risk of injury or illness in their own homes.

f. More people with disabilities. While the legislature rejected Butch Otter's attempts to de-fund the state's disability advocacy agencies, advocacy services that prevent abuse, protect the legal rights of many and ensure adequate access to remove barriers for a full life have been cut back, placing more people at risk.

f.All of the above.

Sorry that's so depressing. You can change this Legislature. VOTE! May 25 and especially Nov. 2! Get involved. In Boise we especially need hard working help for District 18 as Branden Durst runs to fill Kate Kelly's Senate seat and Janie Ward-Engelking runs to replace Durst in the House. Also exciting races in Districts 14 & 15 where Jen Stanko & Steve Berch sound dedicated, hard working and ready to gain some ground for Democrats in North West Boise and Eagle.

Ode to the Senate

O Idaho Senate with your flourishes
Your contemplative strength
How the House has teeth so much sharper

O Senate with your kind men and tough women
You strut as if these endings were your making
Why do you own acts so cruel?

For in your faces lies a sadness, in your eyes aquifers rise
The blood of a million and a half lives hangs around you
Will you listen to its cry?

O Senate your demons are the sly ones
Men with voices more self righteous than mine

My death here will not come from honored stabbing
But from from friendly fire
From cold flesh cut to keep me small

O Senate in your back-hall offices the lobbyists tarry
They covet your small numbers
Your love of fine wine and red meat

Let none come here to lead you into darkness
Your voice is that of orphans
Their quest is yours to represent

As a body of the legislature, Senate you demur to Gwartney and his Governor too often
The scent of moneyed scandals rise and yet you dally
Steel your bones, we've battles yet to fight

Your skin pales at my words, still you compliment my passion
I could stay to study at your gleaming heels
But my tolerance for pain fades with age

Aye, in your finance committee lie secret angels
In your gruff leaders hide impish saints
Faces of stone, you weep when the hero falters

Nay, I'd thought to leave but have grown fond now
Thorn in your steely side, such a view you offer
The space you give, the lines you've begged me learn

Should I miss the house? Yes
I shall wander East and visit
Gaze fondly at their casual dance and return

I'll run here to your pools of formal kindness
The body of thirty-five parts which together spin a brilliant, hard and haunted heart.

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