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  • Writer's pictureMarc Johnson

Pass/Fail


Tough Session Draws Tough Reviews

Idaho Democrats have called the just completed legislative session “the worst in memory.” Republicans, who overwhelmingly dominate in Idaho, say just a minute, it wasn’t all that bad.

Idaho’s editorial pages are weighing in with generally very tough judgements about a session that stripped collective bargaining rights for teachers, “reformed” education to move policy strongly in the direction of more on-line learning, fewer classroom teachers, “pay for performance” and less money.

The Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa gave letter grades ranging from three A’s to two F’s and one D. Grading on the curve, the IPT comes down with an overall “B,” while praising lawmakers for meeting their Constitutional obligation to balance the budget and for cutting education spending by only $50 million.

The Twin Falls Times-News compares this year’s session to Gov. Len Jordan’s first session in 1951 when the newly elected Jordan called for, among other things, the closure of state colleges in Lewiston and Albion. The paper says that ’51 session has long been viewed as one of the worst with long-standing consequences, but then suggests the just ended session may have been worse.

“The first session of the 61st Legislature adjourned Thursday with a state bitterly divided over Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s education reform proposal,” the paper’s Sunday editorial said. “Lawmakers slashed state support for Medicaid by $35 million, public school funding by $47 million and higher education dollars by $8 million.

“Legislators passed a bill restricting abortion that’s probably unconstitutional, changed the Republican primary so that only party faithful may be able to vote, authorized the governor to declare a “wolf emergency,” made dairies’ nutrient management plans trade secrets, and rewrote Idaho’s Right to Farm law so broadly that it might limit counties’ ability to regulate the expansion of slaughterhouses, potato-processing operations and cheese factories.”

The Idaho Statesman’s Sunday edit was headlined “Difficult and Damaging” and concludes that history may not judge the 88 day session very kindly.

“A session to be proud of? Not even close,” the Statesman said.

Marty Trillhaase, writing on the Lewiston Tribune’s editorial page Sunday, said: “The men and women who sat out the winter under the Capitol dome have delivered a government that is radically different: Lawmakers become lawgivers — Time was, if lawmakers wanted to pass a sales tax or shift schools from local to state support, they asked you. They coaxed you. They won your support. And they took their time.

“Today’s lawgivers descend from Mount Heyburn and inform the rest of us how life is going to be.”

Meanwhile, a referendum effort has been launched to take State School Superintendent Tom Luna’s reforms to the voters and backers of a recall Luna campaign say they are ready to gather signatures.

A couple of weeks, as astute political observers say, is a life-time in politics. The heartburn over this session my fade fast, as fast as these newspaper editorials hit the recycle bin or line the bird cage. But, then again, if those who felt they got the short end of a long stick from this year’s legislature can keep the image alive that has been almost universally depicted by the editorial writers then this session may have lasting political, as well as policy implications.

Stay tuned.

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