Steve Taggart 01

The Idaho Republican Party State Central Committee recently met and set forth some interesting ideas on a range of policy issues, in the form of resolutions and rule changes.

They range from reconfiguring vacancies and changing the composition of the Idaho Legislature, to backing the electoral college, legalizing hemp, eliminating the grocery tax, opposing gender reassignment surgery, opposing wildlife corridors in Fremont County, barring sex education that conflicts with parental religious beliefs, backing lawsuits against military contractors for purportedly backing the Taliban, and more.

The central committee consists of party officers, including state party officers, county chairs, a state committeeman and committeewoman from each county, a youth committee person from each county and legislative district chairs.  It is the governing body for the Idaho Republican Party.

Several of these issues deserve some attention and analysis.

First, Bonneville County’s local Republican Party believes the governor should not choose from three candidates to fill legislative vacancies. They want to have the party make the choice instead by giving the governor a single candidate for a vacancy. The genesis is that Gov. Butch Otter didn’t choose the party’s first choice for a couple vacancies, avoiding picking Bonneville County chair Mark Fuller in each instance.

The State Central Committee has now joined that effort by passing a resolution asking for the Legislature to modify the statute and passing a party rule providing only one name to the governor. That creates an interesting potential scenario.  If the Legislature doesn’t pass the requested legislative change, might the Idaho Republican Party sue the State of Idaho?  Second Vice Chair Bryan Smith hinted at such a lawsuit in an interview with the Post Register’s Nathan Brown awhile back.

Smith seems to think such challenge that would be successful.  I have some doubts, having watched the Utah Republican Party lose decisively a recent lawsuit to overturn a state statute expanding options for party nominations.

Two resolutions targeted the composition of the Idaho Legislature.  The more modest one called for expanding the maximum number of legislative districts from the current 35 to 45.  The rational is to offset the pressure to expand the geographic size of Idaho’s rural legislative districts, caused by Idaho’s burgeoning urban population centers.

The more extreme version was proposed by Bonner County.  It wants to return to an Idaho Legislature where each county gets one Senate seat and House members are apportioned by population. The problem is that the U.S. Supreme Court declared that approach unconstitutional in 1964 under the 14th Amendment.  The adopted resolution says the Supreme Court got it wrong and says Idaho “shall” configure its Legislature the way that was deemed unconstitutional. That seems to ignore the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution and the equivalent in the Idaho Constitution. That would be interesting if followed through!

Unsurprisingly, there is a resolution calling for eliminating the current even partisan split on the redistricting commission.

One resolution (from Bonner County) calls for outright repeal of the grocery tax this next fiscal year. That is in direct conflict with Gov. Little’s proposal for a one-half reduction.

In addition to standing behind the Electoral College, another resolution backs “Trump’s” effort to withdraw troops from the Middle East.  Oddly enough, the administration is in the process of a build-up and is exploring adding another 14,000 troops to the region — in light of the recent issues with Iran.

There is some confusion out there about one of the rule changes.  Chair Raul Labrador proposed amending an existing rule that allows county, legislative district and the State Central Committee to determine the political affiliation of candidates and endorse favorites.  His amendment specifies that voters must affiliate with the Republican Party before voting in the presidential primary. Some thought the vetting and endorsement provisions were new, but they had been there previously.

The real issue is whether the Idaho Legislature will follow the directives of the Central Committee on any of these matters.

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (www.MaynesTaggart.com).  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..