Stephen Hartgen 01

A recent liberal newspaper’s “dos and don’ts” list of what the Idaho Legislature should pass or not pass provides a good checklist for doing mostly the opposite of what The Idaho Statesman calls for.

You know, that newspaper owned by a California company facing likely bankruptcy in 2020, which will drop its Saturday paper entirely next month and whose prominent building on Curtis Road is for sale. Yeah, that’s the one.

Fortunately, Idaho legislators aren’t likely to heed the Statesman’s yodeling for a California-style, high-tax government which is driving thousands out of the formerly-Golden State to places like Idaho.

Here’s their checklist of their “dos and don’ts,” briefly summarized, with a “bottom line” as to the impacts: First, their “dos” (Dec. 31):

--Pass local option taxation. Nope. Just a big tax increase.

--Require impact fees for schools: Another tax jump, called a “fee” to disguise it.

--Require private landowners to allow trespass to public lands. Nope. Private property is private property.

--Prohibit “faith healing.” This would, indeed, impinge on religious freedom, which the paper falsely dismisses as a “bogeyman argument.” 

--Raise gas tax. Nope. Just another proposed tax increase.

--Prison overcrowding. Idaho is already doing this with treatment centers, etc. Prosecutors say the criminals in prison today are people you do not want on the streets. Reentry centers for non-violent criminal may make some sense, but average folks won’t stand for “let-‘em-all-out” releases as Dems and drug advocates propose. And there’s nothing wrong with sending some felons to other states to do their time. Sure, there are cots, but pluses too for Idaho taxpayers and average fearful citizens.

--Properly fund education. Get real. Idaho is pouring millions annually into education, yet student scores statewide are flat or declining. Teachers have never earned more money in Idaho then they do today, but “just add more” isn’t showing results.

--Legalize hemp. Maybe as a farm crop, but marijuana is often a “front door’” drug, so craft “hemp legalization” carefully. Notice how the media always favors availability. 

--Drop the “vaccine” exemption. Keep it. It’s a freedom-of-choice issue for many.

--Add the Words. Isn’t needed. Would enshrine legally-dubious language. Idaho law already prohibits this discrimination. “Add the words” is just code language for enhanced gay rights. 

Then, here are the newspaper’s “don’ts” which, generally, would be good for Idaho to enact:

--Don’t touch the initiative process. It’s now broken and being manipulated by out-of-state interests, including California unions. Needs tightening, unless we want to be another California.

--Don’t restrict Medicaid expansion. Sorry, keep the work requirement for the able-bodied, just as the ballot measure said. It’s not asking too much for people to work to get benefits. Lots of fair-mined exclusions are already agreed upon, including those for parents with young children and the disabled. Draw the line at “couch loungers” who want a benefit without effort.

--Don’t restrict public records law. It’s now often being used for “gotcha” reporting, often based on false media narratives and/or partisan bias. Needs reform.

--Don’t pass laws when constitutionality isn’t clear. This is saying let’s rely on courts and other states. Nope. Idaho should often set its own course.

--Don’t question university “diversity” funding. Idaho’s not immune to identity politics and “affirmative action” manipulation. It’s always worth asking how money is being spent to “bend” campus priorities.

--Don’t restrict property taxes? The Legislature should do exactly that. People are close to being forced out of their homes by out-of-control local government pending.

--Reassess performance evaluations of agencies. Sure, it has value, but review the process.

--Don’t tinker with redistricting. This needs reform and is now being manipulated by minority-party gerrymandering.

--Always keep an open mind, listen to testimony. Dems and media want legislators to adopt their world view of a liberal nanny-state. Most legislators do listen intently; the newspaper just wants them to be, well, more liberal. 

--Idaho legislators generally have good tracks records of discerning their constituent wishes; that’s why most are returned to office in elections. That sure beats heeding the California musings of a liberal newspaper. But then, you knew that.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of the new book “Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.” He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.