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It’s Not Fair For Legislators To Get Year-Round Benefits

Next year, Idaho legislators and wannabes will razzle-dazzle you with sound bites about quality of life, lower taxes and responsive government. You can stop them in their tracks by asking this question: Do you think it’s fair that part-time lawmakers get year-round health coverage ($2,795 per politician) when one in five Idahoans isn’t insured? State Sen. Mary Lou Reed, D-Coeur d’Alene, and state Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Coeur d’Alene, consider it okey-dokey. Said Alltus: “For me, it’s a significant cut in pay to be a legislator. Most of us work far more than what we get paid for.” (I wonder how many legislators would quit if they didn’t get the perk.) Ex-lawmaker Janet Jenkins, who tried in vain to do away with the privilege in 1992, provides the proper answer: “It is an inequity when taxpayers who can’t afford insurance for themselves are paying for our insurance.”

ACLUers get overdue trip to woodshed

The American (un)Civil Liberties Union deserves a Hot Potato for denying free-speech rights to Grangeville High School seniors. ACLU speech police and the sympathetic 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals prevented the Grangeville class of 1995 from praying at its graduation ceremonies. In fact, Idaho ACLUer Jack Van Valkenburgh threatened: “I believe they (pray) at their peril.” Van Valkenburgh owes Grangeville High an apology - after the Supreme Court tossed out the lower court ruling Monday, siding in favor of student-led graduation prayer. Too bad the justices didn’t go further and settle as much of the school-prayer debate as possible. The piecemeal approach to the issue wastes time, energy and money. Unfortunately, ACLU censors have plenty of all three.

Encounter with teen was close (cell) call

I survived a Close Encounter with the Worst Kind of Cellular Phone User recently. I had stopped at Government Way and Harrison in Coeur d’Alene when an impatient teen in a pickup zipped around me, made a California stop and finished his right turn - while gabbing on a cellular phone. Says an Idaho State Police official: “When you’re talking on your cell phone and you have your mind on business, not on your driving, it’s dangerous.” Thirty-four percent more dangerous. Now, a teen isn’t going to have his mind on business. Judging from the Cheshire-cat smile on the young driver’s face (and how close he came to my rear bumper), I’d say he was courting on dad’s dime. And I came this close to becoming a statistic. Cellular-phone users either should install hands-free kits in their vehicles or heed state-police advice for handling mobile calls: Pull over.

, DataTimes MEMO: “Hot Potatoes” is a feature of the Tuesday and Thursday Opinion pages.

“Hot Potatoes” is a feature of the Tuesday and Thursday Opinion pages.