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Gary Crooks: More legislating for your buck

Idaho legislators are proposing pay increases for top elected officials but are ignoring who really needs a raise: them. Oh, there might’ve been a time when $16,438 a year made sense for part-time work, but lawmakers have greatly expanded the scope of the job this legislative session.

They’ve acted as college presidents and campus cops, passing a bill to allow people to carry concealed weapons on campuses.

They’ve donned city council hats, working on, but finally setting aside, a bill to usurp local control of architectural design standards. Before that they considered wiping out locally adopted anti-discrimination ordinances that protect gay, lesbian and transgendered Idahoans.

They’ve also acted as members of Congress, trying to erase the duties of the federal Environmental Protection Agency to protect waterways.

As part of the proposal to raise elected leaders’ pay, lawmakers are looking at boosting the attorney general’s annual salary from $107,100 to $124,000. But why do that, if you’re not going to listen to him? For instance, he said nullifying EPA powers is clearly unconstitutional.

So just take his pay and spread it among overbearing legislators.

Guns Don’t Kill … Not only are Idaho legislators underpaid, they’re apparently under fire. That’s one of the justifications they’ve given for why they should remain exempt from the concealed carry permit the average Idahoan must obtain before packing heat.

“We have the ability now to carry, and I think that most of the citizens realize that we are in a different situation than the average guy on the street,” said Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton.

Actually, it’s safer inside the Capitol than out on the streets, but here’s a safety tip: If you stop making decisions based on self-interest, the public won’t get so angry.

Pens don’t kill … The Washington Legislature was considering a bill that would mandate background checks for paid signature gatherers. This is the same body that failed to adopt them for private gun purchases.

It’s good to know where legislators believe the real danger lies.

Shooting blanks. Some Americans fear the government will one day order the confiscation of guns and ammunition. To protect against the boogeyman, the Idaho Legislature just passed a bill that would punish local law enforcement officers who help carry out a hypothetical federal raid.

Prediction: Guns and ammo will not be seized in Idaho. Same goes for the other 49 states.

Duplicity. Three Republican senators – Orrin Hatch, Richard Burr and Tom Coburn – came out with a health care reform plan in January as a replacement for Obamacare. But it just demonstrates why it would’ve been better for Republicans to get behind a credible plan from the beginning, rather than focus entirely on repeal.

Remember when the Romney-Ryan campaign bashed President Barack Obama for “cutting” about $700 billion from Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act? Actually, the plan is to run Medicare more efficiently. Anyway, to help pay for their plan, the senators would also bank that $700 billion as savings.

Then there are complaints that Obamacare raises some taxes. True, but the senators’ plan would tax the value of group health care coverage. So if you get your coverage through work, your taxes would go up.

Republicans also complain about the subsidies offered through the health care exchanges that help people buy coverage. Well, the senators would also offer subsidies.

The senators’ plan is going nowhere, so you can expect Republicans to return to hypocritical attacks on Obamacare. Just keep in mind that it’s easier to criticize a plan than construct one.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.


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