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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

A capitol year for unusual ideas…

It wasn't just in Idaho that state lawmakers ventured onto unusual ground this year, attempting to unilaterally nullify a federal law, debating allowing guns on state college campuses and nearly cutting off unemployed Idahoans from receiving federal extended unemployment benefits on grounds that the benefits will make them lazy. Montana lawmakers backed a bill to let local sheriffs stop federal law enforcement officers from making arrests in their counties, though the governor vetoed it. They also debated measures to legalize hunting with a hand-thrown spear and declare global warming "beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana." Florida legislators outlawed droopy pants on schoolkids that show their underwear. Illinois made it legal to pick up road-killed animals for food or fur, saying it'll clean up the roads.

Utah lawmakers ordered schools to teach kids that the United States is a "compound constitutional republic" rather than a democracy, after the bill's sponsor said "schools from coast to coast are indoctrinating children to socialism." South Carolina looked at setting up its own gold or silver currency in case the federal reserve system fails. And a Georgia lawmaker pushed unsuccessfully to abolish driver's licenses because he said requiring them violates people's "inalienable right" to travel.

"I don't know how many of these are going to become laws or withstand constitutional scrutiny, but it does seem like you have a wider range of ideas that are out there now," said Seth Masket, a political scientist at the University of Denver who studies state legislatures. "For those who are concerned that politicians have just been peddling the same old ideas for years, this seems like a very good thing. ... You have some people who are willing to think outside of the box." You can read my full story here at

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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