Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Democrats Fear Legislation Shows An Extremist Agenda Lawmakers Say Some Issues Legitimate, Others Invite Fringe Groups

A spate of constitutionalist legislation introduced at the Statehouse this week has some Democratic leaders worried that extremists are setting the political agenda.

“I don’t think there’s a lot to be gained by ranting and railing and saying we want to revolutionize things,” said Sen. Mary Lou Reed, D-Coeur d’Alene.

She and Sen. Marguerite McLaughlin sharply criticized a proposal from Sen. Rod Beck, R-Boise. He sponsored a letter from the Legislature to the federal government demanding it “cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated powers.”

Reed said some states’-rights issues are legitimate, such as the drive against the federal government assigning duties to states without providing funds. But the place to fight that, she said, is in Congress. She supported legislation this week, for example, in favor of a “Conference of the States” to discuss and lobby for states’ rights.

But Reed said she fears that much of the rhetoric over sovereignty encourages fringe political groups.

“The militia and the Patriot movement is to me unpatriotic,” she said. “Those people who would tear the stars off the flag are actually revolutionaries, as opposed to people who are actually supporting our country.”

Sen. Gordon Crow, R-Coeur d’Alene, argues that the legislation shows citizens are fed up with government regulation.

“Ten or 20 years ago, I would have viewed this as fringe, too,” Crow said. “Except (now) I’ve been stomped on as a parent, business owner and citizen of Idaho.”

On Thursday in the House of Representatives, Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, introduced a resolution similar to Beck’s proposal. They and other like-minded legislators feel the federal government has usurped control over what they think should be state issues, such as environmental regulations.

“Idaho can run Idaho,” she said. “We feel the states are supreme and the federal government is our agent.”

Four North Idaho legislators have asked to be co-sponsors of Wood’s bill. They are: Jim Stoicheff, D-Sandpoint; Tom Dorr, R-Post Falls; Jeff Alltus, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Marv Vandenberg, D-Coeur d’Alene.

Reed expects all the legislation to pass.

“They can get up there and wave the flag and make all these eloquent kinds of call-tobattle statements,” she said. “How can we compete when we’re saying we want reasonable people to do reasonable things?

“I always like to think that sweet reason will prevail,” she said. “But it may not be the year for sweet reason.”