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Eye on Boise: Resolutions abound at GOP meeting

BOISE – When Idaho’s Republican State Central Committee gathered for its recent winter meeting, it faced 37 proposed resolutions, including one supporting tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, in his ethics issues; one rapping Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, who filed an ethics complaint against Hart; one to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana; and one banning the IRS from filing tax liens in Idaho counties, as it’s done repeatedly against Hart in Kootenai County. The central committee’s resolutions committee decided not to consider those first three, but it did pass the tax-liens measure.

Also approved: A new rule limiting the 200-plus central committee members to proposing just two resolutions per meeting in the future; this time, one member, Lucas Baumbach, of Boise, proposed 14, including the marijuana one and another calling for ending state funding for all education expenses other than “basic education in reading, writing and arithmetic.”

Idaho GOP Executive Director Jonathan Parker said the sponsors of the pro-Hart and anti-Anderson resolutions withdrew them at Hart’s request.

Among the resolutions that did pass: A “fair tax” resolution submitted by Baumbach, which originally called for eliminating Idaho’s personal income tax and raising the state’s sales tax by 2 cents, but was amended to just call for eliminating the income tax; one backing state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna’s school reform plan; one seeking to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on abortion; another calling for repealing urban renewal; and one demanding that the Legislature nullify the Superfund law and boot the EPA from the Coeur d’Alene Basin cleanup.

“These are resolutions – that’s a statement,” Parker said. “It’s not legislation per se, obviously. … This is an avenue for our members to express their views and their ideas, and we take great pride in being the party of ideas.”

He added, “All of these resolutions have been submitted to our Republican legislators and state officers and congressionals, and if they decide to act on some of these ideas and suggestions from the state party, that’s great.”

Palmer gets Hart’s spot

Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, has been named vice chairman of the House Transportation and Defense Committee, replacing Hart, who stepped down from the post to avoid a sanction from a special House Ethics Committee. That panel was on the verge of calling for his removal when Hart offered to give up the post.

The move ended a long investigation into an ethics complaint against Hart over charges that he violated his oath of office by fighting against paying his state and federal income taxes, which he contends are unconstitutional; repeatedly invoking legislative privilege to win delays in his personal tax fights; and illegally logging state school endowment land to build his Athol home in 1996 and never paying an outstanding judgment in the case.

Impact at one agency

State Appellate Public Defender Molly Huskey told legislative budget writers that if her office had to take an additional 5 percent budget cut – something lawmakers are discussing for the overall state budget – “It would mean 20 to 23 furlough days, which is an entire month of work, for each of the people in our office.”

That would make it extremely difficult, she said, for her office to meet its constitutional obligations; the office was set up to ease the burden on counties of providing the required representation of indigent defendants appealing criminal convictions including first-degree murder.

Outpouring of input

This past week saw an unprecedented outpouring of citizen input to Idaho’s Legislature. Over the course of four days, hundreds and hundreds flocked to public hearings on Luna’s controversial school reform plan; nearly all opposed it. More than 200 people came to a Statehouse hearing on a bill to nullify the federal health care reform act, most of them backing the move. And in the House Judiciary Committee, a large crowd, including many who traveled from North Idaho to testify, spoke on both sides of a tribal policing bill, which won the committee’s support and now is pending in the full House.

None of those hearings could have happened before Idaho’s state Capitol renovation, which added big public meeting rooms and an auditorium in a new basement level.