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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Session’s closing brings poetic inspiration

After two days of hot-and-heavy conference committee negotiations, lots of waiting around and plenty of uncertainty, Idaho’s legislative session lurched to something of a climax on Friday. Lawmakers and legislative watchers – lobbyists, reporters, state employees and citizens – were worn out and a little punchy. The result? More legislative limericks, of course. Here’s the latest crop.

Hurry up and wait

A dreadful and odious fate

Lobbyists are singing

Rumors are winging

And all that we’re getting is late …

If one cent or two still divides ’em

And gas taxes are what decides ’em

Why can’t they agree

On taxes and fees

Before Cowboy Butch has to ride ’em?

Let’s say that we have to pay

To speed cars and trucks on their way

But what is the cost

As ideas are tossed

Must we see lawmaking in May?

With funding for roads on the docket

To schools, health and prisons we’ll sock it

If things are so dire

And funds we desire

We’ll just reach into our other pocket.

Let’s say that you’ve vetoed a bill

But nobody knows of it still

So hide and delay

Or seek light of day?

The difference could make it all nil.

Awaiting a spring migration

While chasing like mad around the Capitol late one afternoon last week, I was distracted from my hunt for whichever lawmakers I was pursuing by an unusual sight: a bird’s nest tucked up in a high corner of the Capitol, just outside a fourth-floor window, and a mama pigeon happily tending two fuzzy chicks. The sight inspired this legislative limerick, in two parts:

Under the Capitol’s eaves

In a nest made of twigs and small leaves

A pigeon mom’s coo

At her plump nestlings two

They won’t fly far, these small thieves.

Now down in the chambers below

The progress sure seems to be slow

The politics rage

And we can’t turn the page

’Til back to their districts they go.

Tax revenues up

Idaho tax revenue collections exceeded projections by $23 million in March, marking the fifth consecutive month that they exceeded forecasts.

Year-to-date collections are now $88 million, or 4.4 percent higher than projections.

Bill raises open meeting fines

The House voted 60-9 in favor of HB 324, the new version of Rep. Linden Bateman’s bill to raise fines for Idaho Open Meeting Law violations, and the Senate agreed on a 29-4 vote. The earlier bill, HB 155, passed the House easily, but was amended in the Senate; then, there was a drafting error in the amendments, so the House introduced a new version.

Bateman told the House, “It just increases the civil penalties more or less to inflation. There have not been any changes in 41 years to this.” The bill would raise the fine for a simple violation from $50 to $250; for a knowing violation from $500 to $1,500; and for knowing, repeat violations, from $500 to $2,500.

The bill is now awaiting Gov. Butch Otter’s signature.

She won’t say why

Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, voted against six of the seven pieces of the public schools budget in the House on Monday, reporter Bill Spence of the Lewiston Tribune reported, less than a week after they passed the Senate unanimously – and wouldn’t say why. McMillan, who represents Idaho, Clearwater and Shoshone counties and part of Bonner County, previously refused to explain her vote against the $125 million career ladder teacher pay plan, which is a central component of the school budgets, Spence reported.

Local government best?

Gov. Butch Otter has allowed the Uber bill, HB 262, to become law without his signature, overriding all local regulations of ride-sharing services like Uber, which the bill dubs “transportation network companies.” The city of Boise and Uber had been at odds over Boise’s proposed regulations of the service; a lobbyist for Uber proposed the bill, which was opposed by Boise, Coeur d’Alene and the Association of Idaho Cities. It imposes state requirements that pre-empt local laws, essentially allowing companies like Uber to regulate themselves.

Otter lauded Uber for “operating in the best traditions of the free market,” but said he’s also concerned about “essentially trumping local restrictions, safeguards and … ground rules for doing business in each of our communities.” In his transmittal letter to lawmakers, he wrote, “The House and Senate votes show that relatively few members of the Legislature share those concerns enough to reject the company’s legislation, which indeed has been adopted by other states as well. But other states are not Idaho, and I encourage us all to watch carefully to ensure we remember that here, government closest to the people governs best.”

Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state Capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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