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Opinion >  Column

Shawn Vestal: The Deep State in Idaho appears to be a good example of open government

Shawn Vestal (Dan Pelle / DAN PELLE)
Shawn Vestal (Dan Pelle / DAN PELLE)

How deep is the state? The deep, deep, perniciously deep state?

Deeper than you might guess.

In Idaho, for example, the Deep State is currently planning to oppressively lengthen the minimum lengths of faucets in public bathrooms! It’s proposing restraining the liberty of trappers – following a public comment period! – who want to put leghold traps near public trails! It’s seeking to create an apprenticeship program so wastewater workers can become … more easily licensed!


Thankfully, Rep. Heather Scott – Idaho’s Matt Shea – has alerted the public to these and other threatening tentacles of tyranny.

“Who really controls Idaho and what can we do about it?” she asked in a new message to constituents on her website.

“The Deep State constantly is trying to manipulate and control you the voter and the elected officials you put in office,” Scott wrote. “It rarely has a face and often operates out of the public eye, but its effects are felt every day by millions of Americans and its influence is growing in every aspect of our lives. Idaho is not immune.”

Scott links her call to arms to the Idaho Administrative Bulletin. The bulletin is a monthly report on rules-making in the Idaho government. Agencies and departments make rules to carry out legislative directives and for other reasons, and Scott and others have grave concerns about the supposedly unchecked power of these faceless bureaucrats. You might think the Deep State is just a fiction used to divert attention from investigations into presidential malfeasance, but Scott is here to change your mind.

It’s everywhere.

For example, the Deep State in Idaho is now proposing revisions to qualifications required for school administrators; a 25-cent increase in the cost of state cattle branding fees; the proposed addition of a new landowner-permitted turkey season; changing the qualifications for a state scholarship; creating guidelines for handling the carcasses of animals with Chronic Wasting Disease; adding hearing-aid coverage to insurance requirements; changing the term “generation” to “field year” in the Idaho Potato Certification Standards …

It goes on and on. For 641 horrifying pages.

One proposed rule exists to coordinate with a new federal rule. One would allow rural hospitals in communities without long-term care facilities to set aside beds for that purpose. One proposes a process for handling what happens when morticians let their state licenses go inactive, and then want to activate them again.

Many, many of the proposals involve making existing rules clearer or fairer.

In all cases, the agencies provide repeated public notice of the proposed changes, accept public comments and hold public hearings if enough people seek one. In many cases, the rules are created through negotiations with the people most closely involved with the issue.

You can practically hear Brando muttering in the dark: The horror! The horror!

The Deep State serves the same role for conspiracists that dark matter does for physicists – a way of describing something you believe is there, and which seems to have a definite physical existence, but which you don’t understand. It could be almost anything.

The problem is the disconnect between Scott’s ominous fear-mongering – “Who controls Idaho?” – and the actual contents of the information she is using to try and support that message. The facts do not support the propaganda. It’s an invitation without a party.

If this is the Deep State, it is not even a little bit deep. It’s a Shallow and Accessible If Very Bureaucratic State. It publishes its activities in a report. It acts on legislative directives and notifies the public and accepts comments and holds public hearings.

If a freedom-loving Idahoan wants to pore over the proposed changes to the rules for how nominations to the Idaho Potato Commission are accepted and managed – to read the parts of the rules that will be stricken, and what they will be replaced with and why – well, then, the Idaho Administrative Bulletin is here to serve.

It’s right there on page 415.

It’s only scary if you don’t actually read it.

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