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Saturday, May 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  ID Government

Eye on Boise: When times are tough, a rhyme’s enough…

Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Betsy Z. Russell

As the legislative session winds down – or perhaps more accurately, cranks up to its final frenzy – I write limericks. Some are lighthearted; some, not so much. I’m up to seven so far.

The first of this year’s crop came the same day that a Senate committee held a lengthy hearing on SB 1159, the bill to make it much harder to qualify an initiative or referendum for the Idaho ballot, drawing overwhelmingly negative testimony:

Legislative Limerick No. 1: Changing the initiative laws

What does this move now connote

When voters just pass stuff and gloat?

We’ll make it much tougher

They’ll all have to suffer

But most of all, don’t let folks vote.

My second offering, on the same date, took note of how I unexpectedly was hospitalized for an appendectomy, just as the political fights at the Statehouse were really kicking into gear, making them more difficult to stomach, so to speak:

Legislative Limerick No. 2: Acrimony under the dome

I lost an appendix last week

But sympathy’s not what I seek.

At least not for that

Amid spat after spat

It’s the political beat that’s most bleak.

The next one, on March 25, came as Idahoans flooded the Capitol to testify on proposed “sideboards” that lawmakers wanted to add to Proposition 2, the successful Medicaid expansion voter initiative, including mandatory work requirements and more. These proposals also drew overwhelming opposition at big public hearings.

Legislative Limerick No. 3: Medicaid ‘sideboards’

If poor folks can go to the doc

Without going way into hock

We’ll have to make sure

They’re fine and they’re pure

And they’d better all be on the clock.

It was just a day later when I penned my fourth offering, which came as the legislative session stretched beyond its average length; it’s still going, of course.

Legislative Limerick No. 4: On the 79th legislative day…

The weather’s no longer so cold

The citizens still won’t be lulled.

They’re making their pleas

They won’t be appeased

And this session is sure getting old …

By March 28, speculation was really starting to build over whether Gov. Brad Little would go along with the controversial proposals lawmakers in both houses were promoting, or whether he’d wield his big, red “VETO” stamp. That speculation continues, even as lawmakers push hard to wrap up this year’s session and adjourn “sine die,” which is Latin for “without a day” – and means they’re done for the year.

Legislative Limerick No. 5: Checks and balances

The governor has a red stamp

And oversteps he can just tamp.

If a safety net’s spring

Has way too much zing

Then sine die plans he can cramp.

It was later that same day when the next limerick emerged, after a House committee had met to introduce yet another bill to shift money from the state’s general fund to roads. Numerous such bills have been proposed this year. The Senate killed an earlier one that had passed the House, after Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, co-chair of the Legislature’s joint budget committee, warned that the state’s general fund, which covers such major functions of state government as schools, prisons and Health & Welfare, was facing “death by a thousand cuts.”

Legislative Limerick No. 6: Finding money…

Shift a bit more to the roads

Never mind what it all bodes.

When revenues drop

Just cut from the top.

No Statehouse? That’ll save loads!

My seventh legislative limerick of the session was penned Thursday night, after a tumultuous day in which the House had been expected to vote on the controversial initiatives bill, but instead House Republicans went into hourslong, closed-door caucus meetings. And then, during a lunch break when Majority Leader Mike Moyle had announced to representatives, the press and the public that everyone should go to lunch because nothing more was going to happen until 2:30, the House Ways & Means Committee suddenly convened, introduced and sent to the full House a new bill on initiatives. The 2 p.m. meeting was so hastily called that even one Democratic member of the committee didn’t know about it until after it was over.

Legislative Limerick No. 7: The perks of power

We sure pulled a fast one today

Tell the press, Dems and public ‘go away.’

Then call a quick drill

Introduce a new bill

Let no one but us have a say.

I was told Friday that there was no intent to be sneaky; an online notice of the meeting was posted on the Legislature’s website just over 50 minutes before it started. But of course, few were looking for it (personally, I’d gone to lunch, a rarity for me during the legislative session).

I wish I could say that I’m done writing limericks for this year, but the legislative session isn’t over – it’ll be back in full swing on Monday. And I fully expect that as a result, I’ll again be driven, as they say, from bad to verse.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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