Local column: Legislature, Idahoans rife with contradictions

Suppose I was a third generation landowner with a thousand acres of grazing land up in the foothills east of Idaho Falls. Imagine also that my family has been leasing the grazing rights on the entire spread to my neighbor’s family for four generations.

Now suppose my neighbor comes to me the next time the rent is due and says that he isn’t paying any more rent. In fact, he says, by now he and his ancestors have paid enough rent to own it, and there is no way anyone is going to kick him off. And he points to the rifle in the back window of his pickup.

If I were to say back, “Yup, I guess you’re right,” I’d be branded a coward. Every Idahoan I know, if they were in my shoes, would call that guy a thief and a lunatic. They’d never let him get away with it.

But if I happened to be the Bureau of Land Management, or the U.S. Forest Service, I’d be called the thief and my hard-working self-reliant red-blooded tenant would be hailed and admired by many Idahoans as a patriot.

Why is that? What is the source of all this Idaho animosity toward everything federal? There’s an anti-federal bug that has infected a huge contingent of our people, and it makes people irrational. Worse, it’s gnawing at the roots of our state government.

Consider the cheering and glee that greeted Eric Parker, a Cliven Bundy disciple, when he was introduced to the Idaho House of Representatives on January 19. Unbelievable!

Consider Idaho House Bill 461 that was approved by the State Affairs Committee last week. That bill declares that the Idaho Legislature has the power, under the U.S. Constitution, to declare federal laws, federal executive orders, and federal court decisions, including those of the U.S. Supreme Court, void and unenforceable within the State of Idaho. And it passed by a majority vote of the committee! Only four people voted against it! How is that possible?

Consider the fact that a full third of the House State Affairs Committee voted in favor of a national constitutional convention, which would likely have led to a fundamental restructuring of the entire relationship between the federal government and the states. Inconceivable!

Consider Gov. Otter’s executive order that essentially circumvents the Affordable Care Act by purporting to authorize insurance companies to issue medical insurance policies that do not comply with federal law. Nicholas Bagley, a Univ. of Michigan law professor, said, “These Idaho guidelines for health insurers are crazypants (sic) illegal. It’s not even close. Does Idaho think the Supremacy Clause doesn’t apply to it?” Well, according to Sen. Mike Crapo, that’s exactly what Idaho thinks because he apparently agrees! Appalling!

Consider what Rep. Ron Nate (R-Rexburg) said about the federal-state relationship recently during the debate regarding bringing Idaho’s income tax laws into conformity with the federal tax code: “I think our founders intended … that the federal government was subservient to the will of the states.” He argued that the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause doesn’t mean that the Idaho legislature must comply with decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court! Holy Cow!! Isn’t he an economics professor at BYU-I? And four other legislators voted with him! Incredible!

What’s especially galling is that the governor and the Legislature are apparently willing to squander tens of millions of dollars defending these silly positions in court, against the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boise.

Former Sen. Majority Leader Bart Davis would never have let that happen. Where is he now when we need him?


Larson is an attorney practicing in Idaho Falls.


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