A suggestion or two for ‘personal bills’

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It's apparently never too late to learn something about your legislature.

Epiphany time arrived with one of the most irresponsible bill proposals ever dumped on the good citizens of Idaho. This one came compliments of Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg. Rep. Nate is proposing that Idaho wean itself off federal education funds to the tune of more than $300 million annually. If adopted, the state's public education system, which was guaranteed on no less a scrap of paper than the Idaho Constitution, would be completely destroyed in just a few short years.

While that might be Rep. Nate's dream scenario, there's every indication that he never thought for a minute his bill would pass. Apparently, these forays into ideological fantasyland are called personal bills, and they're relegated to the House Ways and Means Committee — which in the words of Rep. Paul Amador is “where bills go to die.”

“These types of bills have very little chance of being heard,” Amador, a Coeur d'Alene Republican, told The Press this week. “Personal bills are meant to bring attention to an issue or to make a political statement.”

That was a revelation to those of us who thought personal bills were monthly statements from the dry cleaner, the family doctor or adult internet sites.

Assuming Nate's public education nuke isn't detonated, two thoughts surface.

One is a reminder that legislation with little thought behind it and little chance of survival ahead of it is more likely this session because 2018 is an election year for every Idaho legislator, and no legislator wants to return to her or his constituents empty-handed. Gov. Butch Otter, a former state legislator and member of Congress, alluded to these types of bills while visiting The Press on Monday.

“Gotta have them to show at home,” he said.

The other thought is that with some fairly weighty tasks at hand — you know, stuff like grocery taxes, grossly neglected highways and bridges, a wealth of good jobs with too few Idahoans equipped to do them — it doesn't make much sense to waste legislators' and other citizens' time on ideological exclamation marks. Isn't that why God created Facebook and Twitter, anyway?

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