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Improving the Legislative Process in Idaho

This week we saw an unfortunate display of how voices are silenced.

Improving the Legislative Process in Idaho

Improving the Legislative Process

by Rep. Ron Nate

Idaho’s legislative process is a representative government.  Our thirty-five legislative districts vote for two representatives and one senator each.  One of the most rewarding aspects of being a representative for District 34 (Madison and Bonneville counties) is to bring proposals for legislation from citizens in District 34.  

Last year I wrote about the broken process in Idaho.  Many bills were held by committee chairs and the voice of the people, from many districts, were being silenced.  Committee chairs were using their power to “drawer” bills.  Conservative legislators, including me, in the House mounted an information campaign and used parliamentary procedure to highlight the problem of bills being stalled unfairly in committees.

The message was largely heard.  To their credit, leaders in the Idaho House of Representatives opened the process for House committees to hear more bills.  While not perfect (the Stand-Your-Ground bill is held now), the process is working much better–YOUR voices are being heard in Boise.

The Senate, however, still needs some work.  This week we saw an unfortunate display of how voices are silenced.  The bill (H577) to allow the use of CBD oil under certain conditions passed the House of Representatives with strong support.  You may agree or disagree with the bill, but in a legislature for the people, all ideas deserve to be heard.

Despite its popularity, the committee chair in the Senate stopped the CBD bill, and when the committee asked to bring it forward, he became angry, stopped the hearing and behind closed doors (in a possible violation of Open Meetings laws) revealed his reasoning for not hearing the bill, “The governor’s office doesn’t want this bill, the prosecutors don’t want this bill, the office on drug policy doesn’t want this bill.”  This is not appropriate.  Not only should the chairman facilitate hearing the bill, the Governor should not be directing the legislative process.  It is a separation of powers issue.

We need our legislative process to encourage open debate and deliberation on legislation.  Legislators should be allowed to do what they were elected to do: draft, discuss, and vote on legislation.  If the governor, leadership, and/or chairmen stop legislation without allowing debate or votes, then the legislative process is broken.  More work needs to be done to allow all the voices of Idaho citizens to be fully heard in Boise, and not just those who might have the favor of certain leaders and executives.  I am working in that direction.

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