Idaho voters are now the only check on GOP extremism

By Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise
Reader Contributor

Our branches of government are designed to provide checks and balances. When the Idaho Legislature commits overreach, cruelty or foolishness, the governor’s veto pen is the first line of defense. Unfortunately, Gov. Brad Little is not up to the task of curbing rising extremism or even stopping sloppy bills with disastrous consequences. Recent court decisions also demonstrate how much damage the Legislature can exact. It all adds up to this: Idaho voters must be vigilant and check legislative power by voting out lawmakers harming our state. 

Gov. Little has firsthand experience with the current Legislature’s disinterest in solving problems. Last year, it came to light that a bill consolidating our state primary and presidential primary elections had a flaw that inadvertently undid our ability to hold presidential primary elections. Little proceeded to sign the bill, knowing about this error. While a clean-up bill was in the works, Idaho GOP Chair Dorothy Moon easily flexed her power to stop it. This stuck us with presidential caucuses that are much more cumbersome to voters. 

Rep. Lauren Necochea. File photo.

Little ought to have remembered this a few weeks ago when faced with a bill designed to insert the Legislature into the management of Medicaid. He knew it would cause immediate chaos and put more than $100 million for nursing home care for seniors and other services at risk. Still, he signed this unnecessary and terrible bill while imploring the Legislature to pass a fix on what was anticipated to be the last day of the session. Predictably, the Legislature adjourned for the year, putting medical services in jeopardy. 

As harmful as these examples are, they seem quaint when compared to the onslaught of extremist legislation that Little has signed, like criminalizing medical care and attacking voting rights. Last year, Little vetoed the atrocious book bounty bill that would reward the harassment of libraries with cash. The Idaho GOP subsequently approved a “no confidence” vote in the governor. When similar legislation reached his desk this year, he “signed that stinkin’ library bill,” as he told a reporter. 

The Idaho Republican Party will only become more tyrannical as it finds bullying lawmakers with tribunals and sanctions effectively moves them to extreme positions they wouldn’t otherwise take. But there is hope. 

Idaho has seen great leaders from both sides of the aisle, such as Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt, who boldly led rather than following the whims of their parties. They shared a commitment to doing what they thought was right, even when it meant standing up to those closest to them. 

This type of leadership cannot be relegated to history because Idaho needs it more than ever. I’m unsure we can find it in today’s Idaho Republican Party.

Rep. Lauren Necochea is the House assistant Democratic leader, representing District 19 in Boise on the Environment, Energy and Technology; Resources and Conservation; Revenue and Taxation; and Ways and Means committees.

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