Recent editorials from Idaho newspapers:

Taxpayers should demand a refund

Dec. 16

Idaho Mountain Express

None of this is normal. Normal would be taxpayers getting the results they ask from the representatives they pay to do the jobs they were elected to do. Something else is happening now.

Republicans in Congress are not passing, or even debating, ways to help the Americans who are suffering because of the pandemic. In simple terms, they are not legislating. Instead, they are spending their time pursuing some kind of crazy and dangerous mind-meld with defeated President Donald Trump.

Last week, 126 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, which included Idaho Reps. Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher, 17 state attorneys general and several Idaho Republican elected officials, including Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, 15 representatives and three senators, joined in a misguided effort to overturn the votes of millions of people in four states won by President-elect Joe Biden. Keep in mind that every audit, recount and federal investigation has verified both the accuracy of the results and the security of election processes.

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Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden upheld legal norms about states not messing in each other’s business by declining to sign on to an amicus brief.

“As is sometimes the case, the legally correct decision may not be the politically convenient decision,” Wasden wrote. “But my responsibility is to the state of Idaho and the rule of law.”

The U.S. Supreme Court summarily and unanimously rejected the vote nullification effort. That guardrail notwithstanding, it is unacceptable that elected officials, sworn to honor peaceful transfers of power, are willing to support a naked attempt to disrupt normal election processes to placate a losing candidate.

While Washington Republicans are spending their time and energy on Trump’s latest foolhardy but dangerous attack on democracy, their lack of legislative accomplishments is proving that they couldn’t run a lemonade stand much less a country.

Last Friday night, up against a looming deadline that would have shut down the federal government, again, Congress passed and Trump signed a one-week government funding extension. One week.

They have not found a way to use the massive wealth of America to deal with the financial crisis in which millions of Americans are trapped. Nor have they faced the horrific truth that the failure of presidential leadership has left America with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world and more people dead every day than on 9/11.

Those elected to represent us must show at least some loyalty to the Constitution, to the norms of democracy and to the needs of the American people. If they can’t do that, taxpayers should demand a refund.

Online: Idaho Mountain Express

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‘We are everywhere’: Send a strong message that Idaho is too great for hate

Dec. 16

Idaho Statesman

The desecration of the Anne Frank Memorial in Boise with swastika stickers was reprehensible and unfortunately a stark reminder that our work in eradicating white supremacy and ignorance is still not finished.

This cowardly act of placing the stickers, which carried the message, “We are everywhere,” was done in the shadows of the night, an acknowledgment that their message has no place in the light of day.

The memorial stands for the resilience of the human spirit of an innocent little girl who kept a diary for two years while hiding from the Nazis, only to be taken to a concentration camp, where she died. The memorial also stands as a painful reminder of the potential for human atrocity, but with the hope that it may never happen again.

The fact that Boise is home to the only Anne Frank memorial in the United States is a point of tremendous pride for many of us. Unfortunately, because of this incident, Boise trended in the national news for all the wrong reasons.

If we say nothing, we are complicit. If we look the other way or shrug our shoulders, we allow it to fester. It’s incumbent upon us and every elected official who cares about Idaho to speak out against this in the strongest words possible.

As many of us know, Idaho has long suffered a reputation for being a haven for white supremacy, earned by being the location of the headquarters of the Aryan Nations in Kootenai County up until 2001. Unfortunately, the echoes of those dark days can still be heard and serve only to damage Idaho’s reputation across the country. Any small outbreak like what we witnessed last week at the Anne Frank memorial resparks that flame and takes us backward in our efforts to rehabilitate our image and distance ourselves from those views.

We like to think we have tamped down those views, put out the fire, but here we are again having to deal with an ugly act of ignorance.

This is a gut check for our community, and it’s a call to double down on our human rights efforts; otherwise, we may find ourselves swimming in that cesspool yet again.

We need look no further than an ugly protest that took place over the summer in Boise, at which angry protesters showed up displaying Nazi symbols and tattoos. Those protesters may have slithered back out of Boise after the protest, but they’re still out there, ready to spread their hateful message and dangerous ideology.

And yet, Idaho legislators, when presented with an opportunity to help quell Idaho’s reputation as a home for hate, have failed to take action.

In the final day of the 2020 legislative session, Republican Reps. Jim Addis, Neil Anderson, Kevin Andrus, Randy Armstrong, Vito Barbieri, Judy Boyle, Chad Christensen, Gary Collins, Brent Crane, Gayann DeMordaunt, Sage Dixon, Priscilla Giddings, Bill Goesling, Steven Harris, Ryan Kerby, Mike Kingsley, Megan Kiska, Gary Marshall, Ron Mendive, Dorothy Moon, Tammy Nichols, Joe Palmer, Tim Remington, Doug Ricks, Heather Scott, Paul Shepherd, Thyra Stevenson, Jarom Wagoner, Gary Wisniewski, Julianne Young, Christy Zito and Bryan Zollinger all voted “no” on a bill to create a “Too Great For Hate” license plate, sales of which would have benefited the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial and the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights.

One cannot help but think that voting against such a simple yet impactful, positive bill provides cover to those hate-mongers lying in wait, now vindicated in knowing that those Republican legislators voted in their favor, a wink and a nod from their state legislators that they have an ally in the Capitol.

Does it not now embolden these miscreants to crawl out of their shadows and commit a hateful act that we saw last week? We can’t mollycoddle hate.

Everyone in Idaho needs to come together now — our governor, our state legislators, our congressional delegation, as well as every city council member and county commissioner who wants to see our state continue to thrive — to denounce hate and white supremacy, to say it doesn’t belong in Idaho, it has no place here, and if you espouse hate and white supremacy, you are not welcome in Idaho.

There are signs of hope.

Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya donated $20,000 to the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. Healthwise donated and bought a billboard with the message “We are everywhere,” smartly stealing the phrase from Nazis hiding in the shadows.

You can do your part by letting your state and federal legislators know that Idaho is too great for hate and urge them to speak out against racism and hate. You can make a donation to the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights.

If we do not stand up to these people and declare this is not who we are, then we will lose Idaho to these people. Idaho could once again be that haven, that bastion for white supremacist terrorists, if we say nothing.

The writer Elie Wiesel, who knew well the horrors of the Holocaust, wrote, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

Now is not the time for indifference, Idaho. Now is not the time for silence. Now is the time to take sides. Which side are you on?

Online: Idaho Statesman

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Legislature’s meddling prompted State Board action

Dec. 17

The Lewiston Tribune

Lewiston Mayor Michael Collins should not entirely blame the State Board of Education or even Gov. Brad Little for such a strict cap on crowd size at school sporting events and extracurricular activities.

He might consider expressing his angst to the Legislature as well. Legislative meddling has unnecessarily complicated matters.

Last week, the State Board passed a resolution adding its weight to Little’s Stage 2 “Stay Healthy” order, which limits spectator size at school events to 10. It’s one of the few mandates in effect at a time when the state’s COVID-19 numbers are off the charts. For example, Idaho’s positivity index was tops in the country at midweek and its per capita rate of infection placed it among the nation’s top 10.

In a letter to the State Board and the governor, Collins contends the standard leaves little room for discretion at the local level.

“Even though our mind-set right now is on maintaining and providing protection for our physical health, we are forgetting about the mental health of our society and I am very sensitive to the mental status and the damage that may be occurring psychologically to our young developing Idahoans because of some of the protocols we have put in place because of the virus,” he wrote.

But he seems to be forgetting recent history.

Back in August, Idaho lawmakers — in a rushed, three-day special session — severely undermined the state’s liability laws.

Before then, you could sue on the grounds that your exposure to COVID-19 was due to someone not taking the proper precautions. The threat of being sued for mere negligence has the virtue of keeping government and businesses on their toes.

Egged on by corporate lobbyists and the insurance industry, Idaho’s Legislature issued a virtual blanket immunity against COVID-19-related lawsuits to schools, colleges and universities, libraries, hospitals, medical clinics, residences, homes, churches, day care facilities, stores, restaurants, bars, hotels, assisted living facilities and offices.

Now, instead of just proving mere negligence in COVID-19 cases, plaintiffs must demonstrate the defendant engaged in willful or reckless misconduct.

That’s defined as: “Conduct in which a person makes a conscious choice as to the person’s course of conduct and under circumstances in which the person knows or should know that such conduct both creates an unreasonable risk of harm to another and involves a high probability that such harm will actually result.”

Think of it as the difference between driving too fast and accidentally injuring someone vs. driving recklessly with the intention of hurting somebody.

To rise to the level of willful recklessness under this law, however, a school district would have to go out of its way. That’s where the State Board comes in. Its order is based on medical evidence about how COVID-19 is spread. Violate that and a school board is guilty of willful or reckless misconduct.

“There is a criminal and civil liability risk, so that’s another important aspect of this resolution, ... to make sure our education leaders are aware of what the ‘Stay Healthy’ order requires and what the risks are if they decide to disregard it,” said State Board Executive Director Matt Freeman.

You have to wonder what the sitution would look like had the lawmakers left well enough alone.

They altered a complicated law. They did so in haste. And they lacked time to listen to everyone involved or consider all the alternatives.

Welcome to the law of unintended consequences.

Online: The Lewiston Tribune