Boise Bullying and the Voice of the People

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Idaho is a conservative state, but the policies coming out of the State Legislature are not conservative. (See the adoption of Common Core in 2010, the Obamacare exchange in 2014, the huge gas tax and hybrid fee increase in 2015, and the huge spending increases last year and projected again for this year). People across Idaho don’t feel their voices are being heard.

I was one who felt misrepresented. So I ran for office two years ago. I planned to be an agent of change. I ran on a platform of writing and supporting legislation that is Constitutional, Economically Efficient, and Morally Sound. You can see the bills I’ve sponsored and observe my voting record to see how I’ve kept my word.

I went to the capitol excited to introduce bills, have healthy debates, and win or lose on the merits of the proposed legislation. I love the idea of a fair public forum to hash out ideas and improve public policy. I have even been successful with a few pieces of legislation regarding abortion and gun rights.

My values and successes have not pleased everyone though. Conservative voices like mine are threatening to those who are in control of the legislature. Conservative legislators disrupt the gravy-train, special-interest, business-as-usual politics that yields liberal policies even in a conservative state. Conservative legislators draw attention and even ire from those who are threatened–mostly from those who like their positions of power and have aspirations for higher office.

People across the state are often dismayed at what our legislature has passed (again, Obamacare, Common Core, taxes, spending, etc.) What is less obvious, is how legislators who promote conservative principles are treated in Boise. There is a pattern of intimidation, bullying, power plays, and every dirty trick in the book used to alienate and isolate those who threaten the status quo.

From my very first week in office, I was threatened with losing committee assignments or never getting bills heard if I did anything that went against “the process.” “The process” is the operating procedure of how representative government works. We have a set of rules for the House and Senate and the procedures of how legislation is to be introduced and heard and voted on. It is a clear set of rules intended to allow all voices to be heard and for representatives to truly represent their districts.

In Idaho, the process is broken. In the Idaho House, the leadership controls and manages what bills get heard, what bills get canned, who is appointed to positions, and what the overall agenda is. Conservatives and others who are not in good graces of leadership are shut out of the process. Bills get “put in the drawer.” Representatives are told to pipe down and “stay in their lane.” Committee spots are threatened. Representatives are told they could end up as “a committee of one” if they don’t stop pushing back.

Legislators are taken into offices, left to face alone two or three “leaders” who tell them how “the process” works. “Stay in line, or you will ‘not be effective.'” That is code for, “If you ever want to pass your bills, you will do what we say.” The messaging is crystal clear. “If you push too hard, you could end up like Representative XX, who lost his committee assignments a few years ago.” “We are just telling you how it is.”

All of these tactics have been used against me. Other new legislators–especially the liberty minded ones–report the same pattern of intimidation and bullying. “The process,” abused in this way, is how conservative voices are stifled and ignored.

At its extreme, one member of leadership even broke his own established ethical standards to try and push me out of the legislature. He claimed, years before, that certain conduct is unacceptable and could result in “sanctions [or] disciplinary action.” In 2016, that very same leader did what he himself said was punishable. But, that is supposed to be okay now, because he is a member of leadership and is protecting “the process.” It is a disappointing and unfair double standard. It is not ethical.

It would be understandable to lose effectiveness or even lose one’s position in the legislature because of rules violations or true misconduct, but that is not the messaging. No misconduct is ever cited, except the “offense” of pushing back against “the process” as defined by the “leaders.”

This is not how representative government is supposed to work. So here we stand, a group of legislators in Idaho trying to cast sunlight on a broken process. Citizens voices are not being heard because of intimidation and bullying. When a few legislators point to the glaring problems of failed leadership and inequitable treatment, punishment is applied.

Is a private comment by a legislator grounds for removing her from committees? Give me a break! I have heard (but never said) many vulgar and objectionable things said in the capitol on a regular basis. But when an objectionable comment comes from a champion of liberty, it becomes punishable. To pick on this one legislator is proof positive there is an agenda to intimidate, harass, isolate, and eliminate those who threaten or even merely disagree with the Legislature power structure.

I didn’t go to Boise to be a “disruptor,” however my views and my agenda have been disrupting nonetheless. If this disruption costs me my effectiveness or even gets me tossed from the legislature, it will be because I have stayed true to my principles, have not conformed to a broken process, and have stood up for citizens whose voices were being frivolously and callously taken away.

Idahoans are tired of corruption in politics. They don’t feel their voices are heard. The election of Donald Trump as President is evidence of the disgust of current politics. We need good men and women who will come in and fix the broken process and even disrupt the politics-as-usual mentality.

I am willing to fight that fight. I didn’t ask for it, but I find myself in it. But if the end result is a fixed politic, a better process, free and open debate, fair chances to have legislation heard, and the voices of the citizens to fully be heard, then I am willing to make the effort and take the sacrifice. I will do everything in my power to make Idaho a better state and the Idaho Legislature a true representative government again.

Congressman Davy Crockett (Tennessee) once said, “I would rather be beaten and be a man, than to be elected and be a little puppy dog.” I agree, and I hope my actions testify as much.

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