A recent newspaper op-ed criticized the Idaho Republican-led State House of Representatives, claiming they were seeking to destroy the State Constitution by not allowing several bills to proceed. The author of that op-ed criticized the House, accusing them of not funding the police, not funding education, and jeopardizing some other legislation friendly to the environment. It is my opinion that the author has confused his priorities with how our government is run.
Not funding bills is not a method of destroying the constitution. It is, however, a method of defending the constitution by funding or not funding that which truly is in the best interest of Idaho; not sacrificing it for the beliefs of one group or individual. The State Constitution is in place to watch over and protect all the citizens of Idaho. The Legislative Branch of the government is within their right to reject anything they deem as being improper. Their right to refuse to fund certain pieces of legislation is, in fact, constitutional.
The federal government was created by the thirteen sovereign States via the U.S. Constitution. The State of Idaho joined the Union in 1890. Idaho also patterned its constitution after the federal constitution. To ensure a proper government and to avoid tyranny, the concept of Separation of Power, Checks, and Balances was implemented.
To address the House of Representatives (the Legislative Branch) using its power to check on the Executive Branch is the main focus of this article.
James Madison explains in Federalist 51 that the proper separation of power is essential to the preservation of liberty. Madison further states that,
“This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other—that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State.” (Federalist 51)
Check is the ability to say NO to another branch of government. When the Governor wants to check the legislature, he vetoes, he uses his power to check the Legislative Branch. When the legislature wants to check the governor, they refuse to fund the piece of legislation sponsored by the Governor.
James Madison, in Federalist 58, explained that the Legislative Branch is given the power of the purseーthe responsibility to fund or not to fund government activities. This power is regarded as the most,
“complete and effectual weapon …which can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for the obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure” (Federalist 58).
We are familiar with the Executive Branch’s authority to veto legislation. For example, Governor Little vetoed H135 and S1136, both bills were designed to curb his authority in case of an emergency disaster.
We often believe that a piece of legislation originates in either the Senate or the House. While this can happen, most pieces of legislation are, in fact, a collaboration between special interest groups, the Executive Branch, and some Legislators. Take SB 1179 as an example. That piece of legislation sought a 20% increase of the overall spending for higher education to teach social justice, transgenderism, and critical race theory. The House of Representatives disagreed with the Governor and the special interest group and promptly refused their funding. There are many examples like this in this year’s legislation. In our legislative history, there are many occurring in the 2021 Legislative Session.
It is unfortunate that the special interest groups have a willing ally in the major platforms of news media. The media paints a picture of fear. They imply that when the Legislative Branch exercises their power to Check, it will lead to improper functioning of government and the destruction of the Constitution. That is not true. Why?
First, other funding bills have been approved. Second, the bureaucracy exists to perpetuate the government. Third, Americans, especially Idahoans, are sufficiently independent such that our lives are not dependent on the government.
On the first point, the House of Representatives did not leave the entire budget unfunded.
Second, aside from the Executive and Legislative Branches there are also “boards or individuals” capable of running the government. These are public servants or public administrators. There are many of these people who are honorable. At the same time there are a number of these individuals who are seeking to perpetuate their small empire. They created deep seeded bureaucracies that enable to the government to run by itself, albeit dysfunctionally.
The third point, the function of government is to secure our rights. The bills which prompted the original op-ed do not serve to protect the rights of Idaho citizens. That these bills were even being considered indicates that our government has migrated outside of its proper role.
Especially in 2021, I stand behind the House of Representatives for representing its constituents by rejecting immoral legislation designed to corrupt our society.