Add The Words: Why keep protesting?

One of the criticisms I’ve heard about the Add the Words protests boils down to alienation of lawmakers. Why protest when they know they’re not going to get a hearing this year? Aren’t they just making people mad?

As an observer, I wondered the same thing. But after watching the demonstrations and talking to the people who show up every day to protest, the message is clear: It’s no longer just about the Legislature. It’s about public opinion.

And that public opinion on LGBT issues has shifted in recent years, even among conservatives. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll released earlier this month, a record 59 percent of people nationwide support gay marriage, and a Pew poll released today says 61 percent of Republicans ages 18 to 21 support same sex marriage.

Add the Words isn’t about marriage, but these polls show attitudes are changing.

Republican leadership said early on that Add the Words wouldn’t happen this session. And though the first wave of protests was aimed at lawmakers, with demonstrators blocking doors to the Senate chambers, there has been a noticeable shift in strategy. Now there are vigils and demonstrations with people sharing painful, personal stories of discrimination.

With that media attention comes more public support. If you haven’t already, check out the Facebook page STAND UP WITH A SELFIE. You’ll see more than a thousand photos with the telltale hand-over-mouth silent protest. Many are from Idaho, but others have posted in solidarity from France, the Netherlands and other countries. On Monday, some of those photos were printed out and strung around the statehouse.

So the question remains — Will that support carry through for next year? And what will lawmakers do?

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Idaho Legislature to Tackle Environmental Issues in 2014

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BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter took on three big environmental issues in his State of the State Address this week. Among them is a $15-million proposal to take a new look at water projects in the state. These projects could help create a new reality in Idaho’s southern desert.

Governor Otter: “My budget recommendation includes $15 million in one-time spending for specific water supply improvement projects from Mountain Home to Rathdrum and from Island Park to Arrowrock.”

The money would be used to look at the potential for a water storage project on the Weiser river and the expansion of  Arrowrock Dam just outside the Treasure Valley. There are plans to also look at building more water storage capacity in Island Park. If we broke ground on all these projects, the final cost would be into the billions. But could offer significant returns to Idaho farmers, ranchers and towns across Idaho.

Otter also gave a nod to wolf opponents by proposing to develop a committee to keep Idaho’s wolf population from growing. No longer protected under the Endangered Species Act, wolves in Idaho are being targeted by hunters and trappers under a state management plan. But wolves are still being blamed for targeting domestic livestock. Governor Otter announced a plan to help keep wolf populations from unrestricted growth.

Governor Otter: “I’m calling for establishment of a Wolf Control Fund and a State board to direct and manage it.”

The state of Idaho would invest $2-million as seed money, sportsmen and the livestock industry would help keep it going with $112,000 dollars annually.

The board would operate independent of Idaho Fish and Game. This didn’t sit well with conservation groups like the Idaho Conservation League.

John Robison: “We think this is simply catering to some anti wolf extremists and doesn’t represent sound fiscal policy or wildlife management. And is more of unfortunately an expensive political statement.”

Finally, Governor Otter reiterated his support for a state Sage Grouse management plan that is currently in the final month of public comment.

Gov. Otter: “I’ve been assured that Idaho will have a seat at the table in crafting a solution to the sage-grouse issue, and I will hold federal officials to that commitment.”

The federal government is trying to prevent further decline of the western Sage Grouse population. The plan which is currently in the final month of review includes two different solutions, one developed by the federal government that sets aside 7-million acres, and one by the State of Idaho with less land set aside, and is far less restrictive. The goal of Idaho’s plan is to continue stock grazing on BLM land and encourage the development of a high power transmission line through the state.

Idaho lawmakers may also take on an effort to turn over control of federal land to the state.

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We’re not Washington D.C.

By Seth Ogilvie

Earlier this month Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation leaned over a brown table In the Idaho Public Television break room looked me in the eyes and said  “We’re not Washington D.C.” He took a beat. He let the political Haiku have the space it needed. When the room had processed the juxtaposition he continued “People see the tags we wear and the building we work in and just assume the Idaho State House is just like congress. It isn’t.” Idaho is different. The Idaho State House is different. The politicians are different.

Idaho is the last frontier. Men and women still come to till their field, mine their claim or build their future with the hope that their success rests solely on their own ingenuity.  Things are not as simple as when J.R. Simplot quit the eighth grade to work on a farm near Declo. The entrepreneurs of today’s Idaho work in binary, plastics and genetics but that fundamental belief that a man or woman with expertise and the desire to work can be successful at any level remains. In the Idaho Legislature these same people come together to make policy.

Idaho has a Jeffersonian government. Our House and our Senate are not made up of an intellectual aristocracy; they are made up of the people, “just that average quality of citizenship” that Theodore Roosevelt talked about in a 1903 speech in Idaho. Farmers, insurance salesman and doctors coming together to create policy that they have first-hand knowledge of. The legislators of Idaho work real jobs and interact with real people. They are not career politicians detached from the working class.

This blend of personalities is one of the things that makes Idaho unique. Farmers consulting on agricultural policy, doctors helping to write new medical laws. Jefferson idealized the citizen-run government and over 200 years later his hopes still live on in Idaho, a place that is definitely “not Washington D.C.”

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