Legislators swap fiscal responsibility for cultural control

Idahoans are good people. This hit home on one of those hectic days (before the coronavirus) when it seemed as if everybody was shopping at once. My line had a logjam because an older lady in front of me couldn’t get her food stamp card to work. She had an overflowing basket of groceries and was surrounded by a bunch of young children (probably her grandchildren). She was frazzled and crying.

Frankly, I was in a hurry and irritated as the minutes ticked by. My irritation turned to humility when a woman behind me snaked her way to the front of the line and whispered in the cashier’s ear. I confirmed as she returned to her place that she had offered to pay for the woman’s groceries. There was no way to tell whether this woman was a Democrat or a Republican. The only thing I knew is that she was generous and good. Our town is full of people like her. Some are Republicans and some are Democrats. Your political persuasion doesn’t determine your character.

You’d be surprised by how much else we have in common. Because I’m a Democrat, you may think I believe in wasting your tax dollars. Actually, I’m extremely frugal and often rage over fiscal irresponsibility by the government. I was a single mother for 20 years and worked hard for every dollar I earned. My thrifty nature is entrenched.

That’s one reason I’m raging now over the Legislature having passed House Bill 509 (the bill disallowing transgender persons to change their gender on their birth certificates) and House Bill 500 (the bill denying transgender youth the right to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity). Our Republican attorney general, as well as four previous attorneys general, have all sternly warned us that these bills are constitutionally problematic. They also express doubt we have much chance of prevailing in court, so whatever we spend will likely be wasted. In addition, five of Idaho’s largest employers have expressed concern that these bills could give Idaho the reputation of intolerance, making it increasingly difficult to attract young talent to our state.

Many of our legislators — including our own District 33 Rep. Barb Ehardt (sponsor of HB 500) — appear more concerned with their reputation as cultural wardens than they are of protecting the financial interests of taxpayers. I believe that most Idahoans are more interested in taking care of our families, helping our neighbors and minding our own business than we are in having our legislators codify discriminatory laws serving little purpose except to hurt people and may cost us upwards of a million dollars to defend.

Back at Winco, though, the food stamp snafu eventually got resolved and that generous woman didn’t have to pay for the groceries. I bet she’s home now helping her neighbors in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic. I’m trying to do my part, and I bet most of you are too.

After all, we’re Idahoans.