Opinion: New legislative bills create bad policies as solutions

For the past several years, Idahoans have listed among their top priorities education, health care and housing. As we watch the legislative session, we should be asking ourselves the following questions:

What is the outcome we’re hoping for?

What is the outcome that’s likely for this legislation?

Does this legislation help us advance our values and goals?

Unfortunately, many of the bills introduced this legislative session — and during the last few sessions — aren’t aimed at helping Idahoans. Instead, they seem intent on controlling and punishing us.

Let’s look at House Bill 439, which changes the date for party affiliation to the filing deadline for candidates. In practice, this bill doesn’t increase election security (something that isn’t an issue here in Idaho). Instead, it targets Idaho’s unaffiliated voters. Many candidates don’t file until the last minute. How are unaffiliated voters supposed to make an informed choice when they don’t know who will be on the ballot? How can unaffiliated voters know which way to affiliate in a primary if they can’t see a slate of candidates first?

Rather than encouraging participation in our process, this bill stymies participation. What’s frustrating is that our system is already designed with barriers to participation. A closed Republican primary and political parties already erect barriers. Limiting the time to review candidates before deciding on party affiliation exacerbates the situation.

We should make it easier to run for office, learn about candidates and participate in our system. And yet our legislators are trying to make it harder.

Speaking of participation and voting, what about House Bill 549? This bill outlaws same-day voter registration and other practices that make Idaho a state reasonably accessible for voters. It’s almost as if the desired policy outcome is for the voters to sit down, shut up and take whatever scraps legislators are willing to dole out.

Another bill, House Bill 631, outlaws local mask mandates for any reason. First, we didn’t see much practical enforcement of mask mandates at any point during the pandemic. So, it’s not exactly an issue we had in Idaho. Secondly, the founders of our country supported various mandates for public health, so it seems strange to enact policies that could endanger public health rather than, as the Constitution puts it, “promote the general welfare.”

Don’t even get me started on the proposal to raise the sales tax as a “fix” for property taxes or the fact that our Bonneville County House members just voted for a bill that makes it even harder than it already is to pass school bonds.

They’re showing us who they are. They manufacture outrage over nonexistent problems and create bad policies as “solutions.” However, the actual outcomes are designed to quash our voices, dismantle our education system and reduce our choices.

It’s time to pay attention to who’s pushing these bills and realize that they aren’t doing it to help us but to control us.

Miranda Marquit, Master of Business Administration, is a nationally recognized financial expert, speaker and writer. She is the state committeewoman for the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.