Opinion: Why do we have to pay for our rights to be taken?

Why are we paying to defend unconstitutional laws designed to disenfranchise us?

That’s the question I asked myself when I saw that the Idaho State Legislature had been billed right around $185,000 by the private counsel it hired to defend the anti-initiative legislation passed during the last session.

It’s not just private counsel that we, the taxpayers, are shelling out for, though. Each time the state legislature passes a law that flies in the face of our rights as citizens, the State Attorney General’s office has to get involved. We pay for that, too. But now, on top of paying the AG $60 an hour to fight against our best interests, the legislature has us paying about $470 an hour to private attorneys.

Last session, one of the earliest pieces of business enacted by the legislature was to increase its “constitutional defense” fund. These so-called representatives know they’re going to pass bad policy for problems that don’t exist — and they know full well that their statutes won’t pass constitutional muster. The fact that they allocate an increasing number of our taxpayer dollars into this fund is just more proof that many of our legislators have no idea what it means to be fiscally responsible.

Instead, they’re being irresponsible, ignoring the people’s business while they work overtime (we pay for that too!) to pass laws they hope will silence their constituents.

We have a “surplus” of more than a billion dollars. Rather than investing that money in the people of Idaho by tackling issues like affordable housing, education, updated infrastructure and healthcare access — things people care about — I worry that many of our current crop of legislators will simply throw more money into writing and passing bad laws.

Review the last two legislative sessions. Look at the laws that have passed. How many are designed to actually help Idahoans? Unfortunately, the consequences of many of the laws do actual harm. You’ll see bills that limit the ability of individual cities to provide needed services to their citizens. You’ll see legislation designed to effectively end our ability to take matters into our own hands when “representatives” don’t actually, well, represent us. And you’ll see a raft of poorly-worded bills that harm already vulnerable populations in the name of a made-up culture war.

Passing initiatives like the Quality Education Act are a good step forward as we take matters into our own hands. The legislature has decided that it’s not interested in funding education, so we’re working to do that. The legislature refused to pass Medicaid expansion, so we did that ourselves, too. But we need to do more than rectify their bad faith efforts at legislation after the fact. At some point, we need to stop electing them and paying them to work against our best interests.

Miranda Marquit, MBA, is a nationally recognized financial expert, writer and speaker. She is the state committeewoman for the Bonneville Democratic Central Committee.