People often ask why I’m so passionate about state and local politics.
The answer is simple: it’s where we, as citizens and community members, have the best chance to make an impact.
There’s not a lot I can do to influence what goes on at the national level. Our Congressional delegation barely reads anything we send them.
Few of us will shake the hand of any president or meet a Supreme Court justice. But you can attend a school board meeting or see a city council member at the grocery store. We can attend town halls for local state representatives—when they hold them.
State-level politics are extremely important when it comes to how we live and whether we retain rights. Members of our state legislature set the level of property tax exemptions. They decide whether education in Idaho is adequately funded.
And, unfortunately, when the legislature drops the ball, we the people often step in to fill the gap. The initiative process in Idaho is difficult, but dedicated citizens have been working hard to make our priorities a reality. The sad thing is that after we expanded Medicaid, the legislature immediately began trying to figure out how to kneecap our efforts. When we pushed for education funding, they made an end-run around the process and almost immediately reneged on their promise.
Our state legislature impacts our quality of life and what we have access to. Instead of sticking to issues Idahoans say they’re concerned about, our legislators often create made-up “problems” in a culture war.
This becomes an issue when so many state legislatures across the country are doing the same thing. When we become concerned about the fact that the Supreme Court has, for the first time in decades, begun removing rights rather than enshrining them, it’s important to note that many of these cases start in state legislatures.
Restrictions on reproductive rights? Started in state legislatures. An erosion of voting rights? Started in state legislatures. When we look at some of the most concerning legislation wending its way to the highest court in the land, it’s clear that it starts in state legislatures.
As citizens, we have a chance to make positive changes in our communities. But it only works if we’re involved. We must pay attention to who we’re electing. What are their policies? What kinds of changes are they pushing for?
Which school board candidates want to ban books and which are in favor of access to information? Which school board candidates trust parents to have conversations with their children and which are in favor of letting a small number of parents impose their fearful will upon the rest of us? Which state legislative candidates are interested in supporting education and tackling issues of affordable housing? And which are most interested in angrily waging a culture war against the most vulnerable among us?
We have the power to influence the future of our state. But we have to be engaged enough to wield it.
Miranda Marquit, Master of Business Administration, is a nationally recognized and award-winning financial writer, speaker and podcaster. She is the chair of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.