Dim Bulb Award

dim-bulbIt has become a tradition here at RNWMV to select an illustrious Idaho legislator to win the award of Dim Bulb of the month. The first time the award was handed out was 2007 to Russ Mathews, Republican from Idaho Falls. Just to show how time passes but nothing seems to change, his dim bulb comment was about the Democrat-sponsored measure that would have raised Idaho’s minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. Setting the standard for mind numbing stupidity and lack of rational thinking, Mathews said,

If it’s so exciting and neat to raise it, why don’t we just raise it to $17 an hour?” “Would that be a good idea?

As is always the case, there are numerous candidates for the award this month. For sheer stupidity we could choose the tea party’s Rep. Vito Barbieri. Periodically while the legislature is in session, Babieri tries to add up all the spending appropriated on a Post-it Note and report it to the “people of Idaho”. Unfortunately, when someone with the math skills looked at Cousin Vito’s figures, they turn out to have been exaggerated by about eight-fold. Even the leadership in his own party was embarrassed. Here, for example, is how House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Maxine Bell responded to Barbieri’s antics,

Bless his heart. At first I was stunned, then I was a little angry. Then I got to thinking he will be so totally embarrassed when he realizes how far off he is and his math teacher will be flipping in her grave.

l lukerBut the winner this month is Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, who has introduced a number of pernicious bills this session, none worse that his “Defense of Discrimination” bill. More than 500 people showed up at the Capitol for the House State Affairs Committee hearing. Fifty spoke in more than three hours of testimony, 42 against and only two in favor. The two in favor were members of the ultra right wing Cornerstone Family Council.

Betsy Russell of the Spokesman Review gives an excellent overview of the testimony. Luker seems taken aback by the response against the bill which he disingenuously describes as “correcting a defect” in Idaho’s current freedom-of-religion law allowing people to claim religion as a defense against government action against them, but not to use it in private-party disputes involving a law or government action.

Russell discusses the Constitutionality of the bill,

Meanwhile, an Idaho Attorney General’s opinion raised questions about the constitutionality of both this and another, related bill that’s still pending.

The opinion concluded that HB 427 conflicts with the Idaho Tort Claims Act and could be vulnerable to a constitutional challenge. The bill, according to the opinion by Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane, “could subject employees to personal liability when they are simply doing their job, and a court later decides that the state or local government policy burdened free exercise of religion.”

Kane offered an example: A case in which it was a state prison’s policy not to provide kosher or Halal meals to Jewish or Muslim prisoners, and the prisoners sued. “Then liability could fall upon the employees least responsible for the decisions – those who cook or serve the food,” Kane wrote.

Kane also examined Luker’s other proposal, HB 426, to prevent professional licenses from being suspended or revoked for violations based on the license holders’ “sincerely held religious beliefs.” He concluded that that bill is “likely vulnerable to a constitutional challenge,” and violates both the United States and Idaho constitutions. Luker said he hadn’t yet had a chance to review the opinion, and whether or not HB 426 gets a hearing is up to legislative leaders.

After the recent response to the failure of the Legislature to “add the words” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act, Luker’s feigned surprise over the response to his bills has to be chalked up to sheer dimwittedness, hence, he is this month’s winner

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