The deep freeze of the first few weeks of the session has finally broken, replaced by a blanket of snow.
Thoughts turn to spring, when complaints about the cold and ice bud into bellyaching about having to work inside when the weather is so nice. Then well have a few months of moaning over the miserable summer heat before we change colors and start whining about the approaching winter.
Theres something comforting about all this grumbling. Like cycles of nature, it provides a constant yet ever-varying foundation to our world. Dissatisfaction is a sentiment we can count on when all else fails. There is an inevitability to it, which leads me to ponder the inevitability of inevitability.
It was Benjamin Franklin who, 223 years ago, remarked that in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.
As it turns out, Franklin had never been to Idaho, or his vision of certainty would have been trimmed by half.
Here, lawmakers are doing their best to remove taxation from lifes list of unavoidable woes. Tax relief has donned the mantle of inevitability.
Tax relief is certainly ripe in Idaho. Last year, cutting the top corporate and individual income tax rates moved to the top of the Legislatures must-do list. This year, its eliminating the business personal property tax. And as Idahos economy continues to grow, no doubt lawmakers will seek additional opportunities to return revenue to taxpayers.
Nor is tax relief alone in basking in this glow of inevitability. Some sort of gun legislation, for example, seems certain to be introduced this session. After mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut, lawmakers are prepared to offer their response to public-safety concerns and possibly establish minimum security standards for schools.
An attempt to take ownership of federal lands seems equally certain. House Resources Chairman Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, says the concept has strong support.
Local taxing jurisdictions, for example, have long wanted local-option taxing authority, which gives them an opportunity to ask voters to approve a tax increase for specific purposes. Similarly, school districts have tried to reduce the two-thirds threshold needed to approve bond levies.
Neither proposal ever captured much momentum but now that theyre seen as possible trade-offs for personal property tax relief, suddenly they have new legs.
The apparent inevitability of some of these issues sets up a tantalizing scenario for the end of the session: Gun legislation, federal lands and property tax bills all get introduced in late February or early March, giving lawmakers mere weeks to decide how to arm teachers, manage 32 million acres of federal land, restructure local-government finances and stave off the financial collapse after eliminating $141 million in personal property tax revenue.
It will be awesome. The only thing better would be for Congress to allow the mandatory sequestration budget cuts to move forward as scheduled in March just as Idaho lawmakers are ready to go home so everyone has to stay in the Capitol until May to fix all the agency budgets.
Forget the winter of our discontent. It would be the perfect storm.
William Spence, politics reporter, Lewiston Tribune. firstname.lastname@example.org(208) 791-9168