WestViews: Cheers and jeers, 09-02-2013

September 2, 2013 



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Lewiston Tribune

CHEERS ... to Congressmen Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson, both R-Idaho. They are among 98 Republicans and 18 Democratic House members insisting President Obama get congressional authorization before launching strikes against Syria.

“While the Founders wisely gave the president the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate — and the active engagement of Congress — prior to committing U.S. military assets,” contends the letter authored by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va. “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”

As constitutional scholar and Andrus Center for Public Policy Director David Adler has argued for years, presidents, beginning with Harry Truman, have usurped war-making powers specifically held by Congress. Whatever you think of the tragedy underway in Syria, it’s fair to ask: How does this threaten the security of the United States? And if Syria’s use of chemical weapons justifies a military excursion, wouldn’t a spirited congressional debate strengthen Obama’s case — and perhaps persuade a war-weary American public that intervening now is in their best interests?

CHEERS ... to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter. The governor accomplished what state school Superintendent Tom Luna failed to do.

Luna pushed his discredited reform package down people's throats — and get repudiated at the polls.

Otter brought together a broad based, 31-member education reform task force. Last week, it outlined a series of overhauls, but topping the list was restoring $82.5 million schools relied upon to pay everything from the heating bill to textbooks — and boosting teacher pay by $254 million during the next six years.

That could cause heartburn for a governor who has insisted on holding government spending below the inflation rate.

But Otter pledged his support.

“We know it’s going to be roughly 350 million bucks,” Otter told the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. “We ... know we can’t do that in one year, we can’t do it in two years or maybe three years. But what we can do is set ourselves on a course that we can accomplish so much each year, and ... four or five years out, we’ve accomplished the entire package."

Of course, words go only so far. Otter has to push a Republican-dominated Legislature that simply detests teachers.

For a governor whose legislative record involves more losses than wins, it’s going to be a challenge.

JEERS ... to Idaho State Board of Education. A five-member majority — including President Don Soltman, of Twin Lakes and Bill Goesling, of Moscow — just endorsed the idea of spending money Idaho does not have to train lawyers it does not need.

The University of Idaho wants to add a second year to its Boise-based third-year program. The UI has some compelling reasons — chief among them that the center of law and government is 300 miles south of the main campus at Moscow.

The problem is one of choices and resources. Idaho higher education still has 17 percent — or $49 million — less state support than it did five years ago.

Even with a modest bump in the number of seats Idaho is buying at the University of Washington medical school, the state still struggles to find enough doctors. The state could expand its software engineering program by more than 100 graduates.

But lawyers? Says the Bureau of Labor Statistics: “... More students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available.”

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