WestViews: Opinions from newspapers in Idaho and the West commenting on Western issues

November 4, 2013 

FORMER HOUSE BOSSIS NOT A GOOD FIT

Post Register, Idaho Falls

Former Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney will run for secretary of state next year, perhaps against incumbent Ben Ysursa, who has not decided whether he will seek another term. “I think secretary of state is a fit for me,” Denney told the Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell.

The former boss of the House is saying he is a “fit” for the office that oversees elections and defends government transparency. It’s almost as if the gods are playing a sick joke on Idahoans, punishing them for their stubborn adherence to one-party rule. Denney’s list of transgressions is so long, even the ultraconservative GOP House caucus could stand it no more.

It fired Denney and replaced him with Oakley’s Scott Bedke.

Here is a man who singlehandedly killed a bill that passed the Senate unanimously and would have compelled lawmakers to disclose personal financial information. And let us not forget Denney’s unyielding loyalty to tax scofflaw Phil Hart or his brazen attempt to circumvent the state constitution by firing his own redistricting commissioner.

Even more difficult for Denney to explain is his decision to kill a bill that would have ended a blatant taxpayer rip-off that allows legislators who land high-paying government jobs to spike their pensions.

As reported by Russell, Denney’s state retirement, based on his nearly 20 years as a part-time legislator, would be about $500 a month. If Denney becomes secretary of state, however, and serves at least 42 months, his pension would jump to more than $3,600 monthly. That’s because the PERSI perk would allow him to collect a pension based on the secretary of state’s salary, $99,450, for all those years he made far less as a legislator.

In 2012, former state Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, attempted to kill the PERSI perk, but ran headlong into then-Speaker Denney, who made sure it remained on the books. “He’s the one that made sure the bill died,” Lake told Russell.

Denney, naturally, insists the possibility of a 700 percent pension spike has nothing to do with his decision to run for higher office. Let him prove it. Let Denney pick up the mantle abdicated by the retired Lake. Let him champion and accomplish an end to the PERSI perk during the 2014 legislative session. Let him prove that next year’s run isn’t an effort to line his pockets. Until that happens, Denney remains the Boss and an extremely poor “fit” for this vital office he seeks.

A CHEER TO BATT

Lewiston Tribune

The godfather of Idaho’s human rights law received the Idaho Human Rights Lifetime Achievement award Tuesday.

And, in character, Batt broke with members of his own Republican Party by calling on lawmakers to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Lawmakers repeatedly have refused to change the law, leading seven Idaho cities to enact their own human rights ordinances.

“The Idaho Legislature showed up with the biggest stupidity, last time, regarding to add the words ‘sexual orientation’ to the human rights statute,” Batt said. “They accomplished absolutely nothing by it, except to be made to look like fools.”

By the mid-1960s, racism against Idaho’s Asians and Mexican-Americans was common. Batt quit his Elks Club membership when it wouldn’t serve his Japanese friend.

Businesses posted “No Mexicans allowed” signs in their windows.

Then in the state Senate, Batt held as many as 60 hearings, which culminated in passage of a state civil rights law — banning discrimination on the job, in housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age or disability — and creation of the Human Rights Commission.

Years later, Batt promoted Idaho’s recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday.

As governor, he burned up much of his political capital securing worker compensation insurance for Idaho’s agricultural laborers.

Batt is the first recipient of the Idaho Human Rights Lifetime Achievement Award. No one deserves it more.

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