Guest Opinions

‘Power grab’ by Legislature regarding government rules should be rejected by voters

Lawrence Wasden
Lawrence Wasden

Vote no on HJR 5. Two years ago, Idahoans rejected HJR 2. Idaho voters properly denied the Legislature’s attempt to permanently invade executive discretion and prohibit judicial oversight of the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government within rule making.

This year, voters are being presented with virtually an identical constitutional amendment, HJR 5. I hope you will join me in agreeing that this amendment should once again be rejected. HJR 5 ignores the will of the people, threatens to permanently invade the executive and judicial branches of Idaho’s government, and encourages lobbyists to influence Idaho’s policymakers.

At its most basic level, HJR 5 reflects the Legislature’ contempt for the will of the voters. The resubmission of this constitutional amendment reflects government telling the people what they want, as opposed to government serving the will of the people. The primary reason for resubmitting this constitutional amendment is that “the voters didn’t know what they were doing and voters need to be educated better.”

In essence, the proponents of the amendment are claiming they know better than Idaho voters what Idaho voters want. This power grab should be rejected. Idaho’s founders carefully balanced Idaho’s government into three branches. The Constitution is carefully crafted to ensure no branch holds unchecked power over the others. Currently, through statutes and the case Mead v. Arnell, the Legislature already holds the power they want to constitutionalize. But this unnecessary amendment threatens to place this power permanently into the Constitution and consolidate power within the Legislature.

By retaining the status quo, Idaho’s judiciary retains the ability to revisit Mead v. Arnell to appropriately measure and preserve Idaho’s separation and balance of powers between the branches of government. The proposed amendment threatens to strip the judiciary of this constitutionally assigned power. The proposed amendment will remove the ability of the judiciary to evaluate legislative delegations of authority to the executive branch and install the Legislature as the final say on executive exercise of authority.

This permanent legislative takeover of powers, historically in the judicial and executive branches, erodes Idaho’s separation of powers and should be rejected.

Finally, under HJR 5, lobbyist influence will increase within Idaho’s government. The current system insulates much of executive rule making from lobbyist influence based on the notice and hearing process by which rules must be adopted. But that process is disrupted through lobbyist-encouraged legislative interference.

Recognizing that the executive agencies often make rules based upon cultivated expertise within their respective areas designed to administer a collective benefit, there will always be individuals unhappy with that process. Lobbyists with decreased influence within executive branch agencies will flex their muscle within the legislative branch to overturn negotiated, publicly driven rule making processes in order to advance narrow, paid-for agendas.

HJR 5 will permanently substitute the influence of lobbyists for the will of the people and should be rejected. The existing balance and separation of powers is good for Idaho and her citizens. Please join me in rejecting HJR 5.

Lawrence Wasden is Idaho’s Republican attorney general.