A former Las Vegas TV reporter turned anti-drinking crusader received pledges from 13 Idaho lawmakers over the Christmas weekend that they will abstain from drinking during the 2012 session.
Scott Andrus, 50, of Twin Falls, sent the solicitation to
all 105 lawmakers on Dec. 23, receiving 17 responses. Four lawmakers replied with equivocal answers.
Wrote Andrus: "I humbly ask that you pledge that no beverage alcohol will pass your lips during the 2012 legislative session. Please remain sober as you conduct the affairs of state."
Most of the pledges were quite brief, such as that from Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls: "I promise."
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg: "No problem."
And House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Maxine Bell, R-Jerome: "I have never used any form of alcohol and nor do I intend to ever start."
Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, took issue with Andrus' solicitation, saying he'd never seen a drunk lawmaker during the session:
"I am a bit offended by your request to take a 'pledge that no beverage alcohol will pass your (my) lips during the 2012 legislative session.' Personally, I never drink, smoke, use drugs or use any other mind altering drugs. I do not by my own choice, not because someone wants me to take a pledge because I serve as a legislator.
"This question of yours begs the question...do you think that legislators are just a bunch of heavy drinkers who abuse alcohol? The request for a pledge from legislators so indicates such a belief.
"I have served in the legislature for 6 years, and associate with those who drink socially and those who do not drink at all. Not ONE time have I ever seen a legislator drunk during the session. Does it happen during the session? Perhaps, but not to my knowledge, and it it does, it is the exception and not the rule. Even if it does, I pose the question, why do you request a pledge of abstinence when the substance is legal in Idaho and in the United States?'"
In an email today, Andrus defended his objective, saying he was motivated, in part, by what he sees is an overly tolerant attitude by lawmakers toward Senate Majority Caucus Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell, following his DUI conviction in July.
Andrus has long complained to lawmakers that the court system and Idaho Department of Transportation rely on fees collected from DUI offenders to finance their operations. "Society and politicians pay lip service to DUI, but lawbreakers and their liquor habits pay the bills," he wrote.
Andrus said he was disappointed that the McGee case didn't change attitudes.
"I just knew legislators would perhaps, finally, listen to my thoughts. Instead, EVERYONE I contacted in the legislature complained the senator was treated too harshly and just made a bad mistake. Tell that to the underprivileged who spend 25 days in jail JUST TRYING TO MAKE BAIL.
"I figure if drinking and driving is against the law, then surely Idaho legislators could give up their alcohol use for three months while they make the laws."
He added, " It hardly strikes me as unreasonable to ask that lawmakers remain sober, and free of hangovers, during their privileged time of service to Idahoans. Even at .02 BAC (the amount that lingers in the system after a night of social drinking), a person is slightly impaired the next day. And most of the committee meetings take place ... well, you know ... in the early morning."
Andrus misreads the Legislature's committee schedule. Only seven out of 22 standing committees meet in the morning. Regular sessions of the House and Senate, however, are typically held in the morning. (My thanks to reader Geoff Schroeder for pointing this out. It flew right by me.)
Andrus pleaded guilty in connection with a 2007 DUI arrest in Twin Falls County, spending 18 months on probation, doing 48 hours of community service at the Idaho Youth Ranch and having his license suspended for 90 days. He also did two days in jail and took a 25-hour Court Alcohol School. Andrus says he still attends the classes on his own.
Andrus worked at KSNV-TV in Las Vegas from 1981-95, primarily covering the casino industry. He now does media work and owns commercial real estate in Twin Falls.
Here are the other responses he received:
House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley: "You don't have to worry about that."
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert: "I typically avoid pledges but in this case I am happy to guarantee that I will not consume any alcoholic beverage."
Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls: "Be assured I have been sober – and am at this moment – during my terms as Mayor, County Commissioner and as a legislat(or). However, I do not make a promise such as you ask except to myself and within my faith."
Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise: "You've got it. I don't drink."
Rep. Jim Marriott, R-Blackfoot: "I have never touch(ed) alcohol in my life so you don't have to worry."
House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian: "Never have never will."
Rep. Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg: "Scott, I appreciate your concern. There are far too many receptions sponsored by big named lobbyists that provide free drinks for those legislators who indulge. I am proud to say that I am one of several who never participate in such activity and try to devote my time and energy into productive legislative issues, rather than social hours. Thanks for writing."
Sen. John Tippets, R-Montpelier: "I've never consumed even a drop of alcohol and don't plan to start now."
Four lawmakers didn't directly address Andrus' request:
Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, simply wrote: "Thank you."
Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, promised moderation if not abstinence: "booze makes you gain weight, and I go to the spin class at the Y at 5:00 am so I really watch going to the events and any wine consumption. thanks for the encouragement."
Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, pledged to be sober while making law, but didn't rule out a nitecap: "I will definitely be sober when conducting business in the Legislature."
Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls: "Good to hear from you again, Scott. Merry Christmas!"
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