When you get past the lofty parliamentary title, “joint memorials” are nothing more than legislative e-mails to Congress.
They are nonbinding. They carry no weight, but they give lawmakers a forum for carping about the federal gummint — something they might otherwise be reduced to doing around a Statehouse water cooler.
But they do send a message, all right. Sometimes, the message is that our Legislature is populated with yahoos with a tad too much time on their hands.
A case in point: on Monday, Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, trotted out House Joint Memorial 9, which would tell the Environmental Protection Agency to pull out of the Silver Valley within five years. The EPA says its objective is to clean up a century’s worth of mining contamination in the Coeur d’Alene Basin; the memorial breathlessly accuses the feds of seeking to “perpetuate its unconstitutional, economically paralyzing usurpation of state and local authority for another 50 to 90 years at an estimated cost of nearly $1 billion.”
Some members of the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee questioned whether the state really has the power to shut down the EPA and its Superfund cleanup. That’s a rather important jurisdictional question, which could render McMillan’s memorial both nonbinding and nonsensical. The committee set aside concerns over such trifling details long enough to introduce the measure.
McMillan proposed a similar memorial a year ago, and it never made it as far as a public hearing. So there’s hope that reason will prevail.
As it did — but not without a fight — when the House passed House Joint Memorial 4 last week.
The House urged Uncle Sam to create a third federal district judge’s position in Idaho. That’s a reasonable request. Idaho has had two federal judges since 1954, when ours was but a state of 600,000 people. As a result of the ensuing population growth and increases in caseload, more and more Idaho cases are heard by visiting out-of-state judges.
And that was just fine with 21 House Republicans, who voted no, because they’d rather Idaho muddle along with two federal district judges than allow the Obama administration to nominate a third. (Local lawmakers who voted no were Cliff Bayer of Boise, Brent Crane of Nampa, Reed DeMordaunt of Eagle and Marv Hagedorn and Joe Palmer of Meridian.)
I doubt the message of their small-minded protest vote will register in D.C. Forgive my naivete, but I hope it registers with voters at home.