One commenter recently decried the fact that we “politicians” deal in controversy as a way to move other people to our point of view. Maybe controversy is inherent in the legislative process, where debate is the central tool. To many who do not practice it, debate can feel very aggressive. Or maybe controversy is even more elemental than that; maybe it’s simply human nature.

Legislators do not have to create controversy.People bring it to us daily because it’s our job to sort it out.

On Wednesday, I and eight other Local Government and Taxation committee members heard two contentious bills, with testimony and debate that lasted for almost five hours.

Whisky's for drinkin' ...

... and water’s for fightin.’ So goes the old saying.

When people think of water issues in Idaho, it usually conjures up scenes of ditches and headgates, “reclaimed” desert lands, fish vs. dams, or groundwater pumpers vs. surface water irrigators. This is the southern Idaho frame of reference which has dominated the water resource debate since Idaho was a territory.

On Wednesday, it was made very clear to the Senate Resources and Environment Committee that northern Idahoans are every bit as passionate about their water. Northern Idaho, of course, is not a desert. Most water users draw their water from wells, and there is very little public sense of any shortage.

Elk for sale

What a sight! Just west of Mountain Home at the place where I almost always see a herd or two of antelope, more than 100 elk milled around a safe half-mile from I-84. I pulled the truck and duck boat far off of the highway and my friends and I watched with binoculars as calves chased and cows chewed. Down from the snows of the Danskins, the Bennett Hills, or maybe as far as the Trinities 30 miles away, these wild elk had apparently found some nice green shoots popping up in the wake of last year's wildfires. Although this year's (so far) plentiful snow is a relief to us after years of drought, it makes life tenuous for these wild elk. Energy has to be conserved and although these calves had energy enough to play, indicating sufficient food was available, who knows how far this herd would need to range if snow covered up this pasture? And who knows how far and wide the surviving individual animals will roam to drop their calves next spring or to find a mate next fall?

And now for something completely different

I'm not sure if this will help much, but it seems to be an appropriately credible addition to the discussion begun recently by an Idaho State Representative concerning feminism as one of three strategies that communists would use to take down America. (Click here to read the discussion.)

What is my contribution to the dialogue? The June 7, 1994, issue of Weekly World News, which I found this weekend while rummaging through some old files at home. On page 15 there it is, the headline: "Our Bosses can Grope and Fondle us all they want....say happy Russian gals!" So the communist Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and only three years later Russia is known as "the land where sexual harassment is the national pastime?" Sounds pretty cause-and-effect to me.

Should business be run more like a government?

On Tuesday afternoons, I attend two Senate committees back-to-back: Transportation and Local Government and Taxation. Rarely do they connect like yesterday. First up was the standard annual report from the Idaho Transportation Department. A notable highlight was a series of cost-saving measures which will save $50 million of taxpayer dollars over the next five years. After the Governor challenged the ITD Board to show it had done everything it could to be efficient, ITD staff put out the word to employees at all levels, and they produced some very good ideas.

One employee, a welder, designed a bumper system to save wear and tear on snowplows. Another idea that makes good common sense: sealcoating only the traveled lanes of roadways and not the shoulders (which really don’t need it) saves significantly on material costs. The Associated General Contractors (AGC) is also involved, helping the agency find efficiencies in construction testing and inspection. The report reads like a case study in good management and if you want the details you can access it at:

Welcome to my new blog

It's after 5 and the work is done. The building is quiet; most legislators are on their way home. Most days, 5 to 7 o’clock is the best time for me to catch up on emails, phone calls, letters and — now — blogging.

I have avoided blogging prior to this for several reasons. Things like fear of commitment, being “too busy” or just the thought that “who reads these things anyway?” (I do, sometimes.) Then there’s the un-civil nature of some of the discourse we often see in the comment threads. Anonymity seems to bring out the worst in people. But the editors here at the Statesman have convinced me that people ARE interested in what legislators have to say. I hope to make it worthwhile to readers, and I’m interested in feedback on where you want us to take this.

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