So ends a great week for the citizens of Idaho.
For decision-makers at the Capitol? More like a double-feature horror show.
On Monday, the Idaho Supreme Court unanimously took a match to SB 1110, the short-lived law on citizen-led voter initiatives. The law was viewed by many as a legislative power grab, essentially taking away the ability of citizens to decide a key issue if the legislature failed or refused to do so.
That’s exactly what happened with the last successful citizen-led initiative, the 2018 Reclaim Idaho measure that, with broad statewide voter support, expanded Medicaid coverage after years of legislative negligence.
“Ultimately, the effect of SB 1110 is to prevent a perceived, yet unsubstantiated fear of the ‘tyranny of the majority,’ by replacing it with an actual ‘tyranny of the minority,’ ” the Supreme Court wrote in its opinion.
Further, the high court emphasized that the law stood in stark contrast to “the democratic ideals that form the bedrock of the constitutional republic created by the Idaho Constitution.”
Both the Secretary of State’s office and the Idaho Legislature failed by adopting such flawed legislation, the court ruled, requiring the state – meaning you who are reading this editorial – to pay Reclaim Idaho their attorney fees for the lawsuit, as well as the fees paid to the state’s own legal defense.
Citizens also won another great if less publicized victory Thursday. The education indoctrination task force led by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin was ordered by a Fourth District Court judge to fork over public records she had been fighting to keep secret.
The records, citizens’ written comments solicited by McGeachin on a Google Form survey at the beginning of the indoctrination investigation, were sought by the Idaho Press Club. What the Press Club got from McGeachin was a tongue-lashing and a pile of worthless documents so heavily redacted that neither the identities of the people who made the comments nor many of the comments themselves were visible.
McGeachin said she was trying to protect citizens’ privacy, accusing media of nefarious intent in seeking the records.
“Why does the media want YOUR personal information?” McGeachin wrote on social media. “Do they plan to release it and encourage employers and government agencies to retaliate against Idahoans who have expressed concerns about Idaho’s education system?”
Thankfully, Judge Steven Hippler wasn’t buying her bunk. He ordered McGeachin to release the records, to pay the Press Club’s legal fees and pay a $750 civil penalty for denying the records “deliberately and in bad faith.”
“The disclosure of public records is prescribed by law, and fear mongering has no place in the calculus,” Hippler wrote. “If public officials were required to disclose public records only to those, including media, they believe will support the government’s actions, we will have shed the principles of our democracy and evolved into an autocratic state where criticism of public officials is not permitted.”
Thanks to our judiciary, recent irresponsible acts of elected officials have been set right. But don’t celebrate too much. The faulty fountain from which these tainted waters flow is a long way from being fixed.
August 29, 2021
CDA Press Editorial