Sunday, April 29, 2012

Perhaps Only Of Interest in Some Idaho Counties...

The various Republicans running in the May primary were in Horseshoe Bend Saturday afternoon.  My wife and I have to leave early for a social engagement, but we had a chance to talk to some of the candidates, and hear a number of them.  I spoke with Ken Roberts, currently Majority Caucus Chair in the lower house of the legislature.  Because of redistricting, his district now includes Boise County.

I asked Roberts about the ultrasound bill that passed the state senate, but died in the lower house.  Roberts took credit for killing it, and it turns out that his feelings about the bill were much the same as mine: the intentions of the sponsors were good--to discourage abortion--but that it was flawed in details and philosophically.  

The detail flaw was that the pro-life authors of the bill had hoped for a way for mothers to hear the beating heart of the embryo.  The only way to accomplish that was with the transvaginal ultrasound.  Understandably, even people who might have tolerated an abdominal ultrasound requirement though that this was going a bit far.  But also, Roberts shared my view that a governmental requirement for a medical procedure was a bit too much like the health insurance mandate of Obamacare: unpopular, and hard to justify.

When Roberts took his five minutes to speak, he did a couple of things that made a good impression on me.  A question to Rep. Steven Thayn, who is running for district 8 state senate, asked about what the government could do about rising electric utility bills.  Thayn didn't give a particularly memorable answer, except to focus on ways to reduce taxes for people at the bottom.  (Not a bad answer, but unlikely to solve the problem for those on fixed incomes who pay little or no income taxes.)  

Roberts did not need to answer that question, but went out of his way to explain that part of what is driving electric rates up is that some of the green energy stuff, such as wind power, because it is unpredictable, requires utilities to have reliable base load energy available for purchase.  When a utility company does make short-term purchases of base load power to compensate for the unpredictable green power, they are paying a much higher cost for that extra power than if they were purchasing it on a consistent basis.  When that happens, Roberts explained, it drives up electricity costs, and thus rates.  (It strikes me that this may explain why California electricity costs are so high--a green obsession.)  Roberts made no promises about how to solve this, but did point out that some of the green energy stuff is aggravating this problem.

Roberts also gave a straightforward answer considering his position on the education reform bills to someone who I received the impression might have been a public school teacher.  In addition, another question was concerning Roberts' support for an increase in cigarette taxes.  Remember that we are in a very blue collar county, and very libertarian (not very conservative), so cigarette taxes are regarded with considerable upset.  Roberts was pretty courageous about this; he explained that both federal and state funds go into funding Medicare, and a lot of that (he quoted about $600 a year per taxpayer) is paying for medical costs for tobacco use.  He supported the tax increase because it is a user fee: tobacco users are driving up costs, and they need to pay their fair share.

As you might expect for someone who has been in the legislature for some time, and holds Majority Caucus Chair position, Roberts is a pretty polished speaker.  He also has a pretty good memory.  I said my name, and introduced my wife, and he remembered having met us at a political event in 2008 at the Powerhouse in Boise, when I was first running for state senate at Tim Corder.  It was not just that he claimed to remember having met me, but he was able to correctly identify when and where.

Thayn, as I mentioned, is running for state senate.  Thayn's speech was something that I am sure would make many libertarians very happy, emphasizing that wealth is not zero sum game, and that growing the economy of Idaho by encouraging production and economic development is the way to go.  But it was rather short of specifics.  Was he proposing to have the government actively promote growth, or simply get out of the way?  I think he meant the latter, but I would have preferred a bit more specifics.

One question was concerning NDAA (the National Defense Authorization Act).  A lot of people are very upset about NDAA, and I wish that I could say that their paranoia was without reason.  It does grant a lot of power, and I'm not sure that I would be any happier with a Republican President enjoying that power.  But Thayn had the good sense to explain that he was running for state legislature, wasn't thoroughly familiar with national policy questions, and did a nice job of backing away from saying anything substantive.


  1. Does the topic has to do with your professional position or perhaps is it mostly about your leisure and types of spending your free time?