When I started my first term in 2019, nearly every long-time Capitol observer told me it was the worst legislative session they ever experienced. In 2020, they told me that was the worst legislative session ever. And now they’re saying in 2021 this is the worst session ever — and we’re just past the halfway mark. Why is that?
Well, it’s like a roller coaster. It can be a thrilling, adrenaline-pumping experience. Or it can be a head-spinning, stomach-turning nightmare. Or both. But in the end, after all the ups and downs, twists and turns, white-knuckled fist-clenching and primordial screaming, you wind up back where you started.
It seems every year the legislative roller coaster becomes increasingly more extreme. The plunges are deeper and the turns skew sharper to the right (ejecting some occupants from their seats). But in the end, the legislature makes little or no progress by the end of the session. Here’s a midway progress report on the issues voters tell me they care about the most:
Instead, the majority party has spent most of the time on bills that are either self-serving, politically motivated, or just plain head-scratching:
When the dizziness and nausea from the legislative roller coaster subsides, you can then head on over to the Fiscal Fun House! The legislature is currently sitting on over $1.3 BILLION in a rainy-day fund, a record budget surplus and an idle internet sales tax account. Instead of investing most of that money in education, infrastructure and vital services, the majority party introduced a bill that would divert a good chunk of it toward tax cuts that go mostly to businesses, the wealthy and the well-connected — while a family of four making less than $75,000/year will likely see their taxes go up!
I and my colleagues have proposed legislation that will provide real tax relief for working families:
Unfortunately, majority party leadership has thus far refused to allow these ideas to be discussed, debated, or come to a vote. It looks like the legislature may once again fail to prioritize working families over its political squabbles. It’s time to get off this roller coaster.
Steve Berch is a state representative and Democrat representing Boise.