Yes, it is true, the Governor Formerly Known as a Libertarian vexingly vetoed a number of conservative, free market, liberty-minded bills. However, there is a bigger, undeniable truth that emerged from the 2017 legislative session: More legislators than ever before voted in support of legislation to restrain the size and power of government.
That, in itself, is a victory worthy of celebration. Having watched or participated in the legislative process in Idaho for more than 20 years, I can safely say the cumulative legislative desire to pass freedom-oriented legislation is as strong as is has been and it is growing. Also growing in the Statehouse is resistance to legislation that increases government, constrains the free economy or impacts individual freedom.
At the end of the session, 44 of 105 legislators scored a C or better on the Idaho Freedom Index, the most respected measurement of legislative voting records in the state. That’s about double the result of the 2016 legislative session. These are the heroes who helped steer into law bills that protect taxpayers and entrepreneurs as well as keep lobbying organizations from joining the state pension system. They’re also the legislators who championed bills — ultimately vetoed by the governor — to eliminate the tax on groceries, stop civil asset forfeiture abuse and eliminate unnecessary regulation of the cosmetology industry.
As much as it is important to hold lawmakers accountable (read: complain) when they get things wrong, it’s also important to thank those who do the right thing. Among the top scorers in the House are Republicans Reps. Ron Nate of Rexburg (100%), Heather Scott of Blanchard (99%), Bryan Zollinger of Idaho Falls (98%), Karey Hanks of St. Anthony (98%), Steve Harris of Meridian (97%), Thyra Stevenson of Lewiston, (96%), Dorothy Moon of Stanley (96%), Priscilla Giddings of White Bird (96%), Christy Zito of Mountain Home (95%), Ron Mendive of Couer d’Alene (94%), Don Cheatham of Post Falls (91%), Greg Chaney of Caldwell (91%), Mike Kingsley of Lewiston (91%), Jason Monks of Meridian (90%), Sage Dixon of Ponderay (90%), Brent Crane of Nampa (88%), Jeff Thompson of Idaho Falls (84%), Terry Gestrin of Donnelly (83%), Judy Boyle of Midvale (82%), Mike Moyle of Star (81%) and Lynn Luker of Boise (80%).
Topping the the list of awesomeness in the Senate are Republicans Bob Nonini of Coeur d’Alene (93%), Dan Foreman of Moscow (92%), Steve Vick of Dalton Gardens (91%), Carl Crabtree of Grangeville (81%), Lori Den Hartog of Meridian (77%), Cliff Bayer of Meridian (76%) and Jim Rice of Caldwell (76%).
In defending and promoting conservative principles, Idaho’s Legislature has a ways to go. The Legislature is still dominated by Republicans and Democrats who vote in favor of ever bigger and more intrusive government. But the trend indicated by the Freedom Index is a positive one, a trend likely spurred by active people who pay closer attention to their legislators’ voting records than they have in the past. That coalition of free market conservatives is only likely to grow if, and only if, we do our part by letting conservative legislators know we’re thankful for their efforts.