Democratic delegates from across the state spent much of last weekend hammering out details of the party's new platform, which was released Monday. The new platform, or a list of values by which party members and candidates abide, features several alterations, including language supporting all families, both traditional and non-traditional, a new statement calling for all troops to come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and many statements opposing the agenda advocated by the Idaho Republican Party during the 2010 legislative session.
Delegates altered their party's platform to reflect their feeling on the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In the 2008 platform, delegates that they would like to see an end to the war in Iraq. That statement was changed last weekend to include the war in Afghanistan, despite objections from some party members. Chryssa Rich, representing Ada County, said in early platform meetings that the statement on withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan would contradict the philosophy of the party's national figurehead, President Barack Obama, who, in December of 2009, announced plans to send 30,000 additional troops to the area to quell rising insurgent violence. Other delegates in the room agreed with Rich, but advocated for the new stance to be worded differently. "We need an intelligent and structured withdrawal," said one delegate who did not offer his name to committee members.
The new platform reflects the party's unhappiness with several bills successfully passed by the Republican-controlled Idaho Legislature during its 2010 session. Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, pushed a plan known as the health worker's conscience bill, which gave doctors and pharmacists the right to conscientiously object to performing some procedures or dispensing certain medications. Democrats retooled their platform to show their disdain for Winder's bill. "We support evidence-based medical decisions between a physician and patient," the platform said. Many state Democratic lawmakers argued during hearings on the bill that Winder's proposal would prohibit many Idahoans from receiving proper end-of-life care, as well as contraceptive medicines. They also argued that the bill would involve the government too much in the health care decisions of Idahoans.
Another controversial move by Republicans in the early part of 2010 was Gov. Butch Otter's attempt to draw down funding of Idaho Public Television in a four-year process. Otter, while presenting his ideas to lawmakers in the state of the state address, said the move from government to solely private funding was necessary to trim the state's budget. Though several groups and lawmakers rallied around the station and eventually enabled it to keep its government dollars, Democrats have not forgotten the try. "We recognize the value of Idaho Public Television to Idaho and our communities and support state funding of IPTV," says the platform.
During the 2010 legislative session, tax revenues were lagging and many Democratic lawmakers called on the body as a whole to review and close some tax exemptions as a way to raise government dollars to fund education and welfare programs and stabilize the state budget. The state has exemptions for certain industries and does not tax some purchases entities within those industries make. For example, the Idaho Food Bank is not taxed for food it buys to fill its shelves. The state does not tax some services. Democrats have unsuccessfully argued that through the exemptions, some large businesses in the state aren't paying their fair share. Delegates worked off that ire and added language supporting exemption review to the platform. "We support a periodic and thorough review of all sales tax exemptions," the platform says.
Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, is suing the Idaho State Tax Commission, alleging that the rich and powerful members of the community receive sweetheart deals from the state, thereby reducing their actual tax burden. Ringo, who attended the convention in Worley last weekend, may have played a part in developing language for the platform that opines directly on the duties of the tax commission. "We urge the Idaho Legislature to assure compliance with Article VII, Section 5 of the Idaho Constitution with respect to collecting taxes in a 'uniform manner,'" says the platform. Ringo told IdahoReporter.com that her lawsuit was not the primary reason behind the statement, but instead a general awareness of the problem among delegates. "I think there was a feeling among the delegates that this is a pretty important issue," Ringo said.
Democrats also made other slight changes to their list of supported values. One elderly delegate advocated in the first meeting on the platform that party members instill the phrase "the common good," somewhere in the platform. That delegate was successful in her push; the phrase is contained in section II, part A of the platform, which says "As a community, we are more than a collection of individuals. Communities must protect those who cannot protect themselves. We must care for and advocate for the common good as stipulated in the Preamble to the Constitution." The platform also reflects the attitude of delegates on families and a woman's right to keep her job after a pregnancy. "We support public policies enabling and creating incentives for workplace flexibility and practices that help employees meet challenges related to pregnancy, child care and other family issues. We support public policies enabling and creating incentives for workplace flexibility and practices that help employees meet challenges related to pregnancy, child care and other family issues," is one value statement found section II, part 1 of the platform.
Ringo said that the new and updated platform represents the party as a whole and also contains messages from individuals who came to the state convention with one specific issue they wanted included. Ringo said that the statement is representative of the citizenry of Idaho. "I think it shows Democrat values pretty well and that our values line up with most Idahoans," she said. She said that the addition of the language concerning withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is something of which she is supportive. "I think that the mood was that withdrawal be done responsibly. It focuses on the long-term and how we can get to the point of withdrawal of troops," Ringo concluded.