Giant salamanders and taxes: Idaho journalists continue focus on the unimportant

Wayne Hoffman Articles

I have a standing rule at Idaho Freedom Foundation, which I shall now break.

For the last couple of years, I have told my team at IFF that we don’t talk about, write about or work on anything relative to whether the state of Idaho has an official amphibian. The phrase “I couldn’t care less” doesn’t accurately reflect my feelings on the matter. Not only is there zero possibility about me caring about giant salamanders, midget salamanders, Salamanders of Unusual Size or anything else related to state symbols, I think the very consideration of such things removes focus on important matters. It allows lawmakers to pander to the irrelevant. It allows journalists to write useless headlines about useless things, like this one, which appeared a couple of days ago: “Idaho new laws include official state amphibian.”

Journalists have been so focused on the saga of the salamander that they’ve written about it more than they have other important state laws going into effect today: big changes to the state’s open meetings law (requiring open labor negotiations), a new law requiring licenses for genetic counselors, a new law banning parents from letting their kids use tanning beds, a new law requiring state agencies to account for the federal dollars they get and spend, and, of course, a new law that will mean higher costs for drivers at the pump and at the DMV.

The things I’ve mentioned matter. They impact people’s lives, their wallets, their medical care and the operation of state government. The designation of the giant salamander as state amphibian doesn’t change a thing about anything. It’s useless and unimportant. It’s the legislative nutritional equivalent of Pixy Stix: While reporters were getting their sugar rush from salamanders, your taxes were being raised, your rights curtailed and government enlarged. That’s what reporters should have focused on as laws were being written. That’s what reporters should be focusing on this day, July 1, the day new laws take effect.