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House Bill 580 - Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs

House Bill 580 - Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs

Fred Birnbaum
March 4, 2020

Final score: (-1)

Bill description: Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs

The Commission on Hispanic Affairs was created by the Legislature in 1987. Its statutorily defined function is, among other things, to gather information and conduct studies “on problems and programs concerning Hispanic people” and “to stimulate public awareness of the problems of Hispanic people by conducting a program of public education” as well as “advise the governor, legislature and state departments and agencies of the nature, magnitude, and priorities of the problems of Hispanic people.” The statute goes on to say that the agency is to “propose new programs concerning Hispanic people to public and private agencies and evaluate for such agencies existing programs or prospective legislation concerning Hispanic people.” 

In summary, the statute appears to single out a group of people based on race in a way that is part demeaning and part pandering. It suggests that if you’re Hispanic, your “problems” need study by the government and the creation of programs in order to address those problems. The “pandering” part comes in by statutorily segregating races as having separate priorities from the remaining population, to be addressed by a specially-tasked agency of government that will create programs to address those priorities. Were the state to write similar statutes for other populations, they would be labeled as racist. 

Indeed, while Hispanics make up about 12 - 13 percent of Idaho’s population, other minorities comprising less than 2 percent of the state’s population, arguably less represented and perhaps having their own “problems” and “priorities” receive no special recognition from the government and don’t require government “help.” 

Specific to the budget before the Legislature, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee added two line items not requested by the governor: $35,000 for federal to dedicated fund shift and $2,000 for statewide outreach efforts. The latter line item for statewide outreach offsets nearly half of the 2% General Fund reduction. 

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