Republican delegates from across the state crammed into a classroom on Idaho State University's campus in Idaho Falls to hammer out the party's platform, or list of ideals in which party members and candidates believe. Debate centered around recent federal health care reforms, the 17th Amendment, and government transparency. One delegate even successfully pitched an idea that requires that party candidates sign a pledge to follow the party's platform or face retribution.
One of the most controversial pieces of the platform discussed by delegates was a statement calling for the repeal of the 17th Amendment, which gives citizens the right to vote for their U.S. senators. It is the second time this issue has popped up on Idaho's political radar in 2010. During the Republican congressional primary race, Vaughn Ward and Raul Labrador, who eventually went on to win the GOP nod, both said at one point that they were in favor of repealing the amendment. Yvonne Perez, a delegate and wife of Ralph Perez, Republican candidate for the Idaho House of Representatives, proposed the language calling for repeal, saying that if the Idaho Legislature is allowed to pick the state's U.S. senators, it would lead to greater accountability in the federal government.
Opposition came, interestingly enough, from someone who would be able to pick the senators if the amendment were to be repealed: state Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton. Siddoway seemed flabbergasted that delegates in the room wanted to take election of senators away from the voting public. "We’re taking the voter out of the equation ... and you want that?" asked Siddoway, whose question was answered by a very audible "Yes!" from delegates. One state senator, Shirley McKague, a Republican from Meridian, said repeal is the right way to go. "I totally agree with repealing the 17thAmendment," said McKague. "We are a republic, and the Legislature is the voice of the people of the state, and, therefore, the senator should listen to the state of Idaho’s position and that’s why our Founding Fathers put it that way."
Republicans also voted to create language supporting what amounts to a loyalty oath for GOP candidates. Dan Loughrey, at the request of Rod Beck, pitched the idea to the platform committee. Loughrey's language, which will likely be included in the final platform, requires all Republican candidates, both state and federal, to sign a statement of disclosure affirming that if elected, they would serve according to the platform and resolutions of the party. The party would then publish the list of those who signed the pledge - and who didn't - and release that approximately 40 days prior to elections.
Several pieces of the platform added Friday centered around government transparency. Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, proposed language, upon the encouragement of Wayne Hoffman, head of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, to urge GOP members and candidates to stand for government transparency. Pearce's plank called for all governments, including cities, states, and school districts, to post all financial transaction on the Internet for viewing and analyzing by the general public. Hoffman said that Idaho is falling behind in transparency efforts. "Other state governments are adopting platforms so you can see how government dollars are being spent," said Hoffman. "The point is to hold government accountable for how they are spending our money. It can be done and it is being done in other states." Dennis Englehart, a delegate from Bonner County, concurred with Hoffman and Pearce and said the idea is forward thinking. "I think this is the direction we want to take," said Englehart.
Tyler Hurst, a delegate from Ada County, began the meeting calling on fellow GOP members to instill language into the platform disapproving of the federal health care reforms, which, when fully enacted, will require citizens of the United States to purchase health insurance. Hurst's move was in staunch opposition to the reforms and in support of the Idaho Health Freedom Act, which Idaho lawmakers passed in early 2010 and is intended to shield Idahoans from the mandate to buy in insurance. The act also authorized the state's attorney general to sue the federal government over the mandate. "We do believe that Idaho citizens should not and/or shall not be taxed for federally-mandated health care," said Hurst. Only moments later and with almost no debate, delegates concurred with Hurst's statement and approved the language for the platform with a lone dissenting vote.
Changes adopted by the platform committee are not final. The party as a whole will approve
(For full disclosure: Tyler Hurst is a brother of the author of this article. Also, IdahoReporter.com is a product of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.)