While Utah and Iowa lawmakers have passed robust education choice legislation, Idahoans are legitimately asking why nothing has emerged so far during Idaho’s legislative session, now entering its fourth week.
It’s not for lack of trying.
Conservative Republicans in the Idaho Senate have been fighting tooth and nail just to get their bill introduced. Senate Education Chairman Dave Lent has been dragging his feet on allowing an introduction of Sen. Tammy Nichols’ legislation to the point that the majority of Republican members of the committee tried this week to force his hand to put it on the agenda.
A Boise TV station reported Thursday that, “It appears Sen. Brian Lenney (R-Nampa) may have tricked the education committee chairman into agreeing to add a draft bill that wasn’t supposed to be heard yet on to Thursday's agenda” and added, “Senate education committee chairman Sen. Dave Lent told CBS2 it seemed some people thought the process is a game.”
False. Lenney was perfectly clear about which legislation he was trying to get on the agenda, referencing the proposal by its assigned number. No trickery involved. A majority of the members of the committee who voted for the introductory hearing understood what they were voting on. Lent, once he figured out he was the one who made a mistake, tried to put the blame on others and, according to the news account, blamed trickery.
Then Lent did the worst thing a committee chairman could do — ignored the orders of his own panel. Why this guy is still allowed to chair anything is a mystery to me. The motion was made and seconded properly, voted on properly, and then promptly ignored. Why have a committee in the first place if the Senate Education Committee merely operates as a committee of one?
The whole purpose of the motion was to move the legislation along because, so far, Lent has been recalcitrant when it comes to advancing school choice legislation. Under the rules the Legislature operates under, the committee chairman is the facilitator of meetings, which usually entails presiding over meetings and setting agendas. That gives him a lot of authority, but it’s not unilateral. Draft legislation and legislation that has been introduced are not the property of the committee chairman but rather the province of the committee.
On Friday, I was told that Lent grudgingly gave in, promising an introduction hearing, scheduled now for Tuesday. We’ll see if that actually happens. A decision to introduce the legislation is only the beginning. We’ll see if Lent actually schedules a hearing on the bill. I predict he drags his feet on that, too. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong.
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