If you’re worried about Idaho drawing too many newcomers to the state, don’t.
Your 2021 Legislature just unfurled a huge flag to would-be recruits.
It tells them: Don’t come here.
Don’t come here if you are the parents of young school-age children now living in one of the 49 states and the District of Columbia that devote more money to the education of each child.
Why gamble your children’s future on the most underfunded public education system in the United States — especially when lawmakers just devoted five times more state money in tax cuts than in new school spending? To make matters worse, those same lawmakers would rather spend dollars intended for schools on asphalt and bridges than fill classrooms with accomplished teachers.
Forget the promises that come each campaign season: There will be no improvement in Idaho. Better to stay home or relocate elsewhere.
Don’t come here if you’re a working mom.
Money for early childhood education?
No, legislators said.
Invest in all-day kindergarten?
Not on your life.
Easier access to birth control?
Are you kidding?
Passing along a federal financial lifeline to keep child care centers afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic?
All right, but only after Rep. Charlie Shepherd, R-Pollock, expresses aloud what everyone else was thinking privately. He complained about making it “easier for mothers to come out of the home and let somebody else raise their child, (and) I just don’t think that’s a good direction for us to be going.”
Protecting female staffers from a predatory state lawmaker?
Only when the evidence is insurrmountable — and even then, the accuser is going to be publicly humiliated.
Don’t come here if you’re a minority.
The one educational priority this year — from kindergarten to post-graduate programs — was making certain no teacher or professor pierces a newly created cocoon shielding students from learning about America’s historic mistreatment toward people of color — or the effort to achieve social justice.
And if someone dares to speak up against this Idaho Freedom Foundation attempt to create a chilling effect in the classroom — which is what Rep. Chris Mathias, D-Boise, the sole Black member of Idaho’s Legislature, attempted — Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, will be there to object.
Don’t come here if you’re a member of the LGBTQ community.
Not only have lawmakers refused for more than a decade to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a state Human Rights Act that forbids discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations, they also found new avenues. Idaho’s ban on transgender girls and women competing in athletics triggered similar efforts across much of the country.
Don’t come here if you’re a progressive.
This is a one-party state with two wings — hard-right conservative and wingnuts. Outside of about a fifth of the Legislature, there’s not an elected Democratic state or congressional figure in sight.
The political means at your disposal to fight back are quickly evaporating.
There was a time when progressives and moderates could join together and outflank the reactionary GOP-led Legislature through the initiative and referendum ballot measure. But the Legislature just sealed off that opportunity.
Likewise, don’t look to the federal government or even the 14th Amendment for much help. Every year, this Legislature seems to get bolder about nullifying federal laws and defying the U.S. Constitution.
In the words of Idaho Falls Republican activist Doyle Beck: “I’m counting on state lawmakers to do the right thing, to once and for all send the left packing.”
Don’t come here if you’re poor.
It’s been 12 years since Idaho raised its minimum wage, which is stuck at $7.25 an hour.
To make sure that doesn’t change, legislators a few years ago precluded individual communities from adjusting their own minimum wage. And efforts by working people to band together have encountered the obstacles Idaho’s so-called right to work law created for nearly four decades
When there was talk this year of protecting renters against price gouging, only a watered-down version got anywhere.
And don’t come here if you intend to build or expand a business.
You’ll immediately run up against a state that can’t quite get it right about educating its chronically underpaid, underskilled workforce. Years of encouraging more Idaho high school graduates to “go on” toward more education have fallen flat — in part because years of underfunding higher education have led to tuition increases beyond the means of many Idaho families.
And as mentioned above, good luck recruiting talent from outside Idaho — parents of young children, working moms, minorities and progressives — to build a diverse staff here.
Here’s who’s left?
Anyone who looks like the predominant members of the Legislature: Affluent, older, white, Republican and male.
Like the man said: We are what we are. You’re not going to change us.— M.T.