The following is a depiction of a decisive governor in action. The story, all names, characters and incidents portrayed here are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings and products is intended.
Office of the Governor
Transcript of the governor’s meeting with legislative leadership
Dec. 28, 2020
THE GOVERNOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve called a press conference to begin in about two hours where I will call upon you to formally convene your session as the state constitution requires on Jan. 11 and then recess for three months.
Have you ever been haunted by that dream where you walk into a crowded room naked?
That’s pretty much how you can expect to feel unless you start cooperating with me.
You know as well as anyone what we’re up against.
As bad as COVID-19 is in the country, it’s worse here in terms of positivity rates and per capita infections. We’re now in another holiday surge. Our health care community is so overwhelmed that we are contemplating crisis care standards.
While many of your colleagues across the country are acting responsibly, you’re proceeding as if nothing has changed. You intend to gather 105 legislators — many of who refuse to wear face masks or practice social distancing — in a closed setting with dozens of staffers, lobbyists and members of the public.
Many of your members themselves are elderly with underlying conditions that put them at jeopardy.
Not only do you put them in danger, but you will be operating a giant petri dish from which the infection can spread to the restaurants, offices and hotels of Boise, not to mention the rest of the state when you travel home.
Every time one of you comes down with COVID-19; any time a staffer or member of the public gets sick by working in that Capitol, if there is any sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in this state, I will summon the television crews of this city to this office and lay the blame at your feet.
THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: But governor, where’s the precedent for this? It takes a two-thirds vote of the members to change our rules so drastically.
THE GOVERNOR: Thanks for mentioning that. Do you remember Jan. 10, 2000? On that day, the president pro tem of the Senate, Jerry Twiggs of Blackfoot, died suddenly. The entire Legislature went on hold for a week.
If you can do that out of respect for one of your own, why can’t you do the same in a public health emergency?
Come, let us reason together.
You know as well as I do that you spend two-thirds of these sessions building budgets on a bet. Most of the time, you get it right. But with so much dependent on individual income tax collections, you really can’t be sure until tax returns are due on April 15 and beyond.
Things look good on the surface, but this pandemic has closed a lot of businesses, destroyed a lot of jobs and crimped a good many paychecks.
As inadequate as this latest congressional bailout package is, President Donald Trump may block it. Then it will be months before we know how President Joe Biden and the Congress will devise the next package, especially if it comes to providing funds to state and local governments.
Are you really in such a hurry to decide whether to restore some budget cuts, make others permanent, perhaps curtail Medicaid spending or even pass another overly expensive tax giveaway while flying blind?
I guarantee you if your actions cause another spending holdback in the summer, you’ll own it politically.
THE SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEM: But, Governor, give us a little credit. We know how to manage this.
THE GOVERNOR: I would submit to you that you didn’t manage it very well last summer when Ammon Bundy and his crew storm troopered their way into the House gallery and committee meeting rooms. Now he’s talking about organizing along military lines and training his collection of gun nuts in military tactics.
He’s returning in January.
Give this COVID-19 vaccine three months to contain this pandemic. By then, he won’t have a face mask ordinance worth protesting. When you return to the Capitol in April, he’ll be yesterday’s newspaper.
THE HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: But how do we get to our crops if we’re sitting here in April and May?
THE GOVERNOR: This is not the 1950s. Look over your own legislative directory. Quite a few of you are retired. Many have businesses. Some describe themselves as consultants. There’s even a so-called “public speaker” among you. You can do that anytime of year.
A mere 15 percent of you claim to be working on farms, agribusinesses or ranches. And I’m going to bet just about every one operates the same way any other business person does: He picks up the phone and tells his employees what to do and when.
THE HOUSE CAUCUS CHAIRWOMAN: But Governor, what will people think if they find the Statehouse dark and empty when we’re all supposed to be here in January?
THE GOVERNOR: There are those who would agree not having the Legislature in session is always preferable to having the Legislature in session.
I do not share that view.
Look, this pandemic has been tough on everybody. We’ve been deprived of so much already. But I think we can handle one more sacrifice, don’t you? — M.T.