On Nov. 4, Idaho voters will have an extraordinary opportunity. You will be asked to vote on a constitutional amendment proposed by the 2014 Idaho Legislature and approved by both the House and the Senate without a single dissenting vote. House Joint Resolution 2 (HJR 2) will amend the Idaho Constitution to confirm the legislature’s authority to review the rules proposed by state agencies each year. Of all the votes you will cast this November, voting “yes” on this constitutional amendment could well be the most important.
The founders of this nation wisely set up a system of government that includes an important, and delicate, balance of powers. Each of the three branches of the federal government – executive, legislative and judicial – has its own role to play, and this is true in Idaho as well. It is the job of the legislative branch to pass laws they deem to be in the best interest of Idaho’s citizens. Once laws are passed, the state’s executive branch (the governor and various state agencies) implements them by writing new administrative rules. The new rules are published and public hearings are often held to gauge the effects of the rules on those most impacted.
Admittedly, few Idahoans pay attention to what these rules involve, where they come from, or who writes them … and most people don’t care. But we should pay attention and we should care, because administrative rules have the same force as law, and they impact each of us, every day. Whether you realize it or not, these rules govern many activities of your daily life, things like licensing procedures for your plumber or electrician, the grading of milk you buy at the grocery store, the quality of your drinking water, safe boating rules, even rules governing your pet’s veterinarian.
The legislature reviews every new administrative rule each year to make sure the laws they’ve passed are being implemented properly and consistently. Without this legislative oversight, agencies could implement overreaching and burdensome rules that negatively impact your livelihood, your leisure, your way of life. Just think about recent actions taken at the federal level by the executive branch, without any consultation or input from Congress. Our legislative review protects Idahoans from those kinds of actions.
This is a critical protection, and we take this responsibility very seriously. In fact, we spend the first few weeks of every legislative session engaged in a careful study of the rules before we vote to approve or reject them. An important and critical part of our review each year is listening to ordinary citizens, you and your neighbors, who are most qualified to tell us whether or not the rules will work in real-life situations. For instance, if a new rule is written to require additional training or education for your barber or beautician, he or she has the opportunity to come and testify whether the rule is practical and helpful, resulting in better or safer practices, or whether it is simply one more onerous, perhaps meaningless, governmental intrusion into the profession. On a federal level, wouldn’t it be great if Idaho’s farmers were allowed to testify before Congressional committees about the real-world impact of new EPA rules, to cite just one example?
Our authority to conduct this review, and to reject those rules we find inappropriate or too burdensome, will be better protected if it is enshrined in the state’s Constitution. HJR 2 confirms the legislature’s authority to approve or reject rules written by the executive branch and shields that authority from future judicial challenges. It honors the separation of powers intended by our founders and makes sure those separate powers remain separate. Most important of all, it assures the citizens of Idaho that their locally elected senators and representatives will be able to protect them from unreasonable or unnecessary rules. That’s an idea that every citizen should approve.
I urge you to vote yes on the ballot measure to amend Idaho’s Constitution this November.
Representative Scott Bedke (R) is serving his seventh term in the Idaho House of Representatives for District 27 (Cassia and Minidoka counties). He was elected Speaker of the House in December 2012.