Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Thoughts on HJR 4

| October 26, 2020 11:51 AM

Of the various online versions of the Idaho Constitution that I could locate from Harvard, Columbia and University of Minnesota Law schools, in 1912 the counties were afforded Senate representation and the House could have no more than three times that number with no mention of county specific representation. This amendment passed 22 years after the first Idaho constitution was approved by the United States Congress on July 3, 1890. The original document of 1890 provided representation by apportionment (I.e. population). This history, as it pertains to HJR 4, is irrelevant. What matters to me is what is currently on the books today. Today, by statute, the number of districts can be between 30 and 35 districts.

I, personally, would rather have the original language given that stated, “not less than 35 and no more than 45 legislative districts” (Resolution P6). That is better language, but it is not what we are receiving. One argument stated that a reduction of districts would mean that the rural districts would be larger and more represented. Mr. Cantamessa argues that, by locking it in at 35 now, rural counties will lose more and more (representation?). I find both these arguments similarly shortsighted and I believe that they put the cart before the horse. These arguments assume growth and redistricting before the census and redistricting occur. Shoshone has an interstate running down the middle of it, which is attractive to people moving in, and the county population is about half of what it once was. We can and will grow. It would not be to our advantage to have decent growth in the Silver Valley AND a reduction in districts.

“You should support this or it could be worse for you.” Mr. Cantamessa doesn’t like this threatening approach and that is fine. I, however, will not define it as threatening. Being given the information needed to see the potential future drawbacks, looking beyond this year’s census and next year’s redistricting, which gives us the opportunity to make the proper corrections before 2030, is not threatening in the slightest. I don’t voice these opinions in public often, but I firmly believe (as I have for a couple decades) that the current language allows for the districts to be weaponized in favor of the higher density population centers by reducing the districts in order to swallow up certain portions of the rural population. Shoshone, with our infrastructure, is a ripe candidate for takeover. This is the Portland/Seattle argument Mr. Cantamessa uses.

I am, at this juncture, not going to comment on HJR 4 again. I agree with Mr. Cantamessa that it is too late. The census is complete, the redistricting occurs next year. I cannot, in good faith, allow for the state to have the ability to reduce our representation. More reps per person is most desirable. As it sits right now, we can’t say what any census or redistricting will look like, but I certainly don’t want an opportunity for it to look ugly for Shoshonites.