I learn something new every day. Maybe those who have done this for years can see the bigger patterns, like sensing the storm when sniffing a wind shift. I am still immersed in reading each word of each bill and wondering why it is raining.

But I am getting a sense of some patterns I see in the bills. For instance there is one I have recognized and call, “A Solution Looking for a Problem”. As an example I will tell you of a phone call a couple weeks ago.  A lady called me for an interview for her newspaper article. She was doing a feature story on breastfeeding. “Senator Schmidt, did you know Idaho has no laws protecting breastfeeding?”

I was not aware of that. She added, “Eighteen states have laws protecting breastfeeding.”

I asked her, “From what?”

She did not understand so I restated, “You say Idaho doesn’t have a law to protect breastfeeding. I didn’t know it was being attacked.”

She somewhat agreed maybe it was not under siege considering that breastfeeding rates in Idaho are near the top in the nation. And she admitted to just having a baby and to thinking all women should breastfeed.

I agreed with the merits of breastfeeding and told how I always encouraged the women whose babies I delivered to breastfeed. But I had to accept that it was not for all women. Support and encouragement can help, but it does not always fit. We parted the phone call with no legislation in mind.

There have been bills that have rolled through this session and will become law that were of this purpose, that is to project ones values onto the populace.  Sometimes we legislators just want to stand up and say what we are for. Other times there is a bigger, national agenda that is being served. I am sorry, but with the current majority here in Idaho’s statehouse, posturing of this “Solution Looking for a Problem” sort has become common. I hope Idaho gets tired of it.

There is another kind of bill I have recognized as a “Simple Fix”. Sadly, these are rare and sometimes simple turn out to be only illusions. It is still interesting.

In these times of tight margins and fluid labor needs there have developed businesses called Professional Employer Organizations .  PEO’s outsource human resource management as well as employ workers but make them available for businesses. So businesses do not actually have to hire workers, they can “co-employ” them with the PEO. It seems to me PEO’s bundle labor like Goldman Sachs bundled mortgages.

I can see the purpose PEOs serve both for businesses and employees. But for every benefit there is a cost. Just as home ownership can be a burden of loyalty and investment when one just needs shelter, getting hired into a big company sometimes can be too much commitment for a young worker. (Of course, a big business might have a long-term strategy that would benefit from loyalty in which case this would not fit. Doesn’t it seem sort of mercenary when one considers loyalty as part of a business strategy?)

Our simple fix had to do with these PEO’s. H0154 was not regulating them; just making them follow the rules all other employers have to follow. It seems some PEO’s have not been filing their quarterly wage reports with the state unemployment insurance fund. Thus employees of the PEO’s were not recorded as employed and could not receive unemployment benefits. And it seems some weren’t paying their unemployment insurance premiums but couldn’t be fined because the law didn’t clearly apply. We just needed to add a PEO category to the current employment law.  This will be simple enough to fix. And we will.

Then there is the “Just One More Step” bill. These expand a current law into newer or broader territory. We hear one of these this morning. Here in Idaho we have a “Right to Farm” Act. It is being expanded this year with new language and broader implications. When I read the bill I thought these expansions seemed excessive and too broad. But during committee testimony I got a sense why farmers felt the need to expand their “Right to Farm”. One opponent to the bill pointed her finger at the committee while calling the bill cowardly and evil. After we voted the bill forward she came up to me in the hallway and said, “And you call yourself a Democrat!”  I think the “Right to Farm” will be taking a step forward.

The winds of politics shift. Just like looking out the window sometimes gives one a better sense of the weather than the newspaper forecast, I am learning to look up from the printed bills to see the approaching storm.  I can always use the paper bills to shield the rain.

 All comments are read but not posted.

About ddxdx

A Family physician, former county coroner and former Idaho State Senator
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