The Law According to Joe 

A week's worth of legislative action affecting the little guy

The Legislature got around to the nuts-and-bolts of citizen life in the past week, and the results might not make Joe and Jane Six-Pack too happy.

The Six-Packs in particular might be miffed because the Idaho House voted 38 to 30 to nix a bill that would have allowed some theaters (also known as "The Flicks" of Boise) to serve beer and wine during movies. House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet was actually thinking of her hometown of Ketchum and a theater there that serves such libations, but it's The Flicks that has local microbrew-and-movie fans nervous. The Idaho State Police decided this summer that after years of selling beverages to moviegoers, they shouldn't. Enter Jaquet and her now-defunct bill--but which was shortly followed up by another, not yet to hit the floor, that makes exceptions only for the Flicks and two other theaters.

So, off go the Six-Packs to their charming but spendy Boise home to drown their sorrows, and possibly put off their tax filings, because the pain of property taxes is so dear. They wonder if all the media hype about property taxes might make the Legislature take action in this final week. But they know the likelihood of that is about the same as that of Joe's ability to hold his breath for an entire Senate committee hearing. The matter of taxes has tied up the Senate so severely, that they are now considering an interim commission to study the matter they are now studying. This makes Joe's head hurt.

To bed with the Six-Packs, then, because Joehas to get up early and continue earning $5.15 per hour at his lame job that, he laments, will nevercover his property taxes or his once-monthly sojourn to The Flicks.

While he flips burgers, Joe will think wistfully of a brief scuffle on the House floor last week that lifted his pedestrian spirits, if only briefly. Jaquet and the rest of the Democrats, inflicted a little procedural whoop-ass on the House, something Joe rarely sees. Jaquet's parliamentary snit forced House leaders to take a look, however fleeting, at a Democratic bill that would have raised Idaho's low minimum wage to $6.15 an hour, which, Joe thinks, could have helped him keep the Ada County property tax assessors at bay.

But he'll shake his weary head when he remembers how that bill was stomped faster than an empty can in a House committee dominated, as all are, by Republicans who consider the Democrat bill to be little more than a political gambit in an election year. Politicians, they huffed, being political!

What's the point? Joe wonders. He flips more burgers. He prays for these lawmakers to just go home and leave him alone. But then he wonders about his extended family in Twin Falls, how they are panicking beyond recognition over the possibility of a coal-fired power plant plunking down in the fields outside of town.

Joe prays, without irony, for the success of a Republican, the House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, who has become a veritable Straight Talk Express in this House session. Joe is too immersed in cooking hamburger to ponder the miracle of a powerful Republican who decides to take on corporate interests and, occasionally, his own party, when they lash out at him.

If he had the time, Joe might consider that Newcomb, perhaps feeling the freedom of retirement already, has become the John McCain of this session. There's Newcomb, batting back conservative anti-abortion lawmakers like Rep. Bill Sali and pushing back against a national energy conglomerate that wants to build the coal-fired power plant. There's Newcomb again, tilting at the windmills now powering Idaho Power, the state's largest utility.

Like his neighbors, Joe received a confusing note from Idaho Power, folded into his bill, saying things could get more expensive around Six-Pack Manor this year if Newcomb succeeds in challenging the utility's rights to water in the Eastern Snake River plain. Joe thinks he likes this Newcomb, just because he's sticking it to The Man, even as he frets vaguely over a few more dollars in his monthly bill.

Joe wonders what's become of the Republican Party these days. Sometimes, they do what he expects: they push bills to keep Joe's gay neighbors from marrying one year, then take it a step further the next. Joe wonders what's the big deal about two guys wanting to argue over dishwashing and share insurance bills, and wonders if they'd like to share with him. Jane does not appear threatened by their neighbors, and Joe feels their marriage is in no danger. He is not excited about this fall's election season.

But Joe does feel threatened by this power plant business--his lungs aren't so good--so he likes it when Republicans go along with Newcomb/McCain's moratorium on new power plants, as they did in the House earlier this month and as they did on Monday in the Senate State Affairs Committee. He hopes when the Senate votes on the moratorium they say "yes." Joe begins to ponder the benefits of nuclear power, which seems pretty clean compared to coal power.

Finally, Joe wishes he had a friend like Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who gets to have jobs handed to him from the president of the United States. But he wonders what is going on in the Kempthorne household, when Mrs. Kempthorne doesn't seem eager to move with her husband to his new home in Washington, D.C. When Joe read last week that Patricia Kempthore asked to be considered for the job of lieutenant governor when her husband goes to Washington, he about coughed up his Corn Flakes. He hopes that if the president tapped him for a cool Washington job that Jane would at least go along with him.

For now, Joe has one hope: that the Statehouse could go back to being that pretty building on State Street, not the place that fusses so fundamentally with his life.

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