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Reader Comment: Licensing sign language interpreters is the wrong way to go for Idaho

With nearly 23 percent of Idahoans required to get a government license before engaging in a profession, lawmakers should seek to ease the barriers on finding employment and starting a business. But Idaho threatens to add to the list of professions requiring a government permission slip.

House Bill 46 was recently filed in the Idaho House of Representatives. If enacted, sign language interpreters will be prohibited from working in Idaho unless they first obtain an occupational license from the state government. Governor Otter vetoed a similar bill back in 2015, and this year’s version has the same problems as the rejected bill.

Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing need qualified interpreters to assist them. But the new license scheme does not assure the qualifications of interpreters, and requiring would-be interpreters to seek a burdensome, unnecessary license violates their constitutional rights.

House Bill 46 fails to provide the public with any meaningful protection that cannot adequately be addressed through existing alternatives like voluntary certification. Instead, the proposed bill is merely red tape. That is, it functions as a tax on sign language interpreters and creates an unnecessary barrier to aspiring interpreters seeking a job. For example, under the proposed law, before being eligible for a license, sign language interpreters must show that they have passed an exam or obtained certification as an interpreter after completing a government-approved educational program.

But advocates for licensure have not come forward with evidence showing that these years of schooling and examination are necessary to protect public health or safety. Much less have they shown that a government stamp-of-approval via a license, rather than encouraging the public to seek out qualified interpreters who’ve voluntary obtained credentials, is necessary.

Furthermore, the fact that sign language interpreters can work without government permission in more than 30 states shows that licensure is heavy-handed and unnecessary to protect the public.

Rather than mandate that all sign language interpreters must obtain a government license, many states use programs to certify courtroom and medical interpreters. As a result, a path is created for ambitious professionals to demonstrate their credentials, without government controlling entry into the profession.

Instead of allowing sign language interpreters to differentiate themselves based on their individual experience and qualifications, and empowering consumers to choose whose services to engage (and whether they’re willing (or need) to pay a premium for a certified interpreter), House Bill 46 would monopolize the sign language interpreting profession for the benefit of the interpreters who have already obtained the highest credentials. As a result, those who need interpreting services will find fewer interpreters available, and the cost to engage the services of the interpreters who are available will go up. This kind of cronyism hardly helps individuals in need of interpreter services, and is unconstitutional.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to earn a living free of arbitrary government controls. While Idaho may regulate various professions, any limitations on the right to practice a trade must be rationally connected to the professional’s fitness or capacity to practice the trade. In the absence of evidence showing the public is at risk from the practice of unlicensed sign language interpreting, or that licensing really helps, it is irrational to prohibit all aspiring sign language interpreters without a license.

House Bill 46’s restriction on the ability to engage in expressive activity also implicates the First Amendment. When the government singles out a particular type of speech for regulation, it faces great scrutiny in the courts. Due to the problems mentioned above, it’s likely that this law goes too far. Idaho lawmakers would be wise to respect all Idahoans’ economic liberty and put an end to any attempt to unnecessarily infringe on their right to earn a living and to free speech.

Letter: Idaho dragging feet on climate change

On Feb. 9, the Idaho House Education Committee voted to exclude five critical paragraphs from the newly proposed science education standards for K-12.

An online article entitled "Science Standards: House Committee Deletes Climate Change Language" states "Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, pushed the committee to reject the climate change language, arguing that the standards did not teach 'both sides of the debate.'”

This is a classic red herring fallacy, a rhetorical strategy devised to lead the public to a false conclusion. In this case, that false conclusion is "there are two sides to the debate." In fact, there is no debate. Ninety-seven percent of the global climatology community find compelling evidence of human-induced climate change.

The earth and its non-human biotic organisms do not need human interaction to survive. They need to survive human interaction. The best we can do is make wise choices with the goal of minimizing our impact on the earth. This means aligning our social and political priorities to reflect a symbiotic relationship with the earth. We have not yet begun to do so in any meaningful way. Currently I see far more obstructionist behavior on the part of politicians than movement in a positive direction. Climate change, species extinction, forest loss, and pollution are not being mitigated at any where near the rate required to prevent an extinction level event. The earth has experienced five such events, and we are well on our way to the sixth. It will hold the unique and dubious honor of being caused by human activity. I see the House Education Committee's exclusion of any reference to climate change as a political impediment of grave significance.

We have known about climate change since 1988, and are still dragging our feet.

Jim Sylva


Krauthammer: Trump and the 'Madman Theory'

WASHINGTON — At the heart of Donald Trump’s foreign policy team lies a glaring contradiction. On the one hand, it is composed of men of experience, judgment and traditionalism. Meaning, they are all very much within the parameters of mainstream American internationalism as practiced since 1945. Practically every member of the team — the heads of State, Homeland Security, the CIA, and most especially Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster — could fit in a Cabinet put together by, say, Hillary Clinton.

The commander in chief, on the other hand, is quite the opposite — inexperienced, untraditional, unbounded. His pronouncements on everything from the “one China” policy to the two-state (Arab-Israeli) solution, from NATO obsolescence to the ravages of free trade, continue to confound and, as we say today, disrupt.

The obvious question is: Can this arrangement possibly work? The answer thus far, surprisingly, is: perhaps.

The sample size is tiny but take, for example, the German excursion. Trump dispatched his grown-ups — Vice President Pence, Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — to various international confabs in Germany to reassure allies with the usual pieties about America’s commitment to European security. They did drop a few hints to Trump’s loud complaints about allied parasitism, in particular shirking their share of the defense burden.

Within days, Germany announced a 20,000-man expansion of its military. Smaller European countries are likely to take note of the new setup. It’s classic good-cop, bad-cop: The secretaries represent foreign policy continuity but their boss preaches America First. Message: Shape up.

John Hannah of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies suggests that the push-pull effect might work on foes as well as friends. Last Saturday, China announced a cutoff of all coal imports from North Korea for the rest of 2017. Constituting more than one-third of all North Korean exports, this is a major blow to its economy.

True, part of the reason could be Chinese ire at the brazen assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, who had been under Chinese protection. Nonetheless, the boycott was declared just days after a provocative North Korean missile launch — and shortly into the term of a new American president who has shown that he can be erratic and quite disdainful of Chinese sensibilities.

His wavering on the “one China” policy took Beijing by surprise. Trump also strongly denounced Chinese expansion in the South China Sea and conducted an ostentatious love-in with Japan’s prime minister, something guaranteed to rankle the Chinese. Beijing’s boycott of Pyongyang is many things, among them a nod to Washington.

This suggests that the peculiar and discordant makeup of the U.S. national security team — traditionalist lieutenants, disruptive boss — might reproduce the old Nixonian “Madman Theory.” That’s when adversaries tread carefully because they suspect the U.S. president of being unpredictable, occasionally reckless and potentially crazy dangerous. Henry Kissinger, with Nixon’s collaboration, tried more than once to exploit this perception to pressure adversaries.

Trump’s people have already shown a delicate touch in dealing with his bouts of loopiness. Trump has gone on for years about how we should have taken Iraq’s oil for ourselves. Sunday in Baghdad, Mattis wryly backed off, telling his hosts that “All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I am sure we will continue to do so in the future.”

Yet sometimes an off-center comment can have its uses. Take Trump’s casual dismissal of a U.S. commitment to a two-state solution in the Middle East. The next day, U.S. policy was brought back in line by his own U.N. ambassador. But this diversion might prove salutary. It’s a message to the Palestinians that their decades of rejectionism may not continue to pay off with an inexorable march toward statehood — that there may actually be a price to pay for making no concessions and simply waiting for the U.S. to deliver them a Palestinian state.

To be sure, a two-track, two-policy, two-reality foreign policy is risky, unsettling and has the potential to go totally off the rails. This is not how you would draw it up in advance. It’s unstable and confusing. But the experience of the first month suggests that, with prudence and luck, it can yield the occasional benefit — that the combination of radical rhetoric and conventional policy may induce better behavior both in friend and foe.

Alas, there is also a worst-case scenario. It needs no elaboration.