This appeared in the Idaho Falls Post Register:
Perhaps you’re still on the fence as to whether Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, did anything wrong.
The background: Trujillo won’t say where she lived during the legislative session. Her full time home is in Idaho Falls, but her new husband, Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, lives less than 20 miles from the statehouse in Boise. Trujillo (and, by virtue of Idaho’s marital property laws, Moyle) took a $129/day per diem, meant to cover the costs of legislators’ food and lodging expenses if they live outside Ada County. Those whose homes are in Ada County get $49/day.
On Wednesday Bryan Clark reported House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said that because Trujillo’s primary residence is in Idaho Falls, technically she did nothing wrong.
The rules are set up by the Citizens Committee on Legislative Compensation. Bedke thinks they should handle it. Members of the committee say they have no authority to do anything except change the rule – in a year and a half, which is the next time they meet.
Let’s translate this into a little allegory: Say you leave your young child in the care of a part-time babysitter.
One day the babysitter, at your request, stops off at the grocery store to pick up a few items.
It’s just before lunch time. Your child asks the babysitter for a candy bar. But she has instructions to only spend money for the items on the list you gave her.
The babysitter explains, “We’ll eat soon and this money is for just the things on the list.” She pays for the items, loads the groceries and the child into the car and buckles up to head home.
But before the babysitter puts the car in reverse, she hears something. She turns around and sees the little boy unwrapping a candy bar in the backseat.
“Where did you get that?” she asks him in surprise.
He takes a bite of the candy bar. “I was hungry,” he says. “I wanted it. No one told me I couldn’t have it.”
“You should have known better! I told you the money we had was only for what was on the list.”
The child shrugs and finishes the candy bar.
“All gone,” he says, holding up his chocolate-covered fingers.
The babysitter shakes her head in frustration then picks up the phone to call you at work. She explains the situation: “We went shopping for groceries and I stuck to the list and the budget you gave me. Your son took a candy bar without paying. What should I do? You told me I’m not supposed to punish him.”
You ponder the situation. The babysitter never technically told your child he couldn’t have the candy bar. Then again, he should have known better. He took and ate a candy bar without paying for it. What now?
Do you, like Bedke, do nothing? Do you let your kid off the hook on a technicality?
Or do you punish him and point out that not every rule should have to be thoroughly explained? How many rules do each of us abide by without being told the ins and outs of every letter of every law?
Most of us have been on one side or the other of this situation – whether you were the young child caught stealing candy, or the parent dispensing wisdom and consequences.
We just don’t take things without permission, especially when it has a financial impact on others — whether that’s a grocery store or a state.
Time to gauge your moral compass: Was it right or wrong to take an extra $6,400 from the state when Trujillo could have (and may have) lived with her spouse and saved the cost of maintaining a second home during the session?
And who’s the grown up in charge here?