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With the start of the 2019 legislative session in Idaho and the continual turmoil in Washington, there is an overload of fodder for political commentary. Here are some brief comments on several of the issues swirling around the political sphere.

Governor Brad Little, has declared public education his “number one priority.” Among other things, he wants about $60 million in additional funding for teachers’ salaries. That is a good step in the right direction, but it did not take long for critics to come forward.

NNU professor Peter Crabb wrote an opinion piece asserting that the governor’s plan to increase school spending might not pay off. The professor opined that instead of increasing teacher pay, the Governor would get better results by freeing up teachers to employ innovative teaching methods.

The problem is that teachers are leaving Idaho in droves to teach in surrounding states where the pay is better: 15 percent leave after one year of teaching, and 30 percent of teachers certified in Idaho do not teach here. Teachers can’t innovate in Idaho if they have flown the coop to where they are more valued. We should not only pay them more, but show them in other ways that they are valued and respected for the important service they provide.

Our new governor has acknowledged climate change and appears to be open to extending protection against discrimination to the gay community. He seems to have an independent streak and an open mind.

Speaking of elected officials with integrity, Congressman Mike Simpson was one of ten Republican House members to vote on January 23 to reopen the government. That vote helped to break the deadlock that was convulsing our country. The rest of our delegation just sat on their hands like tame little minions. Our Senators voiced support for legislation to avoid future shutdowns but did not bother to deal with the one causing immediate havoc.

After the government agencies reopened on Jan. 28, the president expressed regret for the great hardships that the 800,000 government employees had suffered for the sake of his dream of a border wall. Then, he indicated he might do a shutdown replay if he did not get wall money in the next three weeks. It apparently worked so well the first time that a sequel is in the offing.

Mike Simpson also deserves plaudits for opposing the lifting of sanctions against companies controlled by Oleg Deripaska, one of Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic Russian pals. Deripaska is certainly no friend of the U.S. The House voted overwhelmingly (362-53, including 136 Republicans) against the President’s plan to lift the sanctions. The rest of our delegation voted in favor of Deripaska, resulting in a multi-million-dollar windfall for the oligarch. News reports issued after Deripaska’s victory indicate the Senate was flimflammed into thinking the kleptocrat would not benefit from the lifting of sanctions against his companies.

On Jan. 22, Simpson voted to support our continued relationship with our NATO allies. That relationship has been the cornerstone of our national security for the last 70 years, but the president has been toying with the idea of bailing out. The 357-22 House vote was designed to inform Trump that America stands with NATO. Unfortunately, Russ Fulcher voted the other way. I hope someone clues him in on the importance of our NATO partnership.

Mike is not perfect, but who among us is? Some of his votes have caused my hair to stand on end, but he is the most thoughtful, reasonable and courageous member of the delegation. When it comes to Idaho issues, like protecting the White Clouds, he has been a steady leader. I don’t regret endorsing him when he first ran for the State Legislature in 1984.

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Jim Jones is an Eden native and former attorney general. His past columns can be found at JJCommonTater.com.

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