Well we survived another year with the next one just getting started. While it's hard to believe that 2015 had come and gone so fast, I'm thinking this next year is going to seemingly drag on forever.
I attribute part of that assessment on the fact we're going to spend the next 10 months embroiled in a presidential election that actually began early *last* year. It's because of this that I really wish we had a law in place that prohibited anyone from announcing their plan to run for president until the year of the actual election.
After all the political fatigue we've seen so far, I think most Americans could use a break.
What's really going to cause the new year to drag on is the fact that lawmakers on Capitol Hill and at the state capitol in Boise are getting ready to convene once again. Judging by the amount of collateral damage our legislature nearly caused during their last session, I'm cringing at what's in store this time around.
Consider the following. Last January, concerned citizens testified before a House panel urging our lawmakers to add a couple of words to the state constitution -- just four as a matter of fact. The goal was to add better protections for state residents when it comes to discrimination.
Despite all the hours of testimony, the House panel almost immediately shot down the proposal. They seemingly sent Idaho back at least 30 or 40 years -- a time when discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation was socially accepted.
For some reason, the lawmakers couldn't seem to get it through their heads that discrimination -- regardless of a person's race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or disability -- was inherently wrong. And in typical fashion, the legislature voted against the bill in what as clearly along party lines.
Several weeks later, our lawmakers struck again during a political soap opera that nearly cost the state $46 million in federal funds. Let's not forget this is from the same group of people trying to convince us that they are very careful in how they spend our tax dollars.
That issue surfaced after Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll stated that an international treaty that would make it easier for single parents worldwide to collect child-support payments would somehow allow Islamic law to influence American courts. The bad part is that our state senators took her at her word without doing any research on their own.
What ended up happening is our governor called our lawmakers back to Boise -- again -- to pass a measure that should've been approved before they went into recess.
This isn't the first time they've tried this type of stunt. I still remember the mess they caused over the Real ID Act regarding state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards. Somehow, they thought that the state didn't need to comply with federal law but Idaho residents would still be allowed to use them to board commercial aircraft or gain access to federal installations.
Right now, the state is working off borrowed time on that one issue, which is eventually going to run out. In the end, it'll be you and I -- the taxpayers of this state -- that will end up paying the price if this problem isn't resolved once and for all.
Now in the matter of fairness, our lawmakers did make some progress early last year, which included a plan to boost the state's public education budget by 7.4 percent. They also focused needed attention on the broadband issue in our schools -- a problem that should never have happened in the first place.
They also put some money toward fixing the state's highways, bridges and other infrastructure, which was something they needed to address nearly six years ago. However, the $95 million they somehow managed to scrape together at the last minute barely made a dent in the $262 million that was actually needed.
Instead of dealing with these problems and finding ways to remedy these and so many other concerns, our lawmakers spent an awful lot of time and effort on pet projects that won't help the state in the long run.
They worried so much about teenagers using tanning beds but shot down plans to approve the use marijuana extract oils for medical purposes. They also spent a whole lot of time battling the issue of "instant racing machines" at horse race tracks.
Oh, and I almost forgot to include that Idaho now has an official state amphibian -- the Giant Salamander. I'm sorry, but why did a lizard take the front seat over all the major issues affecting the state?
I have to emphasize that all of this is just at the state level. I'm cringing at what Congress will want to tackle when their session begins.
While this is only a guess, it's a safe bet Republicans will focus all of their time and energy working to sabotage everything the Obama Administration has put in place such as healthcare reform or his ability to issue executive orders. The Democrats will use all of their energy pushing for tighter gun laws or combating the evils of climate change.
What they need to address is one of the biggest "time bombs" ticking away on Capitol Hill -- the federal budget. For now, a deal is in place to keep the federal government running for several more months.
Based on how long it took to reach that deal, I'm genuinely worried that the budget will remain on the back burner until the very last minute before someone throws together something that will probably equate to kicking the problem down the road a few more months.
These next couple of months should be fascinating as people in this state and others across American are once again subjected to the spectacle known as "political theater." And all of us will have a front-row seat once the curtain rises.
The popcorn and sodas are extra.
-- Brian S. Orban