I loved the Calvin comic strip. He and the tiger played Calvinball. There were no rules in Calvinball. The Idaho legislature must love Calvinball too. For the second year in a row they have not approved any rules.

The legislature passes laws (we hope with clear intent) and the details are left to administrative departments. The departments publish proposed rules, take public comment and often negotiate with the businesses or organizations that will be affected by the rules. The rules are then brought back to the legislature for review to make sure the rules reflect the legislative intent.

You may remember in the 2019 session no resolution was passed by the legislature to approve or reject the rules. That’s because the House and the Senate could not agree on how they should be doing this process. So newly elected Governor Little sent his departments to work and trimmed a lot of obsolete rules. They worked hard to make sweet lemonade from legislative sour lemons and sold it as such quite publicly. Good work; now do it again.

This session the legislature (at about $20K/ day) spent the first five weeks reviewing and not agreeing on the big pile of rules. And they adjourned AGAIN last week with no concurring resolution. We’re wasting our money paying these children.

Also remember, the legislature fought to get their review protected by the Idaho Constitution. They ran an amendment on the ballot in 2014; it failed. They brought it back in 2016 and with lots of Farm Bureau support, got voters to approve. It seems like they desperately wanted to protect their right to review, approve or reject administrative rules so bad they needed a Constitutional amendment to protect it. Now that they have the right protected by the Constitution, they don’t even bother to do the work. They are acting like Calvin.

Big deal you may say. The Idaho didn’t grind to a halt in 2019. All the rules were made new. And why do we need these silly rules anyway? Idaho does great playing Calvinball.

Consider the law that we all have to live by, even the legislature. They passed this law thirty years ago. It reads in part:

…no pending rule or portion thereof imposing a fee or charge of any kind shall become final and effective until it has been approved by concurrent resolution. Idaho Code 67-5224(5)(c)

Of all the rules review I did for weeks on end the first weeks of the legislature, fee rules were the ones I paid attention to the most. Most of the time when a law is passed, fees are directed to be charged for specific state services. A certified Death Certificate will cost you $16. (Admin Rule 16.02.08.251.01) I pay $200 every year to the Idaho Board of Medicine to renew my medical license, though the rule says they can charge “less than $600."

Rather than raise your taxes, if you want government to do some work for you, they charge a “user fee." Seems fair to me. Only, without a legislative resolution to adopt these fees on record, to quote the law: “no fee or charge of any kind shall become final and effective."

I think a lot of folks should be scratching their heads when they are asked to pony up for state fees. When I get my license renewal request from the Board of Medicine, I’ll be asking them “Why do I have to pay this?” The way I read the law, I don’t see how they have any authority to charge me a fee. But I appreciate that they are doing their job.

Don’t get me wrong, I kind of like when government does work for us. And I haven’t run into any specific fees that seemed onerous. Think of it though; vehicle registration fees, hunting and fishing tag fees, cattle brand registration fees; all of them are not “final and effective” because our legislators love playing “no rules” Calvinball. Some adult should send them to “time out.”

Dan Schmidt is a family physician who lives in Moscow. Dr. Schmidt, a Democrat, served in the Idaho state senate from 2010 to 2016.

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