State Report ID 2: A Free State for Idaho
A Free State for Idaho: A Second Report from Idaho
by Hari HeathIdaho is under consideration to become the Free State. Why should Idaho become the Free State? Under various criteria established by the FSP, Idaho falls somewhere near the middle to the front of the pack. Idaho has more diverse opportunities than most of the other states in contention. Idaho has a moderate climate, a pre-existing "liberty" culture, varied geography and economic opportunities, and a quality of life that can be enjoyed across the spectrum, from remote wilderness settings to modern, urban environments.
Idaho, especially once you step out of the Boise beltway (where the current socialists in office "work" and play), is one of America's few remaining liberty cultures. Those who have been here a generation or more are likely to have come from that independent pioneer or native stock.
Recent migrations have seen many move to Idaho who wanted to get away from the more "developed" states. Some have blended into Idaho culture and some have brought their former lifestyles with them. Idaho now has a mix of comfortable living in urban/suburban settings and rural lifestyle opportunities.
Idaho PoliticsPolitically, Republicans have dominated Idaho for years. There are many reasons for this. Generally, Idaho is an independent, conservative, and individualistic society. Traditionally north Idaho is the main refuge for Democrats. Those Democrats, however, often tend to behave like Republicans. On the other hand, many "Democrats" joined the Republican Party some time ago so they could get elected. So some of our Republicans tend to behave like Democrats.
The Libertarians of Northern Idaho fielded more candidates this year than the Democrats did. Given the weak standing of the nearly DOA Democratic Party, it would not take a monumental effort for the Libertarians to become the second most powerful party. That would provide the opportunity to inject Libertarian issues into the Idaho political debate.
Most Idahoans are unfamiliar with the Libertarian platform. There are a lot of Libertarians in Idaho that just don't know it yet. The Constitution Party has also made a good showing this year, with potential for improvement.
If the FSP moves to Idaho, a "Liberty Party" or coalition of Libertarians, Constitution Party members, and free-thinking Republicans could be put together to develop some in-state political clout and challenge Idaho's Republican guard.
Twenty-thousand liberty activists could go a long way in Idaho. There aren't 20,000 republican and democratic activists in Idaho now. Idaho uses the caucus system. In some of the less populated counties, it would not be inconceivable for 10 or 20 "activists" to show up at either the Republican or Democratic caucus, take it over, run their own candidates, and knock incumbents and conventional candidates down to write-in status.
An unintended result of so many activists moving to a state with a liberty agenda would be the eventual exodus of dyed-in-the wool socialists. Those who want to get their good life from the taxes of others will have to move to greener pastures once the "bennies" dry up.
The wheels of socialism have been turning in Idaho like anywhere else in modern America. There will be resistance from the "there-oughta-be-a-law" politicians currently in power. And the hordes of agency employees will not go away with out a fight.
Local GovernmentIdaho's 44 counties use a three-Commissioner system for their management. Obtaining two of those seats by Porcupine-inclined activists would give broad control of county government. Commissioners, in addition to being the executive head of the county, have the power to pass or repeal ordinances. They also have limited judicial powers to hold hearings and determine certain issues. A modicum of effort could establish a "free county." This could become the base of operation for the establishment of a "Free State."
The Idaho legislature and people passed a constitutional Amendment a few years back allowing for optional forms of county government. The intent was to promote more socialistic forms of county government, but it also opens the door to "optional forms of county government," giving Porcupines some room for creative governance.
Citizen Initiatives and ReferendumsIdaho has one of the best opportunities in the nation for direct citizen legislation. As a constitutionally-enshrined right, the people can make laws through the initiative process, or repeal legislation with a referendum. With one of the longest signature gathering periods in the country and reasonable initiative and referendum process requirements, Porcupines will be able to create a Free State "by first reforming state law."
The Idaho Constitution can be amended after a proposed amendment is passed by a super majority of both the Senate and the House, and then ratified by a simple majority vote of the people. A Porcupine legislature, with the consent of the people, could add liberty teeth to our state Constitution.
One Initiative is currently in process, that, if passed, will definitely help ensure Idaho's free state. The Idaho Judicial Accountability Act of 2004 will create a citizens commission to hear complaints of judicial misconduct and hold judicial officers accountable to the laws and Constitution. Once the judiciary is bound to obey the law, the legislative and executive branches will be compelled to follow.
GunsGuns are a traditional component of Idaho culture. Gun stores, gun shows, and shooting ranges, informal and organized, are common in Idaho. Concealed carry permits are easy to get, as long as you provide fingerprints and pass a federal background check. Only convicted felons, drug addicts, and those declared mentally infirm can be denied a concealed carry permit in Idaho. Permit holders are exempt from the federal waiting period and background checks for gun purchases. State law allows concealed carry without a permit when you are not in a vehicle or an incorporated town. The state Constitution prohibits restrictive local gun laws and any firearms registration scheme.
As reasonable as they currently are, Idaho's gun laws could be improved. An unlicensed concealed carry law could be passed by a Porcupine legislature and replace the current concealed weapons license. An Idaho "Free State" could challenge the unconstitutional National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. These and other federal disarmament laws could be repealed, at least within the "autonomous" borders of a free Idaho.
A Free State MilitiaIdaho's Constitution already provides for a state militia. A Porcupine legislature could fulfill its constitutional duties to "enroll, equip and discipline" every able-bodied male between 18 and 45 to ensure Idaho's sovereign autonomy.
Federal EquationsThe amount of federal land ownership in a state is being considered by the FSP for both positive and negative factors. "More federal land ownership might mean an excuse for federal meddling in the state, but it could also mean a legitimate grievance for the state's citizens."
Federal dependence, particularly whether a state receives more or less federal funding than it pays in federal taxes, is also factor being given consideration. States that get more federal handouts than they pay for are likely to be harder to wean from federal socialism. Idaho is in the middle of the pack of the FSP contenders on this issue.
The federal government claims to "own" two-thirds of Idaho under the presumptive administrative authority of The Forest Service and the BLM. There are considerable grounds for Idaho citizens to have a legitimate grievance. Especially when history, the current lethargic federal management schemes, and the constitutional facts of life are considered. The federal Constitution prohibits the federal government from owning any lands within a state except for certain military purposes and other needful buildings, and then, only after being purchased with the consent of the state legislature. The Idaho Constitution conveyed all property of the Idaho territory to the new state upon admission to the union. The Congress accepted, ratified, and confirmed the state Constitution in the Idaho Admission Act. But unconstitutional Presidential Proclamations usurped much of the Idaho public lands soon after it became a state (see The Big Lie) Two-thirds of Idaho is currently "administered" by a federal government which has no lawful authority to do so and is therefore prohibited by the Tenth Amendment from owning "public" forest and range lands.
Why doesn't Idaho resume management of the public lands fraudulently held by the federal government? Because the current political powers in Idaho don't want to rock the boat and risk losing their federal handouts. What would be the result if Free State activists assumed a majority position in state government and chose to give up all the federal handouts (which they plan to do anyway) and reassumed ownership of the two-thirds of Idaho that was unconstitutionally "taken"? Vast public resources, the size of any eastern state, could be managed by those most able to do so the people who live here. Forestlands, mineral properties, rangelands, recreational resources, and even wilderness can be managed under the Idaho state motto esto perpetua.
ResourcesOne criteria that appears to be missing from the FSP's evaluation of the states is resources. Especially natural ones. How can a state be independent and self reliant without the means to do so? The resource oversight is understandable, considering many of the FSP's founders are from the more urban eastern states, where resources are more likely to be acquired in commerce than by development.
The relative qualities and quantities of each prospective state's resources appears to have escaped the FSP's consideration. Western states typically have a much greater quantity and diversity of resources than the eastern states, and have populations of people who know what to do with them.
Sometimes known as the gem state, Idaho has abundant gems, precious and industrial metals, and minerals. Mining was one of the first post-European settlement activities.
Agriculture is common throughout Idaho and is a major component of the Idaho economy. Productive land is an important resource for any self-reliant Porcupine.
Idaho has supplied a wide variety of forest products for well over a century. We also have wilderness areas (nearly the size of New Hampshire) and other forestlands. With 20,000 activists to help wean us from federal handouts and work to reassume ownership of Idaho's federally occupied public lands, prospects could be good for Free State Idahoans. An accountable state government and the teeth of our current State Constitution's corporations article, could provide excellent management of our public lands while preventing some of the past corporate abuses of Idaho's resources.
Recreation has become a dominant industry in many areas. White-water rafting, skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, boating, and hiking are now major parts of the Idaho economy and common Idaho pastimes.
Native Peoples and the FSPMany of Idaho's native peoples have established tribal gaming enterprises over the last decade or so. The proceeds enhance their tribal interests and provide additional revenue for schools and other infrastructures. With gaming enterprises, tribal economies have improved significantly.
On the one hand, Idaho's tribal members come from some very independent and self-reliant stock. Freedom is an inherent native tradition. On the other hand, more than a century of federally imposed administrative tribal governments, coupled with abundant socialistic hand out programs have weakened many tribal member's liberty spirit. Idaho native populations might be naturally inclined to support the principles of the FSP, once they are shown a model other than socialism to follow.
Alternative SchoolingHome schooling is common in Idaho with some reasonable cooperation between public schools and home schoolers on extra-curricular activities. Many home schoolers teach their children completely without government involvement. Children between the ages of 7 and 15 are required to attend some form of schooling. The statutory requirement only specifies that they be "otherwise comparably instructed." There is no state-required testing, teacher qualifications, or obligation to divulge the nature of the home school program. Home schoolers do not have to inform the school district that they are home schooling, and case law has established the burden of proof is upon the district to prove that any home schooling does not meet the statutory requirements.
Charter schools began a few years ago in Idaho, in what is essentially a state-funded, private school program. Time will tell how long "private" charter schools can remain on public funds. They do, however, tend to provide more bang for the buck or less bucks giving public schools much needed competition.
VaccinesLike other states, Idaho has an active vaccination program. While most of the public literature portrays vaccinations as mandatory for school age and under children, it is a voluntary program. Exemption from the otherwise "required" vaccination of public and private school children is possible when a signed statement is filed, stating life or health endangering circumstances, religious or other objections.
Climate and GeographyIdaho has a wide variety of climates, terrain, and regions.
Central Idaho is largely a rugged mountain country that separates the other regions of Idaho. A two-lane highway passes through its western side, connecting northern and southern Idaho. At its core is a vast wilderness that is largely unroaded because of the terrain. Several major rivers have carved the deep canyons of Central Idaho where mostly small towns and rural settings are predominate. Climate varies with the elevation, from the high country covered with snow until July, to river bottoms and canyons that provide a "banana belt" and good gardening opportunities.
Northern Idaho is a mix of mountains, valleys, and prairies. Warm summers and moderate winters are common at the lower elevations. Climate is influenced more often by coastal weather than the central prairies. Couer d'Alene is the major city in North Idaho, which is dotted with many medium to smaller towns.
Southern Idaho contains the majority of Idaho's population and its political, economic, and industrial base. The Treasure Valley around the greater Boise area has a climate with hot summers and moderate winters. Urban and suburban development along the Snake River is surrounded by active agricultural production.
Eastern Idaho is a mix of high desert, mountains, and agriculturally developed prairies. Several eastern cities provide urban living opportunities, with many medium to small communities scattered across the mostly open terrain.
Idaho provides a vast array of rural living opportunities. High mountains, river valleys and canyons, the southern and eastern desert areas, the prairies and plains, offer many diverse choices for rurally inclined "Porcupines."
Economic OpportunitiesIdaho ranks number one on both the FSP's projected jobs-growth analysis, and their economic freedom index. Contrary to the FSP's listing, Idaho does have a port in Lewiston. Although not a deep-water port for the larger ocean going vessels, many commercial products are barged up and down the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Rail service is available throughout Idaho. Idaho shares a short border with Canada and has two ports of entry.
Many businesses have relocated to Idaho because of lower taxes and less regulations when compared to other states. With some Porcupine influence, Idaho could improve this trend and become a gleaming example of a broad-based free-market economy.
Land-Use, Regulations, Building Codes and FederalismIdaho is straddling the fence when it comes to land-use regulations and building codes. The forces of socialism and federalism have imposed active land-use strategies and construction requirements in most urban and suburban areas. The extent of the regulatory controls depends on how developed the area is. All counties have some form of building code on the books, but many, especially the rural counties, have lax enforcement of the code. Generally the farther you get from pavement the less regulation there is.
On the one hand, the wheels of social control have been turning in Idaho; on the other hand, socialism's wheels seem to be stuck in the ditch. For example, no contractor's license is required to build houses commercially, but you are required to get a landscapers license to plant shrubbery or install a lawn sprinkler system on the same house.
Many of the rural counties had building codes forced on them by FEMA, through federal flood insurance requirements. Similar federal back-door mandates are establishing citizen-tracking systems under the guise that emergency responders need a rural location identification system. The RIN or Rural Identification Number has been imposed on most rural Idahoans and is also conveniently useful for the construction of databases for citizen tracking and property mapping.
There are many other land-use and regulatory issues on the table that could be positively resolved by a herd of Porcupines. Road closures on public lands, "endangered" predator re-introduction, superfund sites, and environmental regulations are among the issues being imposed on Idaho by the federal government.
The Constitutional Defense CouncilThe Idaho Legislature has already paved the way for the Free State's plan to "finally negotiate directly with the federal government for appropriate political autonomy."
Under statute (Idaho Code 67-6301), the Constitutional Defense Council, which consists of the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and the Attorney General exists for the purpose of "restoring, maintaining and advancing the sovereignty and authority over issues that affect this state and the well-being of its citizens." Meetings of the council may be called by any member of the council, and may examine and challenge by legal action, legislation, or any other legal means: Federal mandates; Court rulings; The authority granted to, or assumed by, the federal government; Laws, regulations and practices of the federal government; And any other activity that is deemed appropriate by the council. The council may hire legal counsel and may utilize staff and resources within state government for these purposes.
Once enough Porcupines assume a majority of the offices which make up the Constitutional Defense Council, Idaho can begin to rein in the federal government.
The Case for IdahoConsider the alternatives. If you're going to live somewhere, climate is important. It's easy to theorize about the relative importance of climate from an office in Florida or a house in California, but how many FSP Porcupines realistically want to hole up in Wyoming or the Dakotas for a high-plains winter? How many would be able to brave a harsh Alaskan winter and still be there in the spring? FSP meetings may not be well attended come February, when the gas lines in your car are frozen and the motor oil is thicker than grease.
If you want to attract a following it needs to be attractive for the long haul. A free state is not a one-year project. A cool but not too-cold Idaho canyon like the Clearwater, the Snake, or the Salmon might be more preferable in January than say, Bismarck ND.
And just what is the natural resource base of say, New Hampshire? How do free-staters plan to build a free-market export economy? Maple Syrup and hardwood flooring? Idaho already has diverse and productive natural resources in greater quantity than all the eastern state candidates combined. It also has the best economic prognosis according to the FSP's data.
The federal Constitution only authorizes federal ownership of lands within a state for four specific types of military purposes and other needful buildings. Once this fact becomes more widely known, and the federal usurpation of two-thirds of Idaho is properly challenged by 20,000 Porcupines (and a few more locals), we can "finally negotiate directly with the federal government for appropriate political autonomy." That's a lot of Idaho to build a free state with.
The political climate of Idaho is ripe for positive change. The republican majority in the legislature has upset much of the electorate by repealing a thrice-passed term limits law. The democrats are nearly DOA, and have been for years. The libertarians have made record progress and the Constitution Party is alive and well. That doesn't mean there aren't also a lot of lawyers, lobbyists, and socialists eager to maintain business as usual.
Let's get real. How many liberty-loving westerners would actually cross the Mississippi River to live? Easterners may like it there, but I don't think many westerners could call it home even if we were the government. I've never been there, but I'll bet "rural" Vermont looks a lot more like "suburban" Idaho with deciduous trees. Size matters. And population density too.
Easterners and westerners are two different breeds of people. Are there only 20,000 liberty-oriented activists left in America? Eastern Porcupines would certainly be welcome out west, but what about a free state east and a free state west? We could alternate our annual free state convention and compare notes.
In all fairness there are a lot of good things that can be said about Montana as a choice for the FSP. Wyoming? Maybe. But Idaho, formerly known as the gem state, would make a great free state. I like it already: Idaho, "The Free State."