By David Adler
Those who attended the recent Idaho Falls City Club luncheon program, which featured Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, were treated to an exercise in governmental accountability.
Sen. Davis’ talents and virtues – an impressive intellect, broad learning, common sense and savvy political and legislative skills – render him a pillar of strength for the Idaho Senate. During his City Club presentation, Sen. Davis demonstrated anew his commitment to defending his views, votes and actions, the prerequisite of elected officials.
Davis did not shrink from his duty to field – and answer – tough, persistent questions on some of the most pressing and controversial issues confronting Idaho.
He was candid, transparent and non-partisan. Davis said that, his view, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter had not, within the parameters of Idaho law, vetoed Senate Bill 1011, which repealed off-track betting on horse races. He said that Secretary of State Lawerence Denny, a fellow Republican, must “do his job” and certify that SB 1011 is “the law.”
Davis was forthright in his criticism of House votes cast to defeat Senate Bill 1067, a head-scratching decision that plunged Idaho, once more, into the realm of fodder for late night comedians, subjected it to ridicule by national editorial writers, and forced Otter to call an expensive special session – roughly the annual salary of a public school teacher – to bring the Gem State into compliance with federal law on matters of child support collection.
The problem of governmental accountability, an old and enduring theme of American history, represented the great challenge of the founding period, and it remains the most pressing issue in our time.
The American political system is laden with mechanisms to maintain governmental accountability: open meeting laws, legislative hearings and investigations, recorded votes, the publication of legislative journals that reflect the discussions and debates of legislators, publication of laws and ordinances enacted by governing bodies at every level, impeachment inquiries and press conferences.
The effectiveness of those mechanisms, however, depends on the good will, character, civic spirit and, frankly, the conscience of men and women at the helm.
Sen. Davis doesn’t deserve an award for taking questions at the City Club, for that is the duty of elected officials, but he might have tried to avoid questions that pressed him on matters that involved the highest elected officials in the state, who happen to be members of his own party.
But he didn’t. He showed up.
Sen. Davis’s answers and explanations, as always, have proved useful to the ongoing dialogue and debate on some of the challenges confronting Idaho. His power, position and stature will place him at the forefront of discussion and decision making as long as he remains in the legislature.
Great issues and challenges promise to keep him a busy man.