Are GOP lawmakers pandering as the campaign trail looms?

Are GOP lawmakers pandering as the campaign trail looms? »Play Video
BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- State lawmakers are plowing through a sea of bills, hoping to keep on course for an early March 21st end of session.

But some among them -- known as Democrats -- say the Republican-dominated legislature is intentionally steering clear of substantial issues.

"My biggest disappointment is the failure to address some of the big issues Idaho has," says House Minority Leader John Rusche, a Lewiston Democrat. "Medicaid, probably first and foremost -- the failure to provide insurance coverage to 85,000 people in the gap."

Critics say with a primary election in May, GOP legislators are embracing pro-gun, pro-agriculture, anti-wolf issues sure to warm the heart of a specific constituency.

"They're pandering for a pretty clear reason," said Boise State University political science professor John Freemuth. "Because they're such a one-party state, they're worried about runs from their right flank."

"I'm not one to give somebody else's motives," said Rusche, "but I think that's a strong part of what's going on here."

And while Lt. Gov. Brad Little, an Emmett Republican, concedes lawmakers are eager to start campaigning, he doesn't think Republicans are playing politics.

In fact, Little says the legislature is dealing with the biggest issue in the state -- Idaho's public schools.

"That was the biggest issue from the get go." he said. "The governor talked about it, the legislature's talked about it. Now it's being implemented with through the appropriations process."

And he believes the "going-home bill" will be the public education appropriations bill.

But nobody's going home...yet.