As legislators gear up, some have new roles
The incoming 65th Idaho Legislature gathered at the Capitol in Boise this week to take care of some chores before it officially convenes on Monday, Jan. 7.
Among its tasks: conduct new lawmaker training, select Senate and House leadership, and assign committee chairs and members.
One undecided legislative race, Boise’s District 15 Senate seat, was decided via recount just in time for the winner to partake the organizational meetings.
Following the initial vote tally, incumbent Republican Sen. Fred Martin led his Democratic challenger, Jim Bratnober, by just six votes. Bratnober requested a recount. Ada County Elections completed the recount Wednesday, and its results showed Martin received 11 more votes than Bratnober.
With the District 15 race now decided, the 35member Senate comprises 28 Republicans and seven Democrats. The 70-member House comprises 56 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Republicans hold 80 percent of the 105 seats in both chambers.
Additionally, nearly one-quarter of the Legislature will be new. The freshman group has 15 Republicans and six Democrats in the House and two Republicans and one Democrat in the Senate. Of the 24 new members, 17 are men and seven are women.
The new lawmakers completed a three-day training session earlier in the week.
Prior to the start of a new Legislature, members of the majority and minority parties select leaders within their respective chambers.
House Republican leadership is the only one with changes after two leadership members made unsuccessful bids to move up.
House Republican caucus members voted Wednesday night to retain Rep. Scott Bedke, of Oakley, as House speaker, and Rep. Mike Moyle, of Star, as House majority leader. Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane and Majority Caucus John Vander Woude, both of Nampa, were unsuccessful in challenging Bedke and Moyle, respectively.
To fill the positions vacated by Crane and Vander Woude, the GOP caucus members selected Nampa Rep. Jason Monks to serve as assistant House majority leader and Hammett Rep. Megan Blanksma to serve as majority caucus chairwoman.
House Democratic caucus members retained current leadership: Mat Erpelding, of Boise, is minority leader; Ilana Rubel, of Boise, is assistant minority leader; and Elaine Smith, of Idaho Falls, is minority caucus chair.
In the Senate, Republican and Democratic leadership also is unchanged. The Senate Republican leaders are President Pro Tem Brent Hill, Majority Leader Chuck Winder, Assistant Majority Leader Steve Vick and Caucus Chair Kelly Anthon. The Democrats feature Minority Leader Michelle Stennett and Minority Caucus Chair Maryanne Jordan.
The Senate has 10 committees and the House has 14 committees. Republicans hold all committee chair and vicechair positions.
One of the most powerful committees — the budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee — has new leaders because co-chairs Sen. Shawn Keough and Rep. Maxine Bell both retired. Sen. Steve Bair, of Blackfoot, and Rep. Rick Youngblood, of Nampa, are new co-chairs. Lewiston Sen. Dan Johnson and Idaho Falls Rep. Wendy Horman are new vice-chairs.
In the Senate, seven of 10 committees have new chairmen.
Key chair changes are: State Affairs: Patti Anne Lodge, of Huston, leaves her Judiciary and Rules chair to helm this influential committee.
Health and Welfare: Martin replaces Twin Falls’ Lee Heider, who now chairs Resources and Environment.
Judiciary and Rules: Nampa attorney Todd Lakey gets his first committee chair assignment, succeeding Lodge.
Local Government and Taxation: Jim Rice, of Caldwell, succeeds Dan Johnson, who now cochairs JFAC.
There were changes aplenty in House committees, too, with eight of the 14 getting new chairmen. Those are: State Affairs, Steve Harris, Meridian; Education, Lance Clow, Twin Falls; Judiciary, Rules and Administration, Tom Dayley, Boise; Energy, Environment and Technology, John Vander Woude, Nampa; Local Government, Ron Mendive, Coeur D’Alene; Business, Sage Dixon, Ponderay; and Commerce, James Holtzclaw, Meridian.
Lawmakers from Ada and Canyon counties hold 11 of the 27 House committee chair and vicechair seats. In the Senate, they hold seven of 20 committee chair and vice-chair seats.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
Gov.-elect Brad Little will be sworn in as Idaho’s 33rd governor at noon, Friday, Jan. 4, on the Capitol steps.
The new Legislature convenes at noon on Monday, Jan. 7. At 1 p.m. the new governor will give his State of the State address.