During Capitol renovation, lawmakers will convene in the old Ada courthouse

Idaho StatesmanApril 3, 2007 

The Idaho Legislature will have different digs next year while workers renovate and expand the Capitol, and lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters are wondering what the new surroundings will bring.

When asked about her goals for next session, Boise Democratic Sen. Kate Kelly said she was mainly hoping for civility in a cramped situation.

"I hope to be able to maintain my manners — and, of course, good hygiene — as I share a few months of very close quarters with my legislative colleagues," she said.

All 105 lawmakers, dozens of legislative staffers and hundreds of lobbyists, news media and other hangers-on will leave the marbled halls of the Statehouse for at least the next two legislative sessions.

Gov. Butch Otter, who will move to the old Borah Post Office, 750 W. Bannock St., has been worried the project will end up costing more than planned, but he's excited to fix up the Statehouse he's been in and around for decades.

"I'm ready to get out of here so they can get to polishing this place," Otter said.

As workers restore the woodwork and scagliola (that's the fake marble on many Statehouse columns) in the Capitol, the Legislature will work in the old Ada County Courthouse — a behemoth of an Art Deco building with lots of, um, character and few of the amenities of a modern building.

Lawmakers will have to adjust to fewer toilets. Lobbyists and reporters could lose easy access to legislative desks and offices. There will be no galleries, so the public simply won't get to watch the House or Senate floor except through Idaho Public Television images broadcast to nearby rooms on big TVs.

The state's project manager, Joe Rutledge, walked a few Statesman journalists through the building last week. While some office spaces are ready to take Statehouse transplants, the rooms that will hold the House and Senate chambers are still stripped to the bones and covered with dust.

Meanwhile, lawmakers and staffers are coming to terms with leaving the building they've occupied for years — sometimes for decades.

"When I first came in this place in 1977 and sat in this chair, it was a thrill," Boise GOP Sen. John Andreason told the Senate as the Legislature was adjourning Friday evening.

That's been true every time since, he said.

"I'm going to miss this place," Andreason said. "I know they're going to renovate this place and make it better, but I hope they don't change it too much."

To offer story ideas or comments, contact reporter Gregory Hahn at ghahn@idahostatesman.com or 377-6425.

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