State Politics

Idaho lawmaker says he met with GOP resistance when he tried to honor Andrus

State Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, center, with former Idaho governors Phil Batt, left, and Cecil Andrus, right, at the Idaho Statehouse.
State Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, center, with former Idaho governors Phil Batt, left, and Cecil Andrus, right, at the Idaho Statehouse.

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch isn’t the only taking jabs at former Gov. Cecil Andrus’ legacy.

In a more subtle move, some members of the Idaho Legislature allegedly took umbrage with a Democratic lawmaker’s attempt to pass a resolution supporting Simpson’s efforts to honor Andrus for his work in protecting Idaho’s natural resources.

The House Resources and Conservation Committee in early February agreed to hold a hearing on the resolution proposed by House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, a Boise Democrat who was friends with Andrus and considered him a mentor.

The simple resolution (HCR 42) stated: “(W) support the efforts of United States Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho to redesignate the White Clouds Wilderness in the Sawtooth and Challis National Forests in the State of Idaho as the Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness in honor of former Idaho Governor and Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus. ... we honor and recognize Cecil D. Andrus for his work in protecting Idaho's natural resources.”

Community Engagement Editor Bill Manny and Environmental Reporter Rocky Barker sit down to discuss why Sen. Jim Risch stalled the spending bill on Thursday, March 22.

But Erpelding said when he got wind of what some GOP members of the committee were going to do, he pulled it.

“Several members of the committee were going to make a fool of me by voting to kill it and generate press coverage,” Erpelding told the Statesman on Friday. “Rather than risk a partisan snipe on Andrus’s name, I pulled the bill.”

Erpelding would not say which members were going to vote against the bill. The committee comprises 15 Republicans and three Democrats.

Erpelding had stayed quiet about why he pulled the bill until he learned of Risch’s objections to one of the provisions in the massive spending bill renaming a wilderness preserve for Cecil Andrus. Risch threatened to keep the chamber from voting on the bill.

“I am deeply disappointed in Senator Risch’s behavior (Thursday) night,” Erpelding said. “It should give Senator McConnell pause, and he should not be appointed the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.”

“At the same time, this is frosting on a political record that has left Idaho’s educational system wrecked and our teachers underpaid. Governor Andrus was a fighter for our public education system and improved outcomes during his four terms. In Risch’s half term as governor, he blew the funding model up and landed us at the back of the pack,” Erpelding said.

“My hat’s off to Congressman Simpson, who like Governor Andrus, is a true statesman and a real leader for Idaho,” Erpelding said.

Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus and the Idaho Conservation League's Rick Johnson speak in January 2015 about how to protect the Boulder-White Clouds in Central Idaho. Congress later made the region a wilderness area.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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