State Politics

These are some of the most powerful lawmakers in Idaho. Here are the committees they’ll lead

The dome inside of the Idaho Statehouse, looking up through the rotunda.
The dome inside of the Idaho Statehouse, looking up through the rotunda. Idaho Statesman file

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 chairmen and members.

Legislative District 15 update

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 Nov. 6 initial vote tally, Republican incumbent Sen. Fred Martin led his Democratic challenger, Jim Bratnober, by just six votes. Bratnober requested a recount. Ada County Elections completed the recount Wednesday. Its results showed Martin received 11 more votes than Bratnober.

With the District 15 race now decided, the 35-member 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. This session’s 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.

House, Senate leadership

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, Oakley, as House speaker and Rep. Mike Moyle, Star, as House majority leader. Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane and Majority Caucus chairman 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 Rep. Jason Monks, Nampa, to serve as assistant House majority leader, and Megan Blanksma, Hammett, to serve as majority caucus chairwoman.

House Democratic caucus members retained current leadership: Mat Erpelding, Boise, is minority leader; Ilana Rubel, Boise, is assistant minority leader; and Elaine Smith, Pocatello, is minority caucus chairwoman.

In the Senate, Republican and Democratic leadership also is unchanged.

Senate Republican leaders:

  • President Pro Tem Brent Hill, Rexburg
  • Majority Leader Chuck Winder, Boise
  • Assistant Majority Leader Steve Vick, Dalton Gardens
  • Caucus Chairman Kelly Anthon, Burley

Senate Democratic leaders:

  • Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, Ketchum
  • Minority Caucus Chairwoman Maryanne Jordan, Boise

Committee changes

The Senate has 10 legislative committees and the House has 14 committees. Republicans hold all committee chairman and vice-chairman positions in the upcoming session.

One of the most powerful committees — the budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee — has new leaders because co-chairwomen Sen. Shawn Keough and Rep. Maxine Bell both retired. Sen. Steve Bair, Blackfoot, and Rep. Rick Youngblood, Nampa, are new co-chairmen. Sen. Dan Johnson, Lewiston, and Rep. Wendy Horman, Idaho Falls, are new vice-chairs.

In the Senate, seven of 10 committees have new chairmen.

Key Senate chairmanship changes:

  • State Affairs: Patti Anne Lodge, Huston, leaves her Judiciary and Rules chairmanship to helm this influential committee.

  • Health and Welfare: Fred Martin, Boise, replaces, Lee Heider, Twin Falls, who now serves as chairman of Resources and Environment.

  • Judiciary and Rules: Nampa attorney Todd Lakey gets his first committee chairman assignment, succeeding Lodge.

  • Local Government and Taxation: Jim Rice, Caldwell, succeeds Dan Johnson, who now serves as co-chairman of JFAC.

There are changes aplenty in House committees, too, with eight of the 14 committees getting new chairmen.

New House chairmen include:

  • 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
  • Commerce: James Holtzclaw, Meridian

Lawmakers from Ada and Canyon counties hold 11 of the 27 House committee chairmen and vice-chairmen seats. In the Senate, they hold seven of 20 committee chairmen and vice-chairmen seats.

Mark your calendars

Gov.-elect Brad Little will be sworn in as Idaho’s 33rd governor at noon on Friday, Jan. 4, on the Capitol steps.

The new Legislature convenes noon on Monday, Jan. 7. At 1 p.m. the new governor will give his State of the State address.