Two weeks into the session, power struggles are the story of the 2023 Idaho Legislature.
House Speaker Mike Moyle (R-Star) is consolidating power for the House of Representatives and his party (which already controls 86% of the House). He already limited the number of Democratic seats on the powerful Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC). He’s also trying to change the way that JFAC votes, splitting up the votes between the House and Senate members, instead of requiring a simple majority as it’s always been.
Speaker Moyle isn’t the only one playing the power game, as the Idaho GOP voted at their annual meeting to restrict the ability of independent voters to switch their affiliation to vote in the Republican Primary. The results of that rule change is anything but clear, as the Idaho Capital Sun pointed out in their recent story on the topic.
This week is Education Week at the statehouse, with JFAC hearing from all of the state’s universities and colleges, along with newly-elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield. Along with Sec. of State Phil McGrane, and Atty General Raul Labrador, Superintendent Critchfield will be serving on the Land Board, which directs the Idaho Department of Lands and Idaho’s public endowment lands. They’re skipping their regular January meeting for additional new member orientation and will have their first meeting as a new Land Board scheduled for February 21.
Back to the power game in the House Judiciary, Rules, and Administration Committee…
Blocking citizen testimony
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) also flexed his power this week. I noticed on the agenda for the committee, that “You must be 18 years old to testify.” Neither I, nor other lobbyists had ever heard of such a prohibition. I thought maybe it was due to the subject matter (child custody and sex trafficking), but it appears it’s going to be a standing rule in his committee for the year. When I inquired with the House Clerk, she informed me that the committee has broad discretion over when, and from whom, they receive testimony (See House Rule 26)… Minors can get married, have a baby, earn a living, pay taxes, testify in court, drive a vehicle, own a gun, serve jail time, or join the military…but you can’t testify in Rep. Skaug’s committee. Seems like others might have something to say about this discrimination against an entire class of people (#ACLU)?
Great #IDLeg Reception! What’s next?
Thanks to everyone who joined us for the annual Idaho Conservation League & Conservation Voters for Idaho Legislative Reception! We packed the room and had a great turnout with legislators from both parties and across the state, staff and leaders from agencies, congressional offices, partner groups, and members of both CVI and ICL from across the state. We were happy to see all five corners of the state represented! We celebrated the fact that this year represents the 50th legislative session for ICL!
In other news
Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Bevan shared the State of the Judiciary with legislators in a speech this week. He laid out real concerns with the safety and integrity of the judicial system, and the public servants who support this critical function of our society. Senators Dan Foreman (R-Moscow) and Scott Herndon (R-Sagle) introduced a flurry of hot-button bills, including ones targeting transgender bathrooms, prohibitions of guns on college campuses, immigration, and vaccines. Rep. Jason Monks (R-Meridian) introduced one to prohibit state agencies from funding non-profit events, a response to the dustup over this year’s Boise Pride Fest.
The comment period on the proposed Stibnite Mining Project by Perpetua (formerly known as Midas Gold) closed, generating over 17,000 comments. ICL, the Nez Perce Tribe, EPA, and others found significant faults with both the Forest Service Analysis and the gold mine’s design. Even further afield, the Biden Administration announced a slug of new funding for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests that will be targeted at efforts to reduce fire risk. We’ll be working with the Clearwater Basin Collaborative, Forest Service, Nez Perce Tribe, and other stakeholders to help prioritize these funds.
Finally, the Boise State University School for Public Policy released their annual Public Policy Poll today. Among the findings: 80% of Idahoans feel that it’s somewhat or very important to recover Idaho’s salmon populations. Yet most of Idaho’s elected leadership has so far refused to support the bold restoration actions proposed by Congressman Mike Simpson. Contact Idaho’s other federal leaders today and ask them why they’re out of step with their constituents.
Tie of the week!
It’s the year of the rabbit! 恭喜發財 (Gung hay fat choy) Happy Chinese New Year! Idaho has a long history of a Chinese-American community dating back to the 1860s, many of whom worked and lived as miners, farmers, merchants, and railroad workers. At one point Chinese residents made up 30% of Idaho’s population. Despite their large share of the population, they faced blistering discrimination and violence, and weren’t granted the constitutional right to vote in Idaho until 1962 (and 25% of Idahoans voted no). So, as we exit the turbulent Year of the Tiger, here’s to hoping that the Idaho Legislature will apply lessons from our history, and that the predictions for the Year of the Rabbit come true: peace, calm, and stability.
Until next week…Esto Perpetua,