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Eye On Boise

Lawmaker for a day, or three or five

Wonder why former Rep. Freeman Duncan was filling in for Sen. Dick Compton this week? Or how Kootenai County GOP Chairman Bob Nonini took Rep. Hilde Kellogg’s seat for a week?

Idaho’s substitute-legislator system may be unique in the country. Brenda Erickson, a senior researcher with the National Conference of State Legislatures, doesn’t know of any other states that match it. Washington allows temps to be appointed only if a lawmaker is called up for military duty.

In Idaho, a sitting legislator who’ll be absent for at least three days during the session can pick his or her own replacement, as long as the sub meets constitutional requirements to serve, such as living in the district. When Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis had to be gone for three days, his mom, Enid, filled in.

“They choose whoever they want,” said Terri Franks-Smith, House chief fiscal officer.

Subs get the legislator’s $99 per diem to cover expenses, but no other pay.

Secretary of the Senate Jeannine Wood said the use of subs seems to be on the upswing. When she mentions the practice at national clerks’ conventions, “They think it’s wacky,” she said.

So far this session, subs have filled in for six senators and four representatives.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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