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Doing the math

With the open warfare today between the new House GOP leadership team and the House minority caucus – Democrats walked out of the House today en masse after new Speaker Lawerence Denney decided they shouldn’t gain a single seat on the joint budget committee even though they picked up six House seats in last month’s election – everybody’s doing the math. Denney says he’s being fair to the Democrats because their overall percentage of all committee seats matches their representation in the chamber. The Dems say the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee is unique in setting the state budget, and they deserve representation there that matches their numbers.

Democrats now hold 19 of the 70 seats in the House, or 27 percent. Since the House Appropriations Committee, the House half of JFAC, has 10 members, 27 percent of the seats there would be 2.7 seats. Denney gave them just two. House Assistant Minority Leader George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, a retired high school teacher, said, “2.7 always rounds up to 3 in my math – I don’t understand the logic of rounding it down to two.”

Overall, 194 committee assignments were made today for the 70 House members. Twenty-seven percent of that would be 53.19. Democrats were allotted 53 of those assignments – a very close number, but certainly not an over-generous one. The percentage of minority members on individual committees was held down to 25 percent on the Business, Health & Welfare and Judiciary committees, and just 23 percent on Commerce. The 18-member committees – Education, Resources, Revenue & Taxation, and State Affairs – all got five Democrats each, or 27.7 percent. The two 14-member committees, Transportation, and Environment & Energy, each got four D’s, or 28.6 percent. The two other 10-member committees – Agriculture and Local Government – each got three Democrats, or 30 percent. JFAC was the only 10-member House committee held to just 20 percent Democrats.

As a sign of his generosity, Denney pointed to the House Ways & Means Committee, a leadership panel that rarely meets and that traditionally includes both parties’ leadership teams. As usual, it’s split down the middle between the two parties except for a GOP chairman, so the D’s have 43 percent of the seats on that seven-member panel.

Democrats said they offered to give up seats on several other committees to get the key seat on JFAC, but the Republicans refused.


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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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