House Speaker Bruce Newcomb has assigned the GARVEE bonding bill – the funding for the first year of the “Connecting Idaho” highway plan, including major upgrades to U.S. Highway 95 – to the House Transportation Committee, though it’s an appropriation bill that’s already cleared the joint budget committee, and that committee’s not so friendly to it.
Told that the rumor is he sidelined the bill to punish North Idaho Sens. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, and Dick Compton, R-Coeur d’Alene, for debating against his failed water bill in the Senate yesterday, Newcomb said, “That’s a good rumor. There’ll be others, but that’s a good one for starters.” The speaker said he’s “giving the germane committee a chance to take a look at it.”
Meanwhile, angry senators reacted by holding Newcomb’s bill to impose a two-year moratorium on coal-fired plants – it’s already passed both houses, and just needs a signature in the Senate before it heads to the governor for signing.
North Idaho senators were furious. “If that’s what he’s doing, I guess I have to say I’m not as respectful of him as I have been in the past,” said Jorgenson.
Said Compton: “Like the hundreds of people who’ve been killed on 95 don’t count, I guess – let’s punish Compton and Jorgenson.”
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne isn’t concerned at this point, he said, and his transportation board chairman, Chuck Winder, is reserving judgment. “Obviously it’s not the normal process,” Winder said. He tried to go see Newcomb, but the speaker was in the midst of a retirement party in the House caucus room, where friends and foes crowded in to eat cake, congratulate him, and present him with a gold ring graced with the state seal and a shotgun as he retires after eight years as speaker and a long career in the Legislature.
“Obviously it’s bittersweet,” Newcomb said as he was surrounded by well-wishers. “I’ve made a lot of good friends here. It’s just been a great experience and great relationship with everybody I’ve ever met in this process.”
He admitted, “I kinda like the chess game that goes along with being speaker.”