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Partisan fur flies over rejected leadership bill

A cagey House Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts wouldn’t say yesterday why House Republicans went into a hastily called, closed-door caucus, saying only, “We had some family stuff to talk about, a family meeting.” But his secret is out now, as partisan fur is flying over a House committee’s inadvertent snub yesterday to GOP leadership over a primary election reform bill.

Roberts considers House GOP business to be “family business,” and said earlier that when you have a family meeting, you “don’t involve the neighbors.” The nosy neighbors, in this metaphor, are the public that elected the lawmakers in the first place.

The bill in question was a proposal to require party registration and closed primaries in Idaho, something the Idaho Republican Party voted at its convention this year to support. But the House State Affairs Committee voted 9-8 on Monday against introducing the bill, with members saying Idaho has an independent streak that forced party registration would violate. Surveys show a third of Idahoans say they’re independents – and under the bill, independents couldn’t vote in primaries at all.

But what the committee members overlooked yesterday was that the measure wasn’t just proposed by freshman Rep. Marv Hagedorn of Meridian. It also was sponsored by the entire House GOP leadership. Furious leadership members called the emergency closed caucus meeting, and are planning a new version of the bill.

The Associated Press called the dustup “a rare public example of a flub in a party with a normally insurmountable advantage over Democrats.”

Rep. Mark Snodgrass, R-Meridian, and Rep. Max Black, R-Boise, conceded they hadn’t seen the leaders’ names on the measure before voting against it. “It’s a courtesy to the speaker to at least print the bill,” Black told The Associated Press. “I let myself go up there without adequate information.” Said Snodgrass: “I probably didn’t pay as much attention (to the sponsors’ names) as I probably could have. Should it come back, I would vote to print the bill.”


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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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