Idaho’s state Capitol has been closed to the public for renovation for more than two years, but workers now say it’ll definitely reopen in time for January’s legislative session. It’s been on a tight schedule from the start, with completion set for mid-November, just in time for the big move-in before lawmakers convene Jan. 11, 2010. If it wasn’t ready, the session couldn’t start – or lawmakers could be forced to hold a third session in their cramped temporary quarters in an old courthouse across the street. As of January, the project was 30 days behind schedule. But that’s now been cut to 14 days, and renovation manager Jan Frew says the backlog should be gone by September. “At this point we have committed that they definitely will be able to hold their session in the building. We’re comfortable with that,” she said.
You can read my full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review, and click here to watch a narrated slide show about the renovation. Here are a few tidbits that didn’t make it into my story: Configuration of the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s offices has changed; the lieutenant governor will now be over in the east wing, rather than across the hall from the governor in the west wing. Also, Gov. Butch Otter will have a new “working office” in space adjacent to the formal governor’s office that previously was occupied by staffers; it includes a small, private bathroom with a shower. The new lieutenant governor’s office also has its own bathroom - but no shower.
The House chamber originally had just a curtain around its back boundary, behind where lawmakers sit, rather than a solid wall; stories abound about who passed what through that curtain. Due to noise concerns, the historic renovation of the Capitol won’t take the chamber back to just a curtain; instead, a curtain will hang in front of the solid wall, matching the previous look but not the noise level (or mischief potential). One more tidbit: Previously the House and Senate each had its own dining room; in the newly renovated capitol, they’ll share a single, larger one on the new “Garden Level” (basement). There are 105 legislators, between the two chambers. Seating capacity in the new dining room: 104.