Idaho's citizen redistricting commission convened to start its deliberations this morning, and then immediately went at ease for caucuses. “We're going to be probably in small groups and caucuses all day today,” said Co-Chairman Ron Beitelspacher, a Democrat from Grangeville. This morning's is the commission's first caucus, Beitelspacher said, but members already have begun working in small groups on possible district lines for various parts of the state. “My No. 1 concern is progress - progress in a personable way and legal way,” he said.
The commission just wrapped up three public hearings around the state last week. Beitelspacher said he was personally disappointed to hear at the Coeur d'Alene hearing from a woman who questioned why the commission is equally split between the two parties, when Republicans hold big majorities in the Legislature. “I don't like what all the political crap is doing to our country, and I don't like to see it in Idaho,” he said. “I'm used to an Idaho where we helped our neighbors because they were our neighbors, not because of whose yard sign they had out at election time.” The evenly-split commission was established by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Idaho Legislature and approved by vote of the people in the 1994 general election, placing it in the state Constitution.
Between the three hearings in Idaho Falls, Coeur d'Alene and Boise, the commission heard plenty of criticisms of plan L-83, the legislative district plan adopted by the previous commission as a compromise, after its deadline to act had passed. “There were many comments about how unpopular it was, and some of it with some justification,” Beitelspacher said. “However, I've been through a lot of reapportionment processes, and there will always be someone who's unhappy with some aspect of a new legislative district.”