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Bedke considering ‘substantive’ role for Denney - possibly a chairmanship

New Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke (Betsy Russell)
New Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke (Betsy Russell)

New Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke is considering a "substantive" role for former Speaker Lawerence Denney, Bedke said today - possibly a chairmanship. "We do not have the luxury to overlook experience, given the current makeup," Bedke said. "I want to sit down with him." Denney hasn't requested a chairmanship, Bedke said. "He has not asked." But he said, "I feel very strongly that we don't have the luxury to not use our experienced legislators, including Rep. Denney."

"My platform all along has been one of inclusion," the newly elected speaker said. "I think we need to make a few fundamental changes in the way we do some things behind the scenes, given the size of this freshman class. ... They've all come to go to work." He said, "There'll be freshmen on Rev & Tax, there'll be freshmen on JFAC, there'll be freshmen on each of the committees." Bedke said of the big new freshman class in the House, "By necessity they will have more of a role this time, because of the large turnover."

He also said he plans to meet with each existing committee chairman; he's not planning any changes, but said, "I reserve the right to make changes based on these interviews." Bedke also said he wants to consult with each chairman on the choice of members for each committee; that could stretch out today's business of assigning committees, possibly into tomorrow, though he hopes to conclude it today. "I suspect I'll be more hands-on in the committee selection process," Bedke said.

He said he'll strive for both regional and, where possible, ideological balance on committees. "I think when you avoid the appearance of a stacked committee, then things go a lot better."

Bedke said the new Idaho House has a "can-do attitude." "We're not divided," he said. "There's been changes, that's sure, but we're not at odds with one another."

He said, "I'm very impressed with the caliber of people we have here. ... In my discussions with caucus members, I've emphasized ... each of these people bear acquaintance, and to avoid the tendency to label, avoid the tendency to stereotype." Said Bedke, "We will find the consensus on each issue and if you're outside that consensus, that should be OK, and then we'll go on to the next issue." House members shouldn't be afraid to speak out, he said. "I would like to create a very positive group dynamic. I believe if we all feel comfortable laying our cards on the table, that we can make a hand that's superior to each of ours individually."

"I am not going to be heavy-handed - I think that's counterproductive long term," Bedke said. "But I do have my limits."

The new speaker said, "I'm gratified, I'm humbled, I'm happy. I didn't take this on lightly. I worked."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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