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Eye On Boise

AP: Denney wants to fire Crow from redistricting commission

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican House Speaker Lawerence Denney may fire his appointee to Idaho's redistricting commission, former GOP state Rep. Dolores Crow, because party members don't think she protected their interests. That's after Idaho Supreme Court justices threw out the new political boundaries Wednesday. On Thursday afternoon, Denney told the Associated Press that GOP legislators are angry and believe Crow and other Republican commissioners in October backed a plan that's too generous to minority Democrats. They want commissioners who will support a map more favorable to Republicans. Denney says he'd prefer Crow to resign, not force him to fire her. Crow, a former Nampa lawmaker, told the AP Thursday she's planning to reconvene with other commissioners next week to draft a map that meets Supreme Court muster; she's yet to hear from Denney. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

APNewsBreak: ID's Denney may oust GOP redistricter
JOHN MILLER,Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican House Speaker Lawerence Denney said Thursday he may fire his appointee to Idaho's redistricting commission because some members of his caucus don't think she did enough to protect the state's dominant political party's interests.

The commission member, former GOP state Rep. Dolores Crow, said she has no plans to quit, setting the stage for a possible standoff just a day after the Idaho Supreme Court ruled 4-1 to throw out newly drawn political boundaries on grounds they split too many counties to be legal.

Justices ordered commissioners to reconvene — the goal is for next week — and agree on a constitutional plan for legislative districts.

Denney, R-Midvale, moved quickly to shake things up, telling The Associated Press on Thursday that GOP legislators are angry because they believe Republican redistricting commissioners like Crow succumbed to a plan that's too generous to minority Democrats. They want a new, more-loyal slate of GOP commissioners to support a map more favorable to Republicans, he said.

"They thought it gave too much away," Denney said in an interview in his third-floor Capitol office, adding he thinks it's within his power to remove Crow against her will.

"Being a political appointment — and me being the appointing authority — I think I could," he said.

New redistricting commissioners are appointed every 10 years to redraw Idaho's political boundaries to reflect U.S. Census population changes and preserve one-person, one-vote principles. There were big fights in 2001 that ended in court, too.

This year, it took two of these three-Democrat, three-Republican commissions to finally agree on a map in October, after the first foundered on partisan rancor and missed a 92-day deadline.

Battles over redistricting are contentious, as strident partisans demand maps that preserve their strongholds while incumbent lawmakers facing other incumbents are inevitably forced out of cherished legislative seats as district lines shift.

For instance, the map Crow's commission created pitted Denney against four other sitting GOP lawmakers, including Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, in west-central Idaho.

Crow, a former chairwoman of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee who left the Legislature in 2006, contends her panel sought a plan that treated Idaho voters fairly, without regard to incumbents or parties. She's planning to join other commissioners next week to quickly draft a map that meets Supreme Court muster.

Denney hasn't contacted her about plans to the contrary, she said.

"If he's thinking about taking me off of the commission, the gentlemanly thing to do would be to call me and say 'We've got problems. Do you want to resign, or should I fire you?'" Crow, of Nampa, told the AP. "But I'm not going to resign."

The second redistricting commission also included Republicans Randy Hansen, a former state lawmaker from Twin Falls, and Sheila Olsen of Idaho Falls, a GOP activist. Democrats were Ron Beitelspacher, a retired Grangeville utility lineman; Shauneen Grange, a Democratic activist; and Elmer Martinez, a former state representative from Pocatello.

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, who chose Olsen, said he was standing by her. Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko, whose pick was Hansen, didn't return phone calls late Thursday seeking comment on plans for his appointee.

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said Democratic leaders will stick by their appointees.

Rusche suggested a reconvened committee consisting of existing members could move quickly next week to complete a new map according to the Supreme Court's narrow dictates: Split as few counties as possible.

He's hopeful there aren't any disruptive changes in the panel, especially with the May 15 primary election fast approaching.

"The Supreme Court has pretty well dictated the criteria, but personalities matter," Rusche said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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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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