Idaho’s Freshman Class: A Series Of Profiles Rathdrum Senator Leaves Controversy Behind Boatright In Favor Of Tax Cap, Less Stringent Air Quality Rules

MONDAY, FEB. 27, 1995

The shirts and ties are hanging on curtain rods in the Safari Suite at the nearby Best Western.

But Rathdrum’s newly minted state Sen. Clyde Boatright has left some of his less desirable baggage at home.

Some North Idaho residents still may think of him as the man who lost his post as head of a Panhandle transit system amid charges he had mismanaged it and used it for private profit.

But fellow Republican legislators see a different Boatright.

To Grant Ipsen, chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on which Boatright sits, the 64-year-old Boatright brings a diversity of backgrounds from military service to work as a businessman.

“I think he weighs everything based on facts,” said Ipsen, whose nine-member committee includes six freshmen. “I think he’s very perceptive. He just seems to have an ability to cut through to the issue.”

“He’s doing great,” said conservative Sen. Rod Beck, R-Boise, Boatright’s neighbor on the Senate floor. “He’s well-prepared. He’s speaking for his constituents. It’s probably the best they’ve been represented in years.”

Because of the short legislative session and the passage of a tightfisted budget, there is not a lot of non-controversial legislation being considered. Ordinarily, committee chairs like to give those bills to new legislators to sponsor.

As a result, Boatright’s lawmaking experience has been confined to only a few bills, including a House joint resolution redefining air pollutants such as outdoor barbecue smoke so they will be considered insignificant by the state Division of Environmental Quality.

The joint resolutions are being criticized by the Idaho Conservation League as ways of changing state regulations without public input.

But to Boatright, the measure fits his philosophy of less government and environmental regulation.

He said he also has weighed in on a series of tougher juvenile crime bills and done his part to cut taxes by endorsing Gov. Phil Batt’s budget, which includes a 3 percent cap on the annual growth of property tax revenues.

In what Democrats considered a surprise victory last November, Boatright ousted Sen. Barbara Chamberlain of Post Falls, who had won several awards for her dedication to child and family issues as a legislator.

Boatright says the vote is proof that his controversy with Panhandle Area Transit - which Boatright boasts of having brought to financial health - is history now.

“I think it was only in my opponent’s mind,” he said. “I don’t think the people cared.”

Moreover, Boatright said, the vote showed agriculture and timber interests were willing to put their faith in him.

“The voters were saying that they weren’t being represented in that district,” he said. “And they just wanted someone who would represent the entire district, not just a token number of it where somebody felt the most votes might occur.”

Boatright admits an occasional stumble on parliamentary procedure and a fleeting feeling of freshman awe.

Before his swearing-in Dec. 1, Boatright had not been to the Capitol since about 1950, when he toured the building with his family while on leave from the Navy.

Arriving on the Senate floor was a heady experience.

“It’s really difficult to describe the elegance and the grandeur of it,” he said from his desk amid the massive columns of the Senate chamber. “It just makes you really appreciate being able to work in the building.”

On the first day of the session, Boatright was given the task of telling the governor that the Senate was meeting. He was the first freshman in Senate history to do so.

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