North Idaho presence on JFAC drops by two

SUNDAY, DEC. 12, 2010

BOISE – Now that embattled Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, has been removed from the House tax committee for the next two years, where did he land?

House Speaker Lawerence Denney kept Hart on the other two committees on which he already was serving: Judiciary, Rules and Administration; and the House Transportation Committee, on which he’ll continue to serve as vice-chairman. Hart just no longer has a third committee assignment.

Where lawmakers are assigned in the committee system can make a big difference as far as their ability to fashion, promote or kill important legislation, and it affects how they can represent their districts.

One joint committee, which takes in 10 senators and 10 representatives, writes the entire state budget – the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Though the full House and Senate still vote on each budget bill, the deals are reached in JFAC, which faces a daunting task this year due to the state’s budget crunch.

Heading into the 2011 session, North Idaho’s representation on JFAC will drop by a third, from six members to four. That’s because Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, gave up his seat to become the new chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, gave up his to focus on economic development legislation.

Their replacements? Senate leaders chose two newly elected lawmakers from southern Idaho, Sens. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise, and Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, for the budget panel, while third-term Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, exited the plum assignment after his unsuccessful challenge to Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls.

On the House side, three southern Idaho representatives joined the budget-writing committee, Reps. Jim Hagedorn, R-Meridian; John Vander Woude, R-Nampa; and Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls. Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, left the panel to chair the Health and Welfare Committee, while Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, shifted to the tax committee after unsuccessfully challenging House Majority Leader Mike Moyle – though Bayer said the move was his choice.

In addition to leaving JFAC, Hammond moved off the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, which will face difficult work this session with the state’s problems in funding its growing Medicaid program, into a seat on the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee; he also took a spot on the Agricultural Affairs Committee. Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, remains vice-chair on Health and Welfare.

Henderson moves onto the House Transportation Committee – an assignment he sought, since as a member of the joint budget committee, he fashioned and carried the transportation budget for the past five years – and the State Affairs Committee, and also kept his seat on the business committee.

North Idaho’s newest lawmakers got these assignments:

Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, will be vice-chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, and also will serve on the Health and Welfare and Ag committees.

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, got a seat on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee – the seat vacated by Hart – and also will serve on the Local Government and Business committees.

Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, got just two committee assignments: Agriculture and Judiciary. Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, will serve on the State Affairs, Local Government and Judiciary committees.

And new Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, a physician, was named to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, along with the Agriculture and Commerce committees.

Overall, the number of North Idaho Panhandle lawmakers – those from legislative districts 1 through 6 – on the agriculture committees in both houses swelled from two to five, which is a bit of an oddity, since there’s more ag in other parts of the state. Moscow Rep. Tom Trail continues to chair the House Agriculture Committee.

Meanwhile, four committees will have no one from the Panhandle: House Health and Welfare, House Ways and Means, Senate Resources and Environment, and Senate State Affairs. House Ways and Means and Senate State Affairs both are leadership committees – and no one from the Panhandle is in leadership, in either house or either party.

Labrador names staffers

Idaho Congressman-elect Raul Labrador has named his chief of staff: John Goodwin, who most recently worked as a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, Goodwin was communications director for Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois and press secretary for Rep. Rob Simmons of Connecticut. “John’s vast Capitol Hill experience will be an excellent resource to Idaho as I begin the people’s work in Congress,” Labrador said.

Labrador also announced two other staff hires: Phil Hardy, who served as communications director for Labrador’s campaign, will be the regional director for central and southwest Idaho; and Mike Cunnington, a Nampa native who was finance director for the campaign, will be Labrador’s scheduler and personal assistant in Washington, D.C. Earlier, Labrador announced the hire of Jake Ball, a former aide to Sen. Mike Crapo, as his district director.

Lobbying firms merge

Two prominent Idaho lobbying firms are merging: Sullivan & Reberger is merging with Eiguren Public Policy, and the new firm, Sullivan Reberger Eiguren, will represent the clients of both firms.

Sullivan & Reberger is Pat Sullivan, a former aide to then-U.S. Sen. Jim McClure, and Phil Reberger, former chief of staff for Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Sen. Steve Symms; while Eiguren Public Policy is Roy Eiguren, attorney and longtime lobbyist.

The firm’s anticipating a busy legislative session. “I’ve got tax issues, environmental law issues, retail grocery issues, bail bond issues, budget issues,” Eiguren said.

Eiguren’s current clients include Amalgamated Sugar, American Ecology Corp., Exergy Development Group, Prison Health Services Inc. and Verizon Wireless, among others. Reberger and Sullivan’s include AREVA Inc., Associated General Contractors of Idaho, Eli Lilly Corp. and Moneytree Inc., among others.

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