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Rep. Scott stripped of all committee assignments after comments about sexual favors

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 12, 2017, 10:18 p.m.

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, right, talks with Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, on the floor of the Idaho House on Thursday morning. (Betsy Z. Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, right, talks with Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, on the floor of the Idaho House on Thursday morning. (Betsy Z. Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

BOISE – Controversial North Idaho Rep. Heather Scott was stripped of all three of her committee assignments in the House on Thursday, after she publicly claimed that female House members get leadership positions only if they “spread their legs.”

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said, “I don’t do these things lightly or in a knee-jerk way. This is as hard a decision … as I’ve faced as a speaker. No one likes things like this.”

The removal of all committee assignments doesn’t prevent Scott from voting as a representative in the full House, but it removes her from the main work of the Legislature: the committee work in which bills are considered, hearings are held and potential new laws are voted up or down prior to reaching the full House or Senate.

Asked if the decision is permanent, Bedke said nothing in the House is ever permanent.

An unrepentant Scott, in a defiant statement posted on Facebook, declared, “The people of my district sent me to Boise to shake up the good old boy system. And I call it like I see it.

“The words I used to express a legitimate concern may have been too harsh, and I apologize for that as I never intended to offend anyone,” she wrote, but added, “North Idaho citizens will not be silenced.”

When the sanction was formally announced, Scott’s closest House ally, Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, rose on the House floor to formally ask Bedke, “Is there a formal motion on committee selection that is made or an opportunity to make an objection?”

Bedke responded, “There is not. Take your seat.”

No comparable disciplinary action has been taken against a House member in recent memory, though several committee chairs have lost their chairmanships in past years in clashes with legislative leaders.

“This is not unprecedented,” Bedke said. “It’s unfortunate, but not unprecedented.” He said he acted according to the rules of the House.

Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said she thought the loss of committee assignments was “unfortunate” for Scott, but was Bedke’s decision to make as speaker. “I would hope that there is a way that she could maybe change that behavior and maybe reverse the order. Because when she is made a committee of one, her constituents are not represented, and that’s unfortunate.”

Scott made the comment about sexual favors during the Legislature’s organizational session in December, in the House lounge with multiple lawmakers present, speaking angrily to Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, just after Boyle had learned that she would be the new chair of the House Agriculture Committee. Scott repeated the comment about female legislators on the House floor.

Her outburst in December came the same month that House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, quietly married. Trujillo is the vice-chair of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, a position she’s held since 2015. Scott lost her seat on that panel this year, after serving on it during her first term.

Perry, in a letter to Bedke submitted Wednesday, wrote that Scott also has displayed “paranoid and aggressive behavior,” including damaging a fire sensor in the ceiling of a room in the Capitol because she thought it was a listening device being used to spy on her. She said other lawmakers felt unsafe around Scott, who carries a concealed gun.

Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, said he wishes Scott would work more with other House members. “We’re here to solve problems, not create problems,” he said. “A lot of areas we agree on, but you’re still part of the body. I think that’s very important. We can express our disagreements but not be belligerent.”

Scott’s seatmate on the House floor, Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “I am disappointed that things have gotten to this point. What’s been said was completely inappropriate, and this process depends on respect. I’m hoping that we can get back there as quickly as possible.”

House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, on whose committee Scott served for just one day before being removed Thursday, said, “You have to take some action, and that’s the speaker’s call. I support him in his decision.”

“Overall, there’s a cloud always hanging over you when there are accusations thrown at any member that are that and that alone, accusations with no foundation,” Loertscher said. “That becomes a huge, huge problem for the whole body to deal with on a continuing basis.”

Scott is an outspoken conservative who was elected in November to a second two-year term in the House. She and Nate have been agitating against House GOP leaders, and traveled around the state this fall, charging that the Legislature isn’t conservative enough and claiming they’re the true conservatives. The two also posted a website this week that sharply criticizes the Idaho Legislature and presses their own “freedom agenda.”