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Big capitol hearings dubbed ‘success’

Reviewing this year's legislative session, Legislative Services Director Jeff Youtz told the Legislative Council this morning that this year's unprecedented large public hearings were a success. "By and large it went very well, I thought," Youtz told the council, which is chaired by House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill. "The opportunity for the public to participate is just tremendous in this newly redesigned building. We could never have done that in the past."

Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai said some hearing attendees were frustrated, including one who complained of traveling from Coeur d'Alene and being high on the signup list, but not being called to testify. "There's nothing more frustrating than having someone fly in at their own expense, and realize they're never going to get in front of the committee," Malepeai said. He suggested a consistent process for hearings, but several other lawmakers disagreed, and said it's worked well to have committee chairmen determine how hearings are handled. "There may be from time to time those tragic kinds of examples, but we saw those committees running deeply into the evening to accommodate people who came from not the Treasure Valley area," said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis. "I don't recall a session where we had a greater amount of public input including from people outside of this valley than this year. … I think it was remarkable."

Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, said she was bothered by the alternating of testimony from people for and against legislation. "That pro-con trading … attempts to present the two sides as if they are equally divided when in fact they are 8-1," she said. "I think that tends to warp what is going to come out." Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, said, "I like the idea of leaving how those hearings are run in the hands of the committee chairmen. That's their responsibility to do that. I'd hate to mandate from somewhere else how those are done. I think each one of those hearings is a little bit different."