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House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, shared some of his thought process and how he approaches the Legislature when he spoke at the Andrus Center today. “One thing that was drummed into us at my father’s table was that 99 percent of people - I can hear him say this - 99 percent of the people … will go to a meeting and not have anything other than criticism. He said you go with any type of an idea, then that will be the canvas that everybody else will start painting on, and then you can engage the group on solving the problems, as long as you have the start of an idea. I think that that philosophy has served me well.”
Said Bedke, “I view the Legislature as an arena of ideas, so if you bring an idea, then with very few exceptions … those ideas need to be heard, and then vote up or down on ‘em. And then if you lose, then bring a better idea next time. It’s not the end of the world. We’ve got to start this public dialogue on some of these issues.” He added, “I think it’s incumbent on the policy makers at this point to take the blinders off, raise our eyes to the horizon a little bit.”
Bedke shared an idea he’s been mulling: What if Idaho imposed a means-test on the $133.5 million that’s set to go out in grocery tax credits, giving it only to the poor? The resulting $70 million or $80 million in savings could be redirected to lowering Idaho’s top income tax and corporate income tax rates, on which, Bedke said, “We’re out of step with our neighboring states.” That might help attract new businesses to the state, he said. He asked the group of more than 100 what they thought of the idea; they were decidedly mixed.
Bedke also responded to questions on several issues:
- On raises for state workers, he said, “I don’t know exactly what we’ll end up doing, but we will do something.”
- On the alternative state budget unveiled yesterday by former longtime state chief economist Mike Ferguson and two former state schools chiefs, which would put less money into tax cuts and reserve funds and more into education: “I appreciate what Mike is trying to accomplish there, in being a catalyst for change. … I’m not ready to endorse it yet. I’ll take a look at it. I look at a lot of proposals.”
- On collecting Idaho’s 6 percent sales tax on online purchases: “I’m seeing some softening on that. There’s a basic issue of fairness there.”
House Speaker Scott Bedke predicts that the upcoming legislative session won’t address a big backlog in maintenance funding for the state’s roads and bridges, in part because he said people in his region don’t seem concerned about the roads. “We don’t have clear consensus on that issue,” Bedke told the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho today.
He also urged caution on state spending, saying, “There’s been modest growth in the economy, there’ll be modest growth in the money available as we set budgets, but there’s no runaways there. There’s not a lot of extra new money.” Bedke suggested that business interests pushing for further tax relief on business personal property consider whether they think the state should give up a different tax break to fund that, like the grocery tax credit. “In this time of allocating scarce resources, I think maybe it’s incumbent upon us to talk about this,” he said. “We can get rid of personal property tax. … We can buy down the income tax rates, if that’s what we want to do. But it comes with hard choices.”
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, warned that Idaho’s not investing for its future, from low state employee pay that prompts costly turnover to underfunding for schools, infrastructure and more. “I think we’re going to hear a lot about what’s important in the primary elections,” he said. “So I’m not very optimistic we’re going to be addressing any of these issues.”
No one calls him Mr. Speaker or Speaker Bedke. There are no lobbyists lining up outside his office for 15-minute blocks of his time, no lawmakers trying to get his attention. Other than a handful of reporters who make the drive to the small town south of Burley and an occasional resident who pulls him aside to talk about issues, everyone leaves him alone. Watching him drive his Ford F150 around Oakley’s quiet streets, you wouldn’t know he was one of the most quoted men in Idaho media for the first three months of the year. A month after the close of the session, Oakley gives Speaker of the House Scott Bedke a chance to reflect on how he did during his first term as speaker — and to think about the future. Does that future include a run for higher office? Bedke hasn’t ruled it out, he said/Melissa Davlin, Twin Falls Times-News. More here.
Question: Who did the better job as speaker — Scott Bedke or Lawerence Denney?
Idaho is poised to have its own state-based health insurance exchange. But getting that far required a unique coalition - Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter, a libertarian governor who broke with many of his fellow GOP governors; a freshman class of Idaho House Republicans and a solid House Democratic caucus. The measure cleared the House Wednesday on a 41-29 vote - after another version won Senate passage by 23-12. It involved the most unlikely of bills - creation of a state-based exchange is part and parcel of Obamacare. And it came in the most unexpected of places - the same Legislature that only two years earlier so detested Obamacare that it openly flirted with nullifying the federal law in open defiance of the U.S. Constitution. One man stitched it all together, House Speaker Scott Bedke (pictured), R-Oakley/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Is the 41-29 House vote on a state-run exchange an indication that the uber-cons aren't as strong as they were two years ago?
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said issues surrounding the defeat of Propositions 1, 2 and 3 prompted him to press for canceling big public hearings on the state budget this year by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, hearings that in the past two years have drawn nearly 2,000 people from all over the state to the Capitol Auditorium to testify about the state budget. “With the defeat of the propositions, the budget was not what was struck down or changed, it was policy,” Bedke said. “So I feel much more comfortable with the policy committees being the clearinghouse for all the good ideas that come, because there is an expectation that JFAC can do something on those things, and it’s got to be the policy committees that makes the changes.” He added, “I would urge the co-chairs of education to conduct listening sessions based on the policy.”
JFAC’s first-ever public hearings were in 2011, when nearly a thousand people turned out to give their input on the Health & Welfare budget; the crowd spilled out of the auditorium and filled five overflow rooms. That year on Jan. 21, a hearing on the public schools budget drew more than 500 people, nearly 80 testified, and another 400 submitted written comments. Last year, JFAC held a single public hearing on Feb. 3; more than 200 people attended and more than 60 testified.
Bedke said, “Certainly the Legislature collectively needs to always be listening. The problems that we have … are problems that only the policy committees can fix.” He added, “There’s always a dynamic in the Legislature, of what drives policy. Does the budget drive policy, or does policy drive the budget?” He noted that he’s an alumnus of JFAC. “That is a workhorse committee,” Bedke said. “Those are committed members and they do good work.” But, he said, “The issues that we’re talking about this year are policy.”
Asked how the decision fits with Bedke’s pledge to promote inclusiveness as the new House speaker, he said, “It includes the ones that are directly responsible for the decisions. It in no way diminishes JFAC … it elevates the other committees.” He said he’d support joint listening hearings by all the germane committees, from Education to Health & Welfare to others. He added, “I heard some frustration from some members of JFAC that they listened to all these things, and they were powerless to change it.”
The first bill to come out of committee and hit the House floor this session has stalled. HB 1, the annual IRS tax code conformity bill, was voted out of the House Revenue & Taxation Committee last Thursday and sent directly to the 2ndReading Calendar of the House without the usual step of holding a public hearing on the measure in committee. Idaho passes a bill each year to adjust its tax provisions to match IRS codes to avoid making taxpayers recalculate things between their state and federal returns, but sometimes the measures are controversial, and sometimes the state chooses not to match all the IRS provisions. This year’s bill has a fiscal impact of $6 million on the state general fund, meaning the state will collect that much less after conforming its tax provisions.
The bill is being “held at the desk” in the House, which means that the speaker has halted it. Asked about the move, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said, “It came straight to the 2nd reading, and it expends money. … If we’re going to spend money, we probably oughta have a public hearing.” Bedke said he’s probably going to send the bill back to the committee for a hearing.
Later in the day, when the House convened, Bedke did just that. He said afterward that other House members had questions about the bill. “The new people were paying attention, and they had some questions,” he said. “I think it's best we get in the habit of, we have a hearing. We've got time.”
New Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke is considering a “substantive” role for former Speaker Lawerence Denney, Bedke said today - possibly a chairmanship. “We do not have the luxury to overlook experience, given the current makeup,” Bedke said. “I want to sit down with him.” Denney hasn't requested a chairmanship, Bedke said. “He has not asked.” But he said, “I feel very strongly that we don't have the luxury to not use our experienced legislators, including Rep. Denney.”
“My platform all along has been one of inclusion,” the newly elected speaker said. “I think we need to make a few fundamental changes in the way we do some things behind the scenes, given the size of this freshman class. … They've all come to go to work.” He said, “There'll be freshmen on Rev & Tax, there'll be freshmen on JFAC, there'll be freshmen on each of the committees.” Bedke said of the big new freshman class in the House, “By necessity they will have more of a role this time, because of the large turnover.”
He also said he plans to meet with each existing committee chairman; he's not planning any changes, but said, “I reserve the right to make changes based on these interviews.” Bedke also said he wants to consult with each chairman on the choice of members for each committee; that could stretch out today's business of assigning committees, possibly into tomorrow, though he hopes to conclude it today. “I suspect I'll be more hands-on in the committee selection process,” Bedke said.
He said he'll strive for both regional and, where possible, ideological balance on committees. “I think when you avoid the appearance of a stacked committee, then things go a lot better.”
Bedke said the new Idaho House has a “can-do attitude.” “We're not divided,” he said. “There's been changes, that's sure, but we're not at odds with one another.”
He said, “I'm very impressed with the caliber of people we have here. … In my discussions with caucus members, I've emphasized … each of these people bear acquaintance, and to avoid the tendency to label, avoid the tendency to stereotype.” Said Bedke, “We will find the consensus on each issue and if you're outside that consensus, that should be OK, and then we'll go on to the next issue.” House members shouldn't be afraid to speak out, he said. “I would like to create a very positive group dynamic. I believe if we all feel comfortable laying our cards on the table, that we can make a hand that's superior to each of ours individually.”
“I am not going to be heavy-handed - I think that's counterproductive long term,” Bedke said. “But I do have my limits.”
The new speaker said, “I'm gratified, I'm humbled, I'm happy. I didn't take this on lightly. I worked.”
As Election Day approached, Moscow Republican House candidate Cindy Agidius noticed her campaign account filling with money from prominent GOP lawmakers, from districts hundreds of miles from hers in northcentral Idaho, AP reporter John Miller reports. House Speaker Lawerence Denney of Midvale chipped in $1,000 from an internal GOP account, while Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star gave $500. Cash from Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke of Oakley and Rep. Christy Perry of Nampa also went into her coffers.
“It was always interesting to see where the money came from, especially since I didn't ask for it,” Agidius, who won Nov. 6 by just 123 votes, told the AP. More than a show of support for a partisan colleague in a tight race, however, this election cash infusion for Agidius and dozens of other Republican candidates across Idaho underscores the tense internal House GOP fight now being waged for leadership posts; click below for Miller's full report previewing Wednesday's hotly contested House GOP leadership elections.
House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke (pictured), R-Oakley, publicly announced he is running for speaker of the Idaho House. Bedke, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2000, is challenging current House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale. Denney has held the position for six years. “It’s time for a change,” Bedke told the Times-News. Rumors have circulated about the House speaker race for months, with the Idaho Statesman interviewing Denney about his intent to seek another term. Bedke had previously declined to comment. Denney couldn’t be reached for comment for this story, but last week he told the Statesman he would campaign aggressively to keep his position/Melissa Davlin, Twin Falls Times-News. More here.
Question: House Speaker Lawerence Denney's abysmal handling of all things related to Artful Tax Dodger Rep. Phil Hart is sound reasoning for electing a new speaker, if nothing else. What do you think?
The Twin Falls Times-News reports today that House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, has publicly announced his run for Speaker of the House, taking on current Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale. “It's time for a change,” Bedke told the newspaper. Leadership elections will take place at closed-door party caucuses Dec. 5, on the even of the 2013 Legislature's organizational session Dec. 6. Last week, Denney told the Idaho Statesman that he planned to “aggressively” campaign to keep his leadership post. You can read the Times-News' full report here from reporter Melissa Davlin.
What is the battle between Idaho’s House GOP leaders all about? Let me answer that by telling you what it is not at all about. Policy. There isn’t much of a discernible difference on policy between current House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and the man who appears best poised to challenge him, Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke. Bedke, R-Oakley, may be a touch less conservative than Denney — Bedke served on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee in the mid-2000s, an experience that tends to temper lawmakers’ views of the budget. But I can’t see the philosophy of the House shifting very much if Bedke unseats Denney/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Given that any challenger will share his political views, does it really matter if Rep. Lawerence Denney continues as House Speaker?
House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, is poised to do something Idaho hasn't seen in 30 years, reports Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey: Defeat the top leader of a house of Idaho's Legislature. Popkey reports that Bedke is in good position to challenge weakened House Speaker Lawerence Denney, who's served three terms as speaker; such a toppling hasn't happened since 1982, when Jim Risch beat then-Senate President Pro-Tem Reed Budge. Denney has drawn fire for targeting sitting GOP lawmakers in the primary; unsuccessfully attempting to fire his own appointee to the Idaho redistricting commission, former state Rep. Dolores Crow, R-Nampa; and unceremoniously dumping two House committee chairmen on the last day of the 2011 session for insufficient loyalty.
Popkey reports that the well-liked Bedke has contributed to 14 incumbent Republicans and nine newcomers, building good will in his caucus ahead of the Legislature's organizational session Dec. 6; you can read his full column here.