Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

# It really is new math

A sampling of the numbers from five legislative sessions over the past 15 years shows that never before, in any of those sessions, has either house held the minority party to fewer seats on the joint budget committee than its entitlement based on its percentage of seats in the chamber. Instead, in the 1991, 1995, 2001, 2003 and 2006 sessions, the party split in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee either exactly matched the split in the full chamber, or it was rounded to match under the usual mathematical rules of rounding – for example, this year, when Democrats held 18.6 percent of House seats, they got 20 percent of the seats on the House half of JFAC.

Here are the numbers: This year, the minority party held 20 percent of the seats in the Senate, and 20 percent of the Senate seats on JFAC. They had 18.6 percent of the seats in the House, and 20 percent of the House seats on JFAC.

In 2003, Democrats again held 20 percent of the Senate seats, and got 20 percent of the Senate JFAC seats. In the House, they held 22.9 percent of the seats, and got 20 percent of the JFAC spots.

In 2001, there were just three Democratic senators, or 8.6 percent of the Senate. The Senate Finance Committee had 9 Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Lin Whitworth, D-Inkom, for a party split of 90 percent to 10 percent. In the House, Democrats held 12.9 percent of the seats, and got 10 percent of the seats on JFAC.

In 1995, the Senate was 22.9 percent Democrat. It gave Democrats 20 percent of the Senate seats on JFAC. The House was 18.6 percent Democrat, but allocated 20 percent of its JFAC seats to Democrats.

And way back in the days of actual bipartisan split in the Idaho Legislature – 1991, when the Senate was split 21-21 between Republicans and Democrats – the Senate sent six Republicans and six Democrats to sit on JFAC, an even split. In the House, Democrats held 33 percent of the seats in the chamber, and their numbers on the House half of JFAC matched that exactly – 33 percent.

Never in any of those sessions, in either house, did the majority try to give the minority fewer seats than their percentage numbers dictated, until this year’s move by the new House GOP leadership (27.14 percent Democrats in the House, 20 percent of the House seats on JFAC). This year’s move is particularly noticeable since Democrats picked up six seats in the House this year, but still got the same number of JFAC seats they held in the 2006 session when they had just 18.6 percent of the House.

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