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Eye On Boise

Plans for conservative ‘Freedom Caucus’ in Idaho House on hold amid dissension

Idaho’s state Capitol, shown on Sept. 25, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)
Idaho’s state Capitol, shown on Sept. 25, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)

The co-sponsor of a new legislative caucus for Idaho’s House conservatives said the effort has temporarily stalled, largely because certain “far-right” lawmakers seem unwilling to work toward consensus. Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, tells the Lewiston Tribune the whole point of the proposed House Freedom Caucus was to unite conservatives and help them achieve real, practical legislative victories.

After meeting with various lawmakers over the summer, though, he’s not seeing much willingness on the part of some to set aside their feud with House Republican leaders, writes Tribune reporter Bill Spence. “What I’ve been feeling from the far right hasn’t been very positive,” Kingsley said. “I don’t think they’re going to calm down to the point that we can move forward.”

The 2016 legislative session featured repeated conflicts between House leaders and a small subset of the most conservative legislators. Before the first week was out, for example, Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, was stripped of her committee assignments after alleging that female lawmakers need to “spread their legs” to get committee chairmanships.

Scott’s allies - including Reps. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, and Ron Nate, R-Rexburg - subsequently staged a sympathy protest, asking that they, too, be removed from their committees. Giddings also spent much of the session objecting to routine procedural maneuvers, forcing lengthy delays that clearly irritated her colleagues.

Toward the end of the 2017 session, Kingsley and Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, proposed the House Freedom Caucus as a way for conservatives to move beyond these combative techniques and actually use their numbers to influence legislation. “The whole reason for the caucus was to bring people in and keep them from destroying the conservative message,” Kingsley said; you can read Spence’s full report online here.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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