For a story I’ve been working on about bills that made a splash earlier in the session and then just – poof – disappeared, I asked Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, this afternoon if he knew why his bill to designate huckleberry pie as the official state dessert hadn’t gotten a hearing. “Yes,” he responded, so I followed up, asking the reason. Instead of answering, Nate declared, “I don’t talk to dishonest reporters!” and stalked away.
He’s apparently still mad about this item I reported on last year, when Nate was clearly heard on the House’s live internet stream saying, “We all know our districts. We know that there are some teachers that are clearly overpaid.”
At the time, Nate had been objecting to various budget bills by making the argument that each amount could have been spent on teachers instead, to add more teachers or pay them more.
Not only did I hear his comment on the live stream; I recorded it, and every reporter in the Statehouse press room listened to it several times to ascertain the details.
Asked by the Associated Press about his comments, Nate first said he didn’t remember making the comment. Later, he told me, “I think you're crossing the line into dishonest reporting,” because “the whole tenor of the conversation was we need to pay teachers more.” Nate’s comment was clearly audible on the House live stream; the full conversation, in which he was speaking animatedly with Rep. GayAnn DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, about school funding and the teacher career ladder, wasn’t. “If I did say it, I either misspoke or I was leading to another point,” Nate said then. “My perception of the teachers in my district is they're all stellar. I've had good experiences with my teachers in my district.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Later this afternoon, I learned why Nate’s huckleberry pie bill – which he pitched on behalf of a class of fourth-graders in his district, saying he was hoping for “pie-partisan support” – didn’t get a hearing: “Because he didn’t really want one,” said House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona. “He said, ‘I don’t care.’ He’d probably argue that he said that, but he did.”
Loertscher noted that he’s never been fond of state symbol bills. Asked if he’d have given the bill a hearing if Nate had pressed for one, Loertscher said, “I don’t know. It never got to that point.”