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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Senator apologizes, evades being deposed

Idaho state Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, came under fire at a Canyon County Republican Party Central Committee meeting last week for a recent drunken driving conviction but succeeded in heading off a move by committee member Ronalee Linsenmann to challenge McGee’s chairmanship of the local party.

McGee, the Senate GOP caucus chairman, was applauded by a standing-room-only crowd at the meeting, during which he spoke at length, apologizing for his conduct.

“My behavior that night was uncharacteristic,” McGee told the central committee. “You know that that is not who I am, and I’m very embarrassed by that behavior.”

He also told the GOP group, “I can tell you that the 28-Republican-member caucus of the Idaho state Senate has been very supportive. They want me to stay, and they want me to stay as their caucus chairman, in their elected position of leadership, and I am very honored and humbled by that.” McGee, who is in his third year as Canyon County GOP chairman, said, “My plan is to carry out my final year of this term. I have more to give to this party.”

Battle of incumbents?

A detailed analysis of proposed legislative redistricting plan L-16, submitted last week by North Idaho Sens. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, shows a slightly different impact on incumbents than originally estimated. Here’s the breakdown: Under that proposed new legislative district plan for the Panhandle, the new District 1 would contain the same incumbent lawmakers it has now. The new District 2 would have Broadsword along with both current District 3 representatives, Reps. Phil Hart, R-Athol, and Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens.

The new District 3 would have only one incumbent, retiring Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls. The new District 4 would have two incumbent senators — Sens. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens — and one incumbent representative, Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene.

And the new District 5 would be something of a battleground, with just one incumbent senator, Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, but four incumbent representatives: Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene; Marge Chadderdon, R-Coeur d’Alene; Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries; and Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton. Under that plan, if they wanted to continue in office, they’d have to run against each other.

Either plan ‘defensible’

Idaho Citizens Redistricting Commission Co-Chairman Evan Frasure asked Deputy Attorney General Mike Gilmore on Friday which of two proposed congressional district plans — the Republican plan, C-33, with zero population deviation and one county split, or the Democratic plan, C-34, with a population deviation of 53 people and two county splits — would stand up better to a legal challenge. “Zero is more defensible than 53, and one county split is more defensible than two county splits,” Gilmore responded. “But … it is a decision for this body, not for your legal counsel, because I think either plan would be defensible.”

The commissioners will take up the question of drawing new congressional district lines on Monday morning; their meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. Boise time, 9 a.m. Pacific time, will be streamed live on the Internet at

‘Wrap up without drama’

The redistricting commission wrapped up its 14th and final public hearing in Meridian last week, after a full two hours of testimony. Said Frasure, “We almost tripled the amount of public hearings that they did 10 years ago.” He said, “Our guidance is that we’re not looking at drawing these lines to protect any incumbents or political parties, and that’s a hard thing to do, because this is not a nonpartisan commission, it is a bipartisan commission — you do have three Democrats and three Republicans.”

He told the Meridian crowd, “I think we have an excellent chance of getting this thing wrapped up rapidly without all the drama that you normally see.”

Bipartisan forest bill

Idaho GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have joined with Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Begich of Alaska to introduce legislation designed to overturn a 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the four say would subject logging roads in public and private forests “to some of the most stringent environmental protection laws in the United States.” The court ruling declares logging road runoff to be point source pollution subject to Clean Water Act permitting requirements.

Since 1976, such runoff has been regulated under the EPA’s silviculture rule as non-point source pollution.

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