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News >  Idaho

North Idaho loses power in new Legislature

Barbieri to be area’s only committee chief

BOISE – When the Idaho Legislature convenes in January, it’ll have just one committee chairman from North Idaho: new House Business Committee Chairman Vito Barbieri of Dalton Gardens.

“I look forward to the opportunity of serving in this capacity, that’s for sure,” Barbieri said after he was named to the post during the Legislature’s organizational session on Thursday. “I’m going to address it seriously.”

Barbieri, a third-term lawmaker, succeeds fellow Republican state Rep. Frank Henderson of Post Falls, the former House Business Committee chairman, who retired. But the two other legislative committee chairmanships held by North Idaho lawmakers – longtime Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, and House Ways & Means Chairman Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake – both went to Southern Idahoans. Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, is the new Senate Education committee chairman.

Goedde was defeated in the GOP primary this year, while Anderson retired.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, called Barbieri “smart and very able.”

“He’s a senior member on that committee. He and I have had some good discussions, and we are on the same page as to the goals of that committee, and I look forward to working with him in that capacity.”

Barbieri said his panel won’t take an activist role or do anything to affect competition among businesses.

“We agree on those Republican principles that the only way our economy can turn around sustainably is if we allow business to grow and to thrive,” Barbieri said.

On the powerful, budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which had eight North Idaho members last year, the number has dropped to five. Two former North Idaho budget writers were defeated in the primary or general elections, one retired and one left the committee for another assignment.

Third-term Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, gave up his seat on the joint budget committee to become vice chairman of the Senate Resources Committee.

“Particularly with the water rights things that are happening up north, I thought it would be the best use of my time,” he said.

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, who was named to the joint budget panel on Thursday, said the region’s clout may have dropped a bit.

“But we just have a lot of new representatives from our area,” he said. “We had a lot of major turnover, both from retirements and elections. A lot of that can’t be helped.”

Bedke said he picked Malek for the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee in part because former member Rep. Thyra Stevenson of Lewiston lost her seat in November, and sponsored the Health and Welfare budget in the House.

“Luke is coming off the Health and Welfare Committee and has that background,” Bedke said. “It keeps us regionally balanced to a degree. He’s a very able legislator.”

North Idaho’s newest lawmakers – there are six in Districts 1 through 5, which stretch from the Canadian border to Latah County – landed some interesting assignments for the upcoming session.

New Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, an aquatic biologist who replaced Anderson, will serve on the House judiciary, energy, and Revenue & Taxation committees. The latter is where all tax legislation must originate.

“I think I’ve got a lot to learn,” Scott said. “It’s just all new, and it’s very exciting.”

New Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, who defeated Goedde in the GOP primary, was assigned to the education, judiciary and agriculture committees.

“Ag was never on my mind to start with, but I think it’ll be interesting,” she said. “And let’s face it – Idaho is a big ag state.”

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