As this year’s over-long legislative session nears its culmination, lawmakers tend to get a little punchy.
Thus it was in the House on Friday when some GOP representatives decided to pull a little prank. The ornate speaker’s chair was removed from the speaker’s podium and placed instead at House Majority Leader Mike Moyle’s desk on the House floor, which then was festooned with a sign taped to the front of the desk saying, in elaborate type, “Majority Chair.”
Across the aisle from Moyle’s desk, Minority Leader Mat Erpelding’s chair was removed and replaced with a plastic folding chair, and a sign taped to his desk just written in pencil, saying “Minority Chair.”
Moyle came in first, sat in the chair and posed for lots of pictures. Then Erpelding arrived, grabbed the folding chair and pretended to throw it down in feigned anger. Much laughter ensued. Then Moyle sat in the speaker’s chair at his desk again, and it looked like maybe he tried to lean back. The ornate chair collapsed and broke.
I have noticed over the years that some of the furniture in the Capitol is not as sturdy as it looks; this bore that out.
The speaker’s chair was gently carried off. Both representatives’ usual chairs were returned to their spots; Speaker Scott Bedke got an ordinary office chair at the podium.
Maybe I’m a spoilsport, but I wasn’t amused. Partisan mockery and property damage? Not my favorite comedies. But I suppose it at least beats the remote-control fart machine that Rep. Joe Palmer placed under various desks in the House chamber last year, including those of both House members and the press.
Another week, four more limericks
In addition to the seven legislative limericks I’d written at this point last week, I felt compelled to pen four more this week. This one proved to be prescient, as all at the Statehouse wondered whether Gov. Brad Little would veto SB 1159, the bill to make it much, much harder to qualify a voter initiative or referendum for the Idaho ballot.
The bill drew a huge outpouring of public opposition, from former attorneys general and retired judges to professors, veterans, former legislators, ordinary citizens and more. But it drew strong support from top GOP leaders in the House and Senate. I wrote the limerick on Monday, which also happened to be April Fools’ Day.
Legislative Limerick No. 8: Gov. Little’s defining moment
Governor Brad has a choice
Defining his leadership voice.
Restore citizens’ trust
That our government’s just
Or just let top leaders rejoice.
On Tuesday, I covered a hearing at which Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, was asked if stakeholders and legal counsel were consulted when HB 296 was drafted. That was the “trailer” bill on voter initiatives, introduced on March 28 at a hastily called House Ways & Means Committee meeting and passed through the House without ever getting a House committee hearing. Grow responded, “That’s confidential information.”
Actually, it’s not. Although draft bills are exempt from mandatory release under the Idaho Public Records Act before they’ve been introduced, sponsors may release them, and no state law or rule requires confidentiality in forming Idaho’s public policy — in fact, the Idaho Open Meeting Law requires the opposite.
Legislative Limerick No. 9: The art of the back-room deal
Hatching it behind closed doors
Our policy expertise soars.
We don’t need to hear
From folks far and near
’Cause citizens can be such bores.
This limerick was written Wednesday as I thought back over the challenges I wrote about at the beginning of the session that awaited this year’s Legislature. At the time, there had been no mention of changing Idaho’s ballot initiative process to make it harder to qualify a measure for the ballot.
Legislative Limerick No. 10: Session accomplishments?
Truck fees were never addressed
Justice reforms never blessed
School funding not fixed
Other steps nixed
But initiative rights? Laid to rest.
This next one pretty much wrote itself after I visited the Capitol cafeteria on Friday morning to purchase a (delicious) breakfast burrito, and heard a senator smilingly ask members of the House GOP leadership about when they were going to let senators go home. The senators noted that the House has been sitting on key budget bills — including the Medicaid budget — for weeks. That’s leverage to get the Senate to go along with the House’s desired Medicaid expansion “sideboards,” which at the time were awaiting Senate concurrence in the House amendments. The representatives all responded with some version of, “Repeat after me: We concur!”
Legislative Limerick No. 11: The voters said what?
House members loudly aver
That their way is what should occur.
Don’t worry your head
About what voters said
Senators should just concur.
This year’s legislative session has now stretched for more than 90 days, making it the longest since 2009, when the session stretched for 117 days, the second-longest in state history. The longest-ever? 2003, 118 days.
Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.
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