BOISE – Representatives in the House on Thursday voted to retain Republican Rep. Scott Bedke to lead the chamber for the next two years, while senators selected Republican Sen. Chuck Winder as the new leader of the Senate.
Lawmakers in both chambers held organizational meetings to determine the powerful leadership positions for the 66th Legislature that convenes Jan. 11. The coveted positions have significant influence over what potential laws advance through the chambers and to Republican Gov. Brad Little’s desk.
Bedke has been speaker of the House since 2012, and this year turned back a challenge from Republican Rep. Wendy Horman.
Winder, the former majority leader, takes over as president pro-tem after defeating Republican Sen. Dan Johnson. That spot came open after longtime Republican Sen. Brent Hill retired.
Democrat Rep. Ilana Rubel remains the minority leader of the House, and Democrat Sen. Michelle Stennett remains minority leader of the Senate.
Both the House and Senate have supermajorities of Republicans. Republicans in the House flipped two seats in the Nov. 3 election and hold 58 seats compared to 12 for Democrats. The Senate has 29 Republicans and six Democrats.
During a special session held last summer due to the pandemic, both chambers said they would put forward legislation this year seeking to limit a governor’s authority to declare emergencies.
Little in March issued a stay-home order to contain the spread of the virus, angering some of his Republican colleagues.
“This year has presented some incredible challenges, but we’re all confident we can continue to help Idaho recover with policies of smaller government, lower taxes and personal responsibility,” Bedke said in a statement.
The remaining leadership in the House, selected in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, is the same for Republicans as last year. House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks and House Majority Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma each turned aside challenges.
Additionally, members of the House and Senate each went through a seniority-based seating assignment system on Thursday. Finally, committee assignments and chairmanships will be filled on Thursday. Committee chairmen have considerable power in what bills advance by choosing whether or not to allow hearings.
Democrats in the two chambers had some changes.
In the House, Rep. Lauren Necochea successfully challenged John McCrostie to become the new house assistant minority leader. Rep. Sally Toone is the new minority caucus chair following the retirement of Rep. Elaine Smith.
In the Senate, following several retirements, Grant Burgoyne ran unopposed to become assistant minority leader, while Janie Ward-Engelking ran unopposed to become minority caucus chair.
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