On a day like today when the old Ada County Courthouse rises up out of the still green grass into the fog, inside the stairs are surprisingly grand. Sound echoes off the muraled walls, hodge podge furniture and stone steps
Soon 105 legislators from around Idaho will pack suits and shoes, name badges and file folders of legislation and come to Boise to live in apartments, vacant homes, condos, basement rooms and penthouses. Some share a place while others rent a room in a house. Many stay in hotel suites or simple rooms at the Safari Inn.
When we are sworn in Thursday morning. There will be no place to watch, no gallery as there was in the Statehouse, but people will watch online, through glass doors, or from the viewing rooms on TV screens on the first floor.
We choose legislative leadership this year and every year following an election: A Speaker or Pro Tem who governs the Majority and Minority caucuses and a Leader, Assistant Leaders and Caucus chair for each the Republican and Democratic Caucuses.
With only one seat net change in the number of Democrats and Republicans in the Idaho legislature, it might seem that this election brought little change to the Capitol. That is not entirely true. The house elected several more conservative members to fill the shoes of moderate Republicans. This means that Republican leadership is unlikely to change this year, but the House Democratic leadership is set to see some turnover with George Sayler leaving as Assistant Minority leader. There will be decisions for Democratic legislators to make by secret ballot over dinner. Who holds the respect? Who thinks strategically? Who speaks well without hand-holding? Who would the Democratic Caucus of 18 be willing to follow?
The Senate in its more deliberative way does much based on seniority, in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses. Senate Republicans gained only one freshman member, Chuck Winder from Eagle. But on top of that four of us from the House have moved to the Senate this year, two Republicans and two Democrats.
If Gov. Otter appoints Senator Geddes or Senator Little to the vacant Lt. Governor's positions, there will be Republican leadership races on the Senate side and that could mean serious change. Democratic Leadership in the Senate has already worked out who will replace David Langhorst who bravely ran for County Commissioner and will be much missed in the Senate.
There will be much to watch this week as the legislature convenes its "Organizational Session."
We will chose seats and committees and it is possible some committee chairships will change hands as well. Undoubtedly the many new seats on the joint Finance Committee will also help change the dynamics on key issues and legislation and how we balance the budget while maintaining the housing, medical, food assistance and job training services Idahoans need most in worrisome economic times like these.
See http://www.idahoptv.org/leglive/ to watch Thursday on-line.