Leadership in Flux

Legislative Council has assembled around the big wooden table in the Senate Republican Caucus room in the top of the statehouse. The showing is sparse. Missing are the members leaving us whose terms end a month from now. In December we will be sworn in again and joined by six new senators and twelve newly elected house members. That is not unprecedented change. Compared to other states, Idaho simply stayed its red self. Interestingly we stand now at the same numbers we had six years ago when I was first elected to the house.

Legislative Council is an ongoing committee made up of Democratic and Republican leadership plus members elected by their caucus to serve in overseeing policy, procedure and the general workings of both houses. We discuss everything from whether the dining room will welcome the public, to whether committee secretaries will be detailed or vague in writing up the minutes of legislative committee meetings.

This is my fourth year on Legislative Council. I've looked around in the past and realized that the committee has been used at times as a consolation prize for members not elected to leadership positions in their respective caucuses.

And it's that time again. Leadership elections. Speaker in the House, Pro-Tem in the Senate, in both houses a Majority Leader, Assistant Majority Leader, Caucus Chair, Minority Leader, Assistant Minority Leader & Minority Caucus Chair.

Already the Pro Tem is telling people to save Friday morning after our one day December organizational session and swearing in just in case leadership races get drawn out. This year with the surge of far right or tea party Republicans one can expect some leadership challenges within the two Republican Caucuses. Never mind that, in the House, Majority Leader Mike Moyle is rumored to be taking on Speaker Denny.

Last time we had a serious Speaker's race, after Bruce Newcomb retired as Speaker of the House, committee chairships changed, new people were given JFAC seats and the tone and feel of the legislature turned from a moderate and congenial place to an often far more difficult and contentious one.

I am holding my breath about the Senate. Some say that with the final numbers there will be enough relative moderates to keep the Senate from radical change.

This year, for Democrats, members of leadership retired in both the House and Senate. New leaders will be elected from among those not serving on the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. In the Senate in our tiny seven member Democratic caucus with two JFAC members and three leadership positions, our choices are a bit less wide ranging than in the House. We have some pretty wide ranging personalities though.

Sunday, across the state, we legislators will pack our bags for the Northern Idaho Legislative Tour which always follows on the heels of the election. We will travel and mingle for three days getting to know new members and discussing legislative ideas. Both parties will hold caucuses to begin to brooch the topic of leadership races. We will know then who will run and begin to contemplate the temperaments, the strengths, weaknesses and personalities that will shape our lives and policy in the next two sessions and possibly in many more to come.