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A Seat in the House

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Heading off to the 61st Session

The first regular session of the 61st Idaho Legislature will convene on January 10, 2011, just a little more than a month after this issue of the Journal is published.

Because this was an election year that resulted in changes in the membership of the legislature the House and Senate conduct a reorganization process during which time leadership positions are open for elections for each party caucus and new committee assignments are made. Following the leadership elections the leadership of both parties will make the committee assignments for their respective party members. The number of minority and majority members assigned to the legislative committees in the House is based upon the ratio of majority and minority members of the body; the same is true in the Senate.

The Speaker of the House is a member of the majority party and is assisted in leadership responsibilities by the Majority Leader, Assistant Majority Leader and the Majority Caucus Chairman. The minority party selects their Minority Leader, an Assistant Minority Leader and a Minority Caucus Chairman. The Speaker of the House conducts the House Sessions and essentially manages the affairs of the House.

The Senate elects a President Pro Tempore from the majority party, a Majority Leader, Assistant Majority Leader and the Majority Caucus Chairman. As in the House the Senate minority party also elects their Minority Leader, Assistant Minority Leader and the Minority Caucus Chair.  Unlike the House, the Lt. Governor is President of the Senate and normally conducts the Senate sessions; however the President of the Senate only votes in the event of a tie vote by the Senate members. The President Pro Tempore conducts the session in the absence of the Lt. Governor and manages the affairs of the Senate.

The reorganization session of the legislature is scheduled for December 1, at about the same time as this edition of the Journal will be published. At the time of writing this article I was not aware of the outcome of the leadership elections but can say that there are challenges for a number of the positions. 

The incumbent Majority Leader of the House is being challenged by at least one other member and the Majority Caucus Leader is also being challenged by at least one member. The incumbent Speaker of the House and the incumbent Assistant Majority Leaders apparently have no challengers but nominations can always come from the floor during the actual reorganization meeting of each caucus.

Because the Senate Pro Tempore is stepping down from his position, at least two members of the majority party have announced their intention to run for this position. The current Majority Leader is expected to have at least one challenger and the current Assistant Majority Leader is expected to have at least one challenger. The current Majority Caucus Chairman is one of the candidates for the Pro Tempore position that leaves this position open. I understand at least two majority party members are considering trying for this position.

I am not aware of challenges to any of the incumbents holding leadership positions in the minority party but there are some leadership vacancies that will need to be filled.  Candidates for these positions will make their intentions known during the reorganization of their minority caucus’s. 

These are obviously important positions and the members elected to these positions will in a large sense influence the direction of the legislature and the manner in which the House and Senate work with each other and the Governor in addressing legislative concerns and the passage of legislation. I will report the outcome of the leadership elections and significant committee assignments in the next River Journal publication.

In addition to the reorganization sessions being held in December many members of the legislature, including myself, are involved in various meetings in preparation of the next session. As an example: I am a member of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee and attended a meeting of the Committee on November 15 and 16 to receive information on revenue estimates and appropriation requests for the upcoming fiscal year budget. 

 During this meeting we learned that we are looking at a financial deficit of as much as 400 million dollars that we will have to resolve in the next session. This will be a difficult problem to solve, but because of our constitutional mandate to establish a balanced budget before adjourning we have no choice but to cover the deficit by reducing spending, raising additional revenue or doing a combination of both. It will be a controversial and challenging process.

Additionally I and other members of our Legislative District One and Two teams are scheduled to meet in December with our local judges to learn their legislative priorities, as well as chambers of commerce in Bonner and Boundary Counties and economic development committees to learn their legislative concerns. We are also scheduled to meet with representatives of North Idaho College, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Idaho Department of Transportation to be informed of their legislative issues. In addition we continue to receive input from individual private citizens on proposed legislation that they would like us to sponsor. 

December will be an interesting and busy month, but even more important it is the month in which we celebrate our Savior’s birth, so in the spirit of the Holiday Season and the celebration of Christmas let me take this opportunity to wish all of you “A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON!!” 

Thanks for reading and as always I welcome your input on issues important to you. I can be reached at (208) 265-0123 or by mail at P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho 83825.

George

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

Tagged as:

Politics, budget, funding, Idaho Legislature, budget cuts, leadership positions

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