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Idaho legislators to select caucus leadership teams and committee chairs

The House in session at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Otto Kitsinger
The House in session at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Organizational session begins Thursday at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise

Idaho legislators will set the stage for the 2023 legislative session this week in Boise by selecting critical leadership positions for the Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate.

Legislative leaders will then appoint new committee chairs and select committee members — another important step in gearing up for the session and figuring out which legislators will play which roles.

Although the 2023 legislative session does not gavel in until Jan 9, the leadership and committee assignments will be sorted out this week.

Legislators will meet in private Wednesday night to elect a slate of caucus leadership. Caucasus are grouped together by legislative chamber and political party. That means Republicans in the Idaho House will elect the speaker of the House and majority leadership positions, while Democrats in the House will elect their minority leadership team. Similarly, Republicans in the Senate will elect the Senate president pro tem and majority leadership officers, while Democrats in the Senate will elect minority party officers.

The Idaho House and Idaho Senate will then vote to confirm the top leadership positions Thursday during the organizational session of the Idaho Legislature at the Idaho State Capitol.

Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press reported on the makeup of the contested legislative leadership races on Nov. 20. 

The top leadership spots in the Idaho House and Idaho Senate are contested, setting up a high-stakes week at the Statehouse.

Top leadership post in the Idaho House is up for grabs

House Republicans are expected to elect a full new slate of leadership officers due to a sort of domino effect created after outgoing Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, ran for and was elected lieutenant governor.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks, R-Meridian, are running for the vacant speaker’s seat, which is the top leadership position in the Idaho House. The speaker presides over the Idaho House, is involved with negotiations between the House, the Senate and the governor’s office, and is involved with appointing committee chairs and committee members.

Moyle has served 12 terms in the Idaho House — spanning 24 years — and will be by far the longest serving legislator in 2023.

With all the turnover coming to the Idaho Legislature in 2023, Moyle said his experience makes him the best choice for speaker.

“I have the institutional knowledge that is lacking in other people running (for leadership posts),” Moyle told the Idaho Capital Sun in a telephone interview. “We kind of have a split caucus, which I would like to pull together. I think I’m the only one who has the ability to run the floor. The knowledge I have will help the House be successful.”

If he’s elected speaker, Moyle said he would work to help flatten the learning curve for new legislators and work to find roles for them where they can contribute to the Idaho House.

“I have institutional knowledge; I’ve been through this before when we’ve had high turnover and brought everybody together,” Moyle said.

Monks has served five terms in the Idaho House and currently serves in leadership as the assistant majority leader.

Monks said he supported Moyle for the past 10 years but is running for speaker because he thinks there needs to be a change in leadership style. Monks said he has met with all new incoming members of the Idaho House and would prioritize bringing them up to speed and unifying the House.

“Something that has been lacking is really a unified approach to what our priorities are going forward, and in order to have a unified approach, you have to ask your caucus what are their priorities,” Monks told the Sun in a telephone interview. “A good speaker is somebody who can set aside their own priorities and put priorities the caucus wants ahead of their own.”

Monks also says he has the experience to do the speaker’s job, with 10 years in the Idaho House under his belt. His leadership position of House assistant majority leader has prepared him to take on greater responsibilitieshe said.

“I have the right working relationship with the executive branch and the Senate,” Monks said.

Moyle and Monks abandoning their current leadership roles also sets up a series of secondary leadership races downstream.

Russell reported that Reps. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, and Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, are running for majority leader, while Reps. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, and Jon Weber, R-Rexburg, are running for assistant majority leader. Reps. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian, and Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello, are running for majority caucus chairperson.

Republicans in Idaho Senate to vote on top leadership post as well

Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, is challenging Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, for the highest ranking leadership position in the Idaho Senate.

The Senate president pro tem is the highest ranking member of the Senate and presides over the Senate and when the lieutenant governor is not there. The Senate president pro tem is the second in line of succession for governor, behind the lieutenant governor. It is not uncommon for the Senate president pro tem to serve as acting governor for short periods of time, such as when the governor and lieutenant governor are outside of the state and unable to perform their duties. By law, the Senate president pro tem becomes the acting lieutenant governor in all cases where the lieutenant governor succeeds to the office of governor.

Den Hartog has served four terms in the Idaho Senate, where she is chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee. Den Hartog said she has considered running for leadership since the summer.

“With taking a look at how the Senate was going to be changing, I thought that there was a need, a time and an opportunity to bring some changes to the leadership team,” Den Hartog told the Sun in a telephone interview.

Throughout her four terms in the Senate, Den Hartog said she has focused on supporting school choice options for children and families alongside supporting the public school system. She also focused on transportation infrastructure and projects through the committee she chairs.

Den Hartog said she believes she is in the best position to unify a changing Senate.

“My sense from my current colleagues and new colleagues coming in is we have a lot more in common than people might realize or what may be portrayed, particularly from a policy standpoint,” Den Hartog said.

Winder has served seven terms in the Idaho Senate. He served for the past two years as president pro tem following the retirement of previous Sen. President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, in 2020. Prior to that, Winder served as majority leader.

Winder could not be reached for comment.

Russell also reported that incoming freshman Sen. Ben Adams, R-Nampa, is challenging Assistant Senate Majority Leader Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, for her leadership position.

Finally, Sens. Janie Ward-Engelking and Melissa Wintrow, both D-Boise, are running for the Senate minority leadership post that is becoming vacant with the retirement of Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, Russell reported.

Training for new Idaho legislators starts today

A new legislator orientation program starts today and continues through Wednesday, Legislative Services Office Director Terri Kondeff said during the Nov. 10 meeting of the Idaho Legislature’s Legislative Council. During their orientation, the new legislators will meet with Idaho State Police to discuss security protocols, learn about parliamentary procedure and drafting bills, receive their state-issued laptops, learn about public records laws, meet with representatives of the news media and participate in respectful workplace training and ethics training, Kondeff said.

During the Nov. 10 Legislative Council meeting, Bedke told the legislators who will remain in the Idaho House that the turnover will likely bring challenges during the 2023 session.

“We are going to great lengths, as you can see here, to facilitate the transition from civilian life to legislative life,” Bedke said at the meeting. “I think we all need to pay special attention to the ethics, the civility and the respectful workplace parts.”

The new legislators will be sworn in Thursday and receive their committee assignments Thursday or Friday during the organizational session.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.