When voters provide feedback to the State Department of Education and their legislators in the form of Proposition defeats because stakeholders were not afforded the opportunity to provide feedback on the front end, it signals a substantial change in the “business as usual” of Idaho politics.
But when state legislators decide to throw out divisive and ultra-partisan three-term incumbent Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney and replace him with slightly less conservative but drastically more tolerant Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, we’ve got the framework for some real positive change in both the effectiveness and the civility of our state’s political process.
After being sworn in as Speaker on Thursday, Bedke said, “My platform all along has been one of inclusion.” He appeared to prove it by promising the deposed Denney a “substantive” role in the next session. On Friday it was announced Denney is the new chairman of the House Resources and Conservation Committee.
With well over 40 percent of the House composed of freshman legislators, it will be interesting to see how they are positioned; which committees they are chosen to serve on and the alliances they choose to form in their efforts to “learn the ropes.” These new legislators are not naïve; they’ve campaigned for a partisan office and in some cases had to survive both a primary and general election opponent in order to make it to Boise.
And yet, none of the 31 newbie House members (23 of them Republican) should walk in on their first day suspicious of their colleagues, antagonistic toward those from the other political party or fearful their caucus brethren will stab them in the back when running for re-election in a couple of years.
For the most part, those are learned behaviors; behaviors too frequently visible in the actions of the outgoing speaker.
For 12 years in the Legislature, Bedke has demonstrated solid political professionalism and worked to include rather than exclude; something he promises to continue with greatly expanded clout. Can one man make a difference? With mature behavior from incumbents and a sincere openness from rookies, who knows?