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Northern Idaho Lawmaker Attracts Supporters After Punishment

Frankie Barnhill
Boise State Public Radio

UPDATE: 3:24 p.m.: Five Idaho lawmakers surprised the House floor Monday by asking Speaker Scott Bedke to remove them from their committee assignments in a defiant act of solidarity with a female colleague recently admonished for comments on the mobility of women.

Republican Reps. Ron Nate, Priscilla Giddings, Dorothy Moon, Christy Zito, and Karey Hanks made their requests one-by-one on the House floor, sparking murmurs of surprise and criticism among some members on the floor but getting no response from Bedke.

"I'm deeply concerned about the integrity of this body and the mixed messages being sent to the citizens of Idaho," said Rep. Ron Nate, R-Idaho Falls, who was the first to stand and ask to be removed from his legislative committees.

The group was reacting to Bedke's fresh announcement that Rep. Heather Scott, a Republican from Blanchard, would be removed from her three legislative committee assignments. The decision came after Scott commented to another female lawmaker that women only move up in the Legislature by trading sexual favors, sparking outrage from both Republicans and Democrats inside the House.

Fallout from the rarely-used punishment has been swift. Scott's supporters have flooded lawmakers' inboxes and voicemails arguing that it was Bedke, not Scott, who was out of line. Support groups popped up on Facebook blasting both news media and lawmakers deemed as the "establishment." Meanwhile, Scott has stood by her comments, reiterating that she's being punished for speaking truth to power.

To date, Scott has not offered any evidence of her allegations.

Bedke later told The Associated Press that he would not be removing the group from their committee assignments.

"It's their prerogative to show up to committee or not show up to committee, that's on them," Bedke said.

Nate and Moon both showed up to the House Energy and Technology Committee meeting Monday afternoon.

Nate was the only second-term lawmaker among the group to stand up to Bedke, the remaining four are newly-elected representatives. All of them declined to offer an immediate comment but promised they would release a statement soon.

In Idaho, the House speaker has total control over assignments to legislative committees. Assignments are organized every two years after the November election, typically involving an all-day process of political hustling where assignments can sometimes reveal which lawmakers are being rewarded or punished for past behavior.

There is no appeal process if a lawmaker gets kicked off a committee or if someone disagrees with the speaker's assignment decision.

Committee assignments are crucial placements to shape and vote on legislation. Serving on legislative committees allows lawmakers to have firsthand knowledge of what bills are moving through the Capitol, advocate for key issues on behalf of their constituents and gather valuable expertise on legislative subjects.

Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.

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