In a big table in a small room on the first floor of the Capitol stand six paper tents with the names of six redistricting commissioners: Republicans Dolores Crow, Randy Hansen and Sheila Olsen, and Democrats Ron Bietelspacher, Shauneen Grange and Elmer Martinez.
The names have been reprinted since Oct. 18, when the commission agreed on plans for congressional and legislative districts. But legislative staff made no accommodation for the efforts of House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and Idaho Republican Chairman Norm Semanko to fire Crow and Hansen, a move rebuffed by the Idaho Supreme Court late Wednesday.
Did they even print name tents for the prospective replacements, Bob Forrey of Nampa and Angela Cross of Post Falls?
"No, we didn't," said Jeff Youtz, director of the Legislative Services Office.
Shortly before the meeting began, a joint statement from Denney and Semanko suggested they may return to court, writing that "the commission will reconvene today with a cloud of uncertainty continuing to hang over it with regard to the ultimate legality of any new plan."
Hearing the statement, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said, "Why don't you put a parentheses on that and call it 'spin?' There comes a time to get it done."
Hansen entered the room, shaking hands and said, "It's good to be here." Both he and Crow refused requests by Denney and Semanko that they resign, saying they had followed their constitutional obligation to draw lines without regard to party or incumbent protection.
The commission has returned because the Supreme Court ruled last week that Twin Falls County was correct in arguing that the commission split too many counties and had to make another attempt to redraw the state's 35 legislative districts to reflect population growth in the 2000s.
The October plan, adopted unanimously, divided or split 12 counties. The commission now must work to set the standard established by the court, which appears to be seven counties.
Ada and Kootenai counties can be kept whole, while being divided into nine and four districts respectively, and still keep within the one-person, one-vote standing in the U.S. Constitution. Five other counties must be split and share districts with adjoining counties: Bonner, Canyon, Twin Falls, Bannock and Bonneville.
The commission began at 9:05 a.m. in the 17-by-21 room, C110, which has chairs for just 15 spectators, four of which were reserved: One for Ysursa, who opposed the Denney-Semanko gambit; Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst; Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane, who wrote the letter advising Ysursa that Denney and Semanko couldn't fire their appointees; and Spokane Spokesman-Review blogger extraordinaire Betsy Russell.
The commission is scheduled to spend about 85 minutes discussing the court's striking down the October plan, and about 75 minutes reviewing plans with a minimum number of county splits, completing that work about noon. After lunch, they plan to break into small groups and work on cobbling together a plan.
Commissioners have also set meetings for Friday, Saturday and Monday though Friday of next week. They have said they hope to complete their work by tomorrow. All meetings are at 9 a.m. and live-streamed on Idaho Public TV.
The commission is considering only legislative districts, which were the subject of the Supreme Court's ruling. The congressional map adopted in October is not on the table.
UPDATE, 9:45 A.M.
After hearing from Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane, Idaho's redistricters broke after 30 minutes.
They will work in groups of two or three -- below the four-member quorum -- to rework the legislative maps tossed by the Idaho Supreme Court. The commission voted 6-0 to use the map it adopted, L87, as a starting point. Their aim is to eliminate five of the 12 county splits they approved in October.
The commission had planned to spend 85 minutes on legalities, but dispensed with a review of the court's decision and Idaho's Open Meeting Law in just 30.
Initially, three commissioners -- Sheila Olsen, Ron Bietelspacher and Randy Hansen -- remained in Room C110 on the first floor of the Capitol; three others -- Dolores Crow, Shauneen Grange and Elmer Martinez -- moved to a conference room in Secretary of State Ben Ysursa's office. Those configurations could change as the commission moves through the day.
The commission reconvenes at noon in C110.
UPDATE, 12:50 p.m.
Over sack lunches, the six commissioners are reviewing the submitted plans that comply with the Supreme Court's order to split the fewest number of counties -- which the commission believes to be seven.
They are expected to return to their small group discussions later this afternoon.
UPDATE, 5:00 p.m.
Commissioners broke for the day, after reviewing seven plans that meet the Supreme Court's standard. One of those comes from Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs, who argued the winning case that tossed the October plan.
The commission reconvenes at 9 a.m. Friday.
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