Last week's doings made for the most eventful biennial organization week since I began covering the Idaho Legislature in 1987. A record-setting freshman class, the historic ouster of a sitting House speaker and reshuffled committees. I wrote a ton, but left some good stuff in my notebooks.
I'll keep looking, but the first scene I'd like to replay comes from Monday's self-introductions by the 44 new lawmakers, 31 in the House and 13 in the Senate, which almost seemed like an inaugural fraternity-sorority get-together.
The ice-breaking began with the House Daddy, Legislative Services Director Jeff Youtz, telling the frosh, "We are the non-partisan staff here to only make you look good."
Welcoming the group, Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, described his first day at the Capitol when he was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2001. "I was overwhelmed by the feeling of being here -- I hope you all will feel that way.
Hill also picked up on Youtz's promise. "He's right, his job is to make us look good, and sometimes they don't do their job very well. But you know, considering what they have to work with, I think they do a pretty good job."
Rep. James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian, joked about his Southern accent, but said he and his family fit in fine in the Gem State. "We love shootin' guns and huntin' and fishin'. It's such an honor to be here with you guys."
Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, noted his 16th grandchild is on the way and said, "I feel like the first day of school. I'm excited. I even got new ties."
Boise Democratic Rep. Mat Elpelding, said it's OK to call him "Erp," and offered, "I'm not married but I am looking."
Cracked Hill: "We have a legislative website for that!"
Rep. Steven Miller, R-Fairfield, who won an open seat by 306 votes, noted that he represents Blaine and Camas counties, perhaps the most liberal and most conservative jurisdictions in the state, respectively.
"So if I have a somewhat confused look on my face, get used to it," said Miller, who wears a killer cream-colored Resistol cowboy hat, with a gold fly pin that was a gift from his dad. (Miller left it behind once and I was tempted to pilfer it. I did try it on. 20X Beaver. A beautiful thing.)
When Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, who lives near the Capitol, offered home cooking upon request, Hill's running commentary was: "She obviously doesn't realize legislators like free stuff."
Rep. Carolyn Meline, D-Pocatello, who has Blaine County connections, told Rep. Miller, "Jim Peterson said to tell you 'Hi.'"
Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, took "Hi," one step further: "I'm used to 'Hi, Hy.' That's OK. 'Hello, Hy,' works also."
The smallest lawmaker in the class, 4-foot-10 GOP Rep. Julie VanOrden of Pingree, described her work as a farmer's wife, mom and a decade on the school board. "And I really am standing up," she said.
Moscow GOP Rep. Cindy Agidius described meeting her husband of 31 years, Paul, on the University of Idaho campus. "I am an ardent Vandal," she said. "I know that's not popular around here."
Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston, is something of a rare bird, a woman pilot. "I fly little airplanes, big airplanes." Now retired, she later told me she'd flown passengers and cargo on craft including 727s and DC-9s. Her employers included Pan Am. Her favorite base? Miami.
Republican Rep. Douglas Hancey, a retired Ford dealer from Rexburg, counted off his progeny, 11 children, 26 grandchildren. "So, we're from Madison County, understand that," he said with a laugh.
Three lawmakers had fresh family news: Sen. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett, reported his son had just been accepted to dental school; Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, said his sixth grandchild was born that very morning; and Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said his son was in Virginia training as a military intelligence specialist, a profession Hagedorn himself practiced.
Rep. Paul Romrell, R-St. Anthony, spent 40 years as county coroner and six on the county commission before coming to the Legislature. "I'm really humbled at this opportunity, just like the Pro Tem said. Just to walk into this building gives you chills."
After 25 years in the Capitol, I can tell you that feeling lasts, Rep. Romrell. Welcome to Boise.
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