Two years ago when Rep. Eric Anderson lost his vice chairmanship of the House State Affairs Committee, Speaker Lawerence Denney called it an oversight. Denney said Anderson would have to live with the loss of power for two years.
Despite Denney's statement that "sometimes we miss things," Anderson and many observers figured he was being punished for lodging an ethics complaint against Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. Hart is a famed tax scofflaw who unsuccessfully attempted to claim legislative immunity rather than timely pay about $600,000 in income taxes owed to the state and federal governments.
Hart was defeated by voters last year, removing a branded embarrassment from the House.
But it seems that Anderson, R-Priest Lake, was again overlooked this session, missing out on a key committee assignment.
Only this time, new Speaker Scott Bedke restored Anderson to a sought-after post on the House Resources & Conservation Committee.
On Wednesday, Bedke appointed Anderson to the committee, saying a paperwork snafu was responsible for the House Journal failing to include Simpson on Resources at last month's organizational session.
"This is just a puck that got behind the goalkeeper," Bedke said. "Honest. He asked for it and for whatever reason we had it on all our papers but it didn't make it into the Journal."
The Journal, the official record of the House, was corrected Wednesday.
Anderson said he learned of the error last week from a constituent who checked the committee list online. "I told somebody my committee assignments and they came back and said, 'You might want to double-check.'"
Ironically enough, Denney, R-Midvale, chairs Resources, a plum Bedke provided out of respect to the former speaker and his experience.
Anderson, a five-term lawmaker, was among the most prominent supporters of Bedke's successful challenge. He wanted on Resources because his district includes tens of thousands of acres of state and federal forests.
He said he has absolutely no reason to suspect Denney tried to keep him off the panel. In fact, he said, Denney warmly approached him on the floor Wednesday after the correction to the Journal.
"That was an important moment to me," Anderson said. "He came and extended his hand and I mine. I think that's what we need to do. I'm really, really sincere about Lawerence. It means a lot to me."
Denney confirmed his reaching out. "I said, 'Welcome to the committee.'"
Asked about the now twice-overlooked Anderson's bad luck, Denney just laughed, but added that he played no role in the mix-up that left Anderson briefly in the cold.
Despite his legislative seniority, Anderson is now the junior member of the panel. Those officially appointed at the organizational session in December all rank above him.
Anderson said he has no beef. "To me, it's perfectly fine. I'm honored to be there."
Bedke said other members asked for the committee seat, which took him a bit of time to sort through. "Certainly, every other freshman wanted it and there were some veterans as well."
But Bedke chose Anderson, whose district makes him a good fit. "I'm surrounded by the largest school endowment timberland that we have. It's a committee I've always wanted to be on."
Anderson's patience has been rewarded.