A decade after Idaho became the first state to repeal term limits, then-House Speaker Bruce Newcomb is warmly remembered for leading the repeal effort, reports Idaho's new Speaker Scott Bedke.
"We are looked upon by other states as an example in several areas, including the issue of term limits," Bedke said Monday, after a four-day trip to Austin, Texas, for new speaker orientation sponsored by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation.
"All I know is Bruce Newcomb cut a pretty wide swath in that group, so I was in like Flynn with some of the older guys," said Bedke, R-Oakley. Newcomb, of Burley, also represented Cassia County.
Newcomb emboldened his colleagues in February 2002 to overturn voter-enacted term limits as they were about to force incumbents off the ballot. Voters subsequently upheld repeal at the polls in November 2002. Newcomb now is the political adviser to Boise State President Bob Kustra.
Bedke said the meeting at the University of Texas was an elevating experience. "Where else would you have the chance to rub shoulders or talk peer-to-peer with the speaker from California or Wisconsin or Texas? I was impressed by the caliber of the individuals."
The takeaway for Bedke? "I have an increased appreciation for the role and responsibility of the speaker's office and I always want to be found carrying out that role in a manner that is befitting of the great state of Idaho. And I'm not trying to sound corny."
Bedke said difficult travel conditions kept two of the 21 new speakers from making the event, hosted by Texas Speaker Joe Straus.
Among the former speakers who spoke to the group were Jimmy Naifeh of Tennesseee, a son of Lebanese emigrants, who was speaker from 1991 to 2009; and Bill Stovall, Arkansas speaker from 2005-2007.
"There was this instant comaraderie," said Bedke.
Though the foundation is supported by large corporations, their fingerprints were light, Bedke said.
A Hewlett Packard representative looked Bedke up because of the company's presence in Boise, he said. "There were a few other faces I recognized that I've seen here in Idaho, but there was no lobbying. They stood up and tipped their hat at the dinner as benefactors of the foundation that makes all this possible."
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