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Posts published in “Day: December 13, 2006”


The Missouri career of Elson Floyd probably will be the center of review of the new president, as of this morning, of Washington State University. Understandably; that's been a big job and he's had some controversy (none of it fatal, obviously) to paw through.

Elson Floyd - from University of Missouri systemBut just about as significant, from WSU's standpoint, is that the new president at Pullman - students there already have dubbed him "E-Flo" - has some Washington state background. From the WSU press statement about him:

". . . he spent two years as executive director of the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board, the agency responsible for statewide coordination, planning, oversight, policy analysis and student financial aid programs for Washington's post-secondary education system. From 1990 to 1993, he served as vice president for student services, vice president for administration and executive vice president at Eastern Washington University."

And to think they got him without spending the full standard year searching high and low for a new president: They already knew this guy. They know what they're getting.

That Washington background should be helpful, as WSU pushes to maintain its place in a financially-strapped state system. The statewide background and perspective he has in both Washington and Missouri, together with what are described as unusually strong public speaking skills, may make him a shrewd choice.

The explanation

We gave less attention than did the Idaho media to the controversy over the partisan split in the legislature's budget committee. But an explanation surrounding that split, by new House Speaker Lawerence Denney, cannot go unnoted here.

Idhao legislature interiorThe issue concerns the number of seats each party receives on the legislature's - in this case, the House's - committees, a matter determined roughly by how many members of each party area seated in the chamber. If, for example, a party had one third of the seats in the chamber, then it should get one third, or as close as practical, to the seats on each of the committees. That's how it works in most states, including Idaho.

The House half of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (that is, Appropriations) has 10 members. JFAC, as it is usually called, is the premier legislative committee - it's where the money is handed out - and legislators periodically turn down chairmanships of other committees for a seat on it. Last term, Democrats had 13 of 70 House seats, or 18.6%, and got two of the 10 JFAC seats (20%). This term, Democrats increased to 19 seats out of 70, or 27.1% of the total, but still were given just two JFAC seats. By the logic operating in previous sessions, the number should have been three. (Will it make much difference ultimately in budget setting? No. Conservative Republicans either way will have a big majority on JFAC.)

Democrats protested that decision to the point of stalking out of the chamber. (Politically, they needed to do something like that, lest they appeared to be simply rolled and liking it; they may have learned that political lesson at the special session last summer.) Beyond that, though, some of the talk about the third seat has got a little over-wrought. When former Democratic Representative Ken Robison, quoted at New West, said “It’s comparable to a coup,” you begin to suspect the protest is being milked a bit.

On the other hand, Jill Kuraitis' New West piece on the dispute has some revealing comments from Denney, who was chiefly responsible for the decision.

His comment that “I don’t know that JFAC is any more important than the other morning committees" seems disingenuous for someone who has been around the Legislature the better part of two decades. But the bottom line seemed to be this: “There has to be a first for everything. The Speaker has the power to do what he wants.”

Does that mean he's the Decider?