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Geddes and Denney

Leaders face the press: Robert Geddes (left), Lawerence Denney

They probably intended to convey a workaday Idaho legislative session, nothing especially exciting here, and if that was the idea, then Idaho Senate President pro tem Robert Geddes and House Speaker Lawerence Denney succeeded.

They were at an Idaho Press Club lunch today, fielding questions on a fairly broad range of subjects, from property taxes to teacher pay to the corrections explosion. But the overarching metaphor for everything seemed to be the legislature’s cramped circumstances.

The Idaho Statehouse is shut down for renovation, for this session and next moving legislators next door to the old Ada County courthouse (now referred to as the “statehouse annex”), much smaller and less comfortable quarters than before. People are stepping over each other (especially in the House), or jamming into small corners. Denney asked reporters trying to interview House members to do it off the House floor, rather than at their seats as they historically had; the closeness of the quarters means legislators might have trouble working with visitors climbing over them.The limits on freedom of movement probably have a psychological effect, too; lack of physical ambition can lead to the mental version as well. (Something like this probably affected the Washington Legislature this decadetoo, in the sessions when it also was bounced from an under-renovation statehouse; those were not especially productive sessions.)

The exploding population in jails, prisons and parole “is a problem we need to address this session,” Geddes said, and probably some movement will be made, whether or not toward the private prison ideas Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has proposed. Geddes described the problem in some detail, and he seemed quite conversant with the implications of several of the options. But as to what path any of those options might take remained unclear.

And to a larger degree, you got the sense that there isn’t a lot of strong movement on some of the other issues. There was a clear implication that unless votes for the new gay rights bill can be lined up quickly, it will probably stall out just as fast. On the flip side, Denney seemed to wrist-slap Representative Steve Thayn, whose report from a family preservation committee seemed to represent his own views more than others. Denney put it diplomatically – Thayne “was a freshman, he should have had a lot more guidance from us about what to do” with a committee – but his meaning was clear enough. And there’ll not likely be a lot of movement this session from that front, either.

This session, which still shows some signs of turning out shorter than usual, may be represent something of a holding pattern whose main work is on the budget, and nothing especially radical there.

SHOUT OUT The Press Club legislative lunch drew, as usual (saying this having first attended one in 1977), much of the statehouse reporting crew. But what seemed to get attention was the blogger presence. Ran into Dean Ferguson of the Lewiston Tribune later this afternoon at a Boise coffee shop, and he remarked on the bloggers. And so did Kevin Richert, editorial page editor and himself a blogger too, on his blog.

They included Jill Kuraitis and Sharon Fisher of New West, and David Frazier of Boise Guardian (who had some expectedly pungent questions and comments). Richert closed his blog item on this: “A special honor to an old friend, Northwest political blogger Randy Stapilus, who attended this afternoon’s luncheon, after blogging live during a Tuesday night U.S. Senate debate in Pendleton, Ore. New media, old media. There’s still no substitute for getting out in the field.” True enough.

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  1. Nathaniel Nathaniel January 24, 2008

    That is, if “getting out in the field” is a jerk chicken sandwich in the private room of an open ceilinged gin joint on the Basque block with oil paintings of prominent lobbyists adorning the exposed brick walls…

    I thought the old media-new media dynamics at that luncheon were fascinating: I had to write in “Web” on the Idaho Press Club registration form next to print, radio, etc…

  2. slfisher slfisher January 25, 2008

    It wasn’t jerk, it was southwestern. No dark fruity taste of allspice. Oh well.

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