State Sen. Branden Durst — a Senate Education Committee member and one of 10 members of a legislative interim committee studying education issues — has been living part-time in Washington state, where his wife is working as a teacher.
“I am committed to serving my constituents and have been doing so diligently,” Durst, D-Boise, told KTVB, which broke the story Friday. “I am attending meetings on their behalf, conducting research, and keeping abreast of issues impacting District 18 and the state of Idaho.”
The K-12 interim committee holds its first meeting in Boise on Thursday. Idaho Education News asked Durst if he will be attending; in an email, Durst said he will be there. “I am at my office in the Capitol reading all materials right now and preparing questions.”
Durst’s residency issue merits investigation, Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill told KTVB. “There are some statutes that talk a little bit about residency. The (state) Constitution talks about it a little bit. But we don’t have any rules that apply for an elected official, an elected member of the Senate, after they’ve been elected.”
Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, has come under criticism over residency issues. She has been living outside her Canyon County district while her home is being remodeled. She has said she will move a mobile home to her property in an attempt to quell criticism. (More on this story from Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman.)
Durst’s wife is working as a teacher in the Seattle area, and because of that, he says his situation is different than Lodge’s. “There’s a big difference between living out of your district for an entire year, and having a family member who is a teacher that doesn’t get treated well because they live in Idaho and have to find employment someplace else,” Durst told KTVB. “I think there’s a big difference.”
It is worth noting, in the interest of full disclosure, that Durst has been a vocal critic of Idaho Education News. Here is a link to a recent Durst guest opinion, which received statewide attention.