Decimated by a series of startling primary losses, the Legislature’s budget-writing committee is taking a summer hiatus.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee was scheduled to meet next month for field meetings in Moscow, Lewiston and Orofino. But the JFAC tour is, evidently, another casualty of last week’s GOP primary.
“There weren’t enough members available to attend to make the trip worthwhile,” said Keith Bybee, head of the Legislative Services Office’s budget and policy analysis division, in a Tuesday email to JFAC members and legislative staff.
Comprised of 20 lawmakers — 10 from the Senate, and 10 from the House — JFAC is arguably the most powerful committee in the Statehouse, responsible for writing budget bills for K-12, colleges and universities and all state agencies.
But seven JFAC Republicans lost in the May 17 primary: Senate Chairman Jeff Agenbroad of Nampa; Sen. Carl Crabtree of Grangeville; Sen. Peter Riggs of Post Falls; Sen. Jim Woodward of Sagle; Rep. Paul Amador of Coeur d’Alene; Rep. Ron Nate of Rexburg; and Rep. Scott Syme of Wilder. On top of that, four other JFAC members did not seek re-election to the Legislature.
In other words, at least 11 of JFAC’s 20 members will be new when the Legislature convenes in January.
JFAC routinely meets a couple of times during the legislative off-season. And the committee’s co-chairs — Agenbroad and retiring Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa — have expressed interest in a fall meeting sometime between late September and mid-October, Bybee said.