Analysis: Heather Scott’s demotion, and the legislative fallout

The big story from Week One of the 2017 Legislature is a no-brainer: the demotion of controversial conservative Rep. Heather Scott.

Heather Scott
Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard

House Speaker Scott Bedke removed Scott from three House committees Thursday — a rare move, and a swift response to news reports about Scott’s remarks about fellow female lawmakers. Scott, R-Blanchard, has claimed that women only advance to leadership spots in the House if they “spread their legs.”

Scott did not have a seat on the House Education Committee — but that doesn’t mean she is silent on K-12 issues.

Last week, Scott and her closest House ally, Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, released what they called a “Freedom Agenda” for Idaho. Their far-reaching agenda included several education proposals:

  • Repeal of the Idaho Core Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test aligned to the Common Core standards.
  • Repeal of all standardized testing.
  • Allowing gun safety classes in high schools.
  • Establishing education savings accounts.
  • Amending Idaho’s “Blaine Amendment,” which forbids the use of state dollars to support church-run schools.

We’ve seen some of these ideas before. Nate introduced an anti-SBAC bill in 2015, and took a run at amending the Blaine Amendment in 2016. The SBAC bill never got a hearing, and the Blaine Amendment measure stalled out in House committee.

Technically, Scott can try to present any bills she likes; her demotion doesn’t preclude her from doing so. But there’s no guarantee her bills would get a hearing.

Lawmakers can also introduce “personal bills” — without going through the usual process of going through a committee to introduce a bill. Nate used this vehicle to introduce its anti-SBAC bill in 2015. However, a committee chair is under no obligation to give a personal bill a hearing, so these proposals usually die a quick death.

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The Scott-Nate “Freedom Agenda” probably faced long odds a week ago. With Scott relegated to the House’s back bench, those odds would appear all but insurmountable.