The last time Ilah Hickman was seen at the Idaho Statehouse, she was doing what a persistent lobbyist does: staking out House State Affairs Committee Chairman Thomas Loertscher to push for time on the committee calendar.
That was 2014. This year, she got a hearing early.
On Tuesday, Loertscher’s committee voted to introduce, or “print,” the Les Bois Junior High School eighth-grader’s bill to declare the Idaho giant salamander the state’s amphibian.
She didn’t get unanimous support. There were a couple of audible no’s in Tuesday’s voice vote — but no lawmaker ventured to go on the record in opposition.
But the print hearing was a milestone of sorts. Last year, Hickman’s salamander bill passed the Senate 33-2, but stalled in House State Affairs.
As usual, Hickman came prepared to make her case. She pointed out that the Idaho giant salamander is an ideal choice for a state amphibian, since it lives almost exclusively in the Gem State, and boasts a design on its back that resembles a topographical map of the Bitterroot Mountains.
And she had materials ready for committee members, such as Mountain Home Republican Pete Nielsen, who wanted to see a picture of the salamander in question. “I’ve never seen one of these rascals.”
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When Hickman comes back to committee, Nielsen will get to see one — face to face. She pledged to bring in a live giant salamander, “in an aquarium, of course.”