Keough named JFAC co-chairman

Sen. Shawn Keough — a 19-year Statehouse veteran with an extensive background in education issues — will take one of the top spots on the Legislature’s budget panel.

Keough, R-Sandpoint, was promoted to co-chair the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, the Associated Press reported Monday.

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Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint

Comprised of 10 senators and 10 House members, JFAC is widely viewed as the most powerful committee at the Statehouse. The panel writes budgets for all state agencies — including public education, which consumes nearly one half of the state general fund. With rare exceptions, JFAC’s budget proposals sail through the Legislature and become law; this year, for example, the seven pieces of JFAC’s public schools budget easily passed both houses before Gov. Butch Otter signed them into law.

Keough’s promotion was not necessarily surprising.

As a longtime vice chair of JFAC, Keough was next in line for the chairman’s spot, vacated in late May when Sen. Dean Cameron resigned to head the state Department of Insurance.

In addition to her work on JFAC, Keough also served this year on the Senate Education Committee.

Keough has also been deeply involved in the process of unraveling the Idaho Education Network contract debacle. She has taken Cameron’s spot on a legislative interim committee studying the failed broadband contract, and high-speed Internet needs for schools and state agencies. She had previously served on the Idaho Education Network’s Program Resource Advisory Council, or IPRAC, a committee of lawmakers and education leaders assigned to oversee the broadband system.

Keough is in the midst of her 10th Senate term. With Cameron’s retirement, she is now the longest-serving member of the Senate.

More reading: Click here to read Keough’s take on education issues at the 2015 legislative session.