The Idaho Senate selected Sen. Chuck Winder for the chamber’s No. 1 leadership position during the first day of the legislative organizational session Thursday at the Statehouse.
Although the 2021 session does not convene until Jan. 11, legislators were back in Boise this week for a series of meetings and events.
During this organizational session, legislators were sworn in and given the oath of office and new members received training. Legislators also selected their floor seats based on seniority.
Colleagues selected Winder, R-Boise, to serve as president pro tempore. Winder, now in his seventh term, previously served as the Senate’s majority leader. Former Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, did not run for re-election this year. Hill was at the Statehouse Thursday to offer the opening prayer and wish his colleagues well for the year ahead.
The House also convened its organizational session Thursday. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, was officially installed as House speaker again after fending off a challenge from Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, during a closed-door vote Wednesday night. Bedke has served as speaker since before the 2013 legislative session.
Before the week is over, legislative leaders are expected to hand out committee assignments for the upcoming session. There will be a couple of assignments to watch for.
Senate leaders will name a new chairman of the Senate Education Committee to succeed Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, who did not run for re-election. Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, has served as Senate Education’s vice chairman and may be in line for the promotion — but surprises are always possible.
House leaders were also expected to make a few changes to the lineup in the House Education Committee, replacing members who did not seek re-election or lost their re-election bids.
The organizational session and this week’s other meetings may offer a preview of how the 2021 session will look and feel as the coronavirus continues to spread in Idaho. The Statehouse was open to the public this week, with signs advising but not requiring masks and social distancing.
Inside the Statehouse, House Democrats and some Republican legislators masked up. But many House Republicans did not and huddled closely in a group on the floor as they waited their turns to pick seats.
Democrats also had protective Plexiglass shields installed around their desks on the House floor, while Republicans did not.
As for meetings, a joint House-Senate academic standards interim committee met Wednesday, using a partially remote video conference meeting format. Several legislators met in person in a traditional committee room for the meeting, but at least one attended remotely from her office. Members of the public could watch a live video of the meeting online or watch a live video feed from a separate room than the legislators inside the Statehouse.
Both the House and Senate unanimously adopted the same official rules used to govern the previous legislative session. No new rules or amendments were considered Thursday.
The Senate is not due back on the floor until at least 2:30 p.m. Thursday, while the House has adjourned until 8:30 a.m. Friday.
The 2021 session will kick off Jan. 11 with Gov. Brad Little’s State of the State address and budget recommendations.