Legislature 2023: Senate sets its lineup, jockeying continues in House

Lt. Gov.-elect Scott Bedke, House Speaker Mike Moyle and Majority Leader Megan Blanksma confer before the start of Thursday’s organizational session. (Kevin Richert/Idaho EdNews)

Idaho Senate committees will have a new look next year, after a spate of retirements and election upsets resulted in a record class of new legislators.

Senate leadership posted new committee assignments Thursday during the Legislature’s “organizational session.” The committees conduct much of the nuts-and-bolts work of the session — on education policy, state budgets and taxation, among other topics.

Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls, will chair the Senate Education Committee in 2023, replacing former  Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, who lost in the May GOP primary election. Lent was vice chair of the committee in 2022.

Freshman lawmaker Benjamin Toews, R-Coeur d’Alene, will take over as vice chair of the nine-member committee.

And Toews is not the only new face on the committee. Only three senators — Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, and Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, and Lent — sat on the committee last year.

Rounding out the committee are Sens. Cindy Carlson, R-Riggins; Scott Herndon, R-Sagle; Brian Lenney, R-Nampa; and Carrie Semmelroth, D-Boise.

The budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will also see an overhaul, after 11 former members either retired or lost their bids for reelection in 2022. And JFAC’s chairpersons’ and vice chairpersons’ seats were up for grabs this week.

Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, will take over as JFAC’s Senate co-chairman, with freshman Sen. Carl Bjerke, R-Coeur d’Alene, as vice chair.

The Senate’s other JFAC seats went to Sens. Ben Adams, R-Nampa; Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton; Kevin Cook, R-Idaho Falls; Rick Just, D-Boise; Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree; Herndon; Lent; and Ward-Engelking.

Assignments from the House will be announced Friday, and are likely to result in further shakeups on JFAC. The House Education Committee will get, at least, a new vice chairperson, and seven of the 15 committee spots are open.

The turnover stems from a turbulent 2022 election cycle. All told, 45 of the state’s 105 lawmakers did not serve in the Legislature in 2022.

The changing of the guard began early on the House floor Thursday, when lawmakers elected Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, as House speaker. The unanimous floor vote was a formality; House Republicans elected Moyle in a caucus Wednesday night. Moyle succeeds Lt. Gov.-elect Scott Bedke, who had been speaker for 10 years.

The 2023 legislative session begins on Jan. 9.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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