The House set its committee lineup for 2023 — with a few big surprises.
Rep, Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell, will chair the House Education Committee, replacing Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls.
Beginning her second term in the Legislature, Yamamoto will now head one of the most prominent and closely watched committees in the Statehouse. The retired teacher and school administrator served on House Education in her first two years in the House.
Clow, beginning his sixth House term, will remain on House Education, and he will also chair the House Business Committee.
In another significant move, House GOP leadership added another Republican seat to the powerful Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee — stripping one of two seats from the Democrats.
Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, was named JFAC’s House co-chair.
“We have some pretty hot topic issues we’re going to be discussing,” Yamamoto said Friday morning, minutes after the new committee assignments were announced on the House floor. “My main thing is to make sure that whatever we legislate, that for parents, for teachers and students, it actually results in a positive outcome and not just one more thing to fall.”
And Yamamoto said she’ll factor in state superintendent-elect Debbie Critchfield’s suggestions. A member of Critchfield’s transition team herself, Yamamoto has assisted Critchfield in developing policy and reviewing budgets.
The state superintendent-elect said she’s prepared to refresh and build new relationships with education committee members, both from the House and Senate.
“It’s good to know who they are and now it’s a different type of work, to reach out,” Critchfield said. “I’m excited about that.”
Gov. Brad Little’s education agenda, Yamamoto said, will easily dovetail into the committee’s conversations.
The House and Senate education committees will be instrumental in deciding how the Legislature spends the $330 million set aside for K-12 during the Sept. 1 special session.
The money hasn’t yet been allocated, but conversations about school facilities and school choice have already surfaced. Yamamoto also sits on a House-Senate working group studying how the state should fund school buildings.
House Speaker Mike Moyle said Yamamoto brings an even temperament, experience and contacts in the education community to her new assignment.
“To find the answer for education, you need to have everybody at the table,” said Moyle, R-Star.
After four years as House Education chairman, Clow said he would have preferred to stay put. But he also didn’t criticize leadership’s decision to move him into the head spot at House Business, a committee where he has served for a decade. The committee has several first-term legislators, Clow said, and the committee’s prior chair, Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, is stepping out of that role to take over as the House’s assistant majority leader.
On Friday, Moyle said the reassignment was not a demotion — and was quick to say Clow had done a good job as House Education chair. And Moyle said he chose to keep Clow on House Education, so he could help Yamamoto navigate the politics of the committee.
“I know there’s been some strife on that committee,” Moyle said.
If there was any tension about the change at House Education, it wasn’t evident Friday morning. After the House adjourned its brief floor session, Clow approached Moyle at the speaker’s podium, and the two embraced.
Here’s how House Education will line up in 2023:
Yamamoto; Rep. Lori McCann, R-Lewiston, vice chair; Clow; Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale; Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls; Rep. Dan Garner; R-Clifton; Rep. Dale Hawkins, R-Fernwood; Rep. Ted Hill, R-Eagle; Rep. Greg Lanting, R-Twin Falls; Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene; Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome; Rep. Elaine Price, R-Coeur d’Alene; Rep. Mark Sauter, R-Sandpoint; Rep. Tony Wisniewski, R-Post Falls; Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise; Rep. Sonia Galaviz, D-Boise; Rep. Chris Mathias, D-Boise.
One of the biggest public squabbles of the organization session centered on the 10th House seat on JFAC.
In past years, Republicans have held eight of the 10 House seats on JFAC, with Democrats holding two seats.
This year, Republicans will hold nine JFAC House seats, leaving the Democrats with just a single House seat.
Moyle defended the move Friday morning, saying that Democrats have historically been overrepresented on House committees. Democrats hold 11 House seats — a 15.7% share of the 70-member body.
“I think it was time that we made the adjustment,” Moyle told reporters.
By contrast, Democrats will hold three of 17 seats on House Education, slightly above the 15.7% mark. They have two seats on the 13-member State Affairs Committee, roughly in line with that 15.7% mark.
House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel criticized GOP leadership for “willfully” dumping a veteran JFAC Democrat, Rep. Colin Nash, D-Boise.
“(It’s a) brazenly partisan move,” said Rubel, D-Boise.
Horman’s promotion, meanwhile, came as little surprise. Beginning her sixth House term, the Idaho Falls Republican has been a fixture on JFAC, playing a prominent role in writing K-12 and higher education budgets.
Here’s the House JFAC lineup: Horman; Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, vice chair; Rep. Matthew Bundy, R-Mountain Home; Rep. Rod Furniss, R-Rigby; Rep. Clay Handy, R-Burley; Rep. Tina Lambert, R-Caldwell; Rep. James Petzke, R-Meridian; Rep. Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg; Rep. Josh Tanner, R-Eagle; Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise.
JFAC is composed of 20 members — 10 members each from the House and Senate. With the House’s shakeup, Republicans will hold 17 of JFAC’s 20 seats. (Click here for Thursday’s news on the Senate committee assignments, including its JFAC membership.)