5 legislators want to leave committees after representative disciplined

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From left, top to bottom: Reps. Heather Scott, Ron Nate, Karey Hanks, Christy Zito, Dorothy Moon, Priscilla Giddings.

BOISE — Five lawmakers asked to be removed from their House committees Monday after Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, was stripped of her committees last week.

The members who made the request included Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg; Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley; Rep. Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony; Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, and Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.

All of the representatives, except for Nate, are in their first terms.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, stripped Scott of her legislative committee assignments last week after she reportedly made unprofessional comments, alleging female lawmakers offer sexual favors in exchange for chairmanship positions.

Bedke said Monday that he will not consider the legislators’ request to be removed from their committees.

“Their message has been received,” Bedke said. “But I’m not going to honor their request.”

After her colleagues made their request, Scott told the Press-Tribune, “That’s amazing,” but did not expand.

“I think it’s ridiculous that other members would like to have their committees removed.”

Minority Leader Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said after the House met that he felt the five lawmakers were making a mistake.

“The comments by Rep. Scott regarding the women in her caucus were totally uncivil, they question their ethics and they’re not right, but I think it’s ridiculous that other members would like to have their committees removed,” Erpelding said.

The feud between leadership and the five defiant lawmakers on Monday came after Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, wrote a letter to Bedke following a series of issues that Perry said were concerning.

In her letter, Perry accused Scott of acting unprofessionally and behaving in a manner that has had a negative impact on her Republican colleagues, especially female lawmakers who no longer feel safe in Scott’s presence.

The letter was not a formal ethics complaint, just an effort by Perry to make Bedke aware of what she believed was an ongoing problem.

Moving forward

Scott can no longer vote in committee hearings, but she can vote on the House floor. She is not forbidden from attending the committee hearings.

She was previously assigned to committees for State Affairs, Commerce and Human Resources and Environment, Energy and Technology.

On Monday, Scott did not attend the scheduled afternoon meeting for Environment, Energy and Technology Committee.

Nate and Moon did attend the committee meeting, as they are assigned to the committee.

If all six lawmakers were to stop voting in committee hearings for the rest of the 2017 session, nine committees would be affected. Most prominently, State Affairs, Environment, Energy and Technology, and Judiciary, Rules and Administration committees would have three absent votes each.

Committee assignments

Moon is assigned to the committees for Commerce and Human Resources, Education and Environment, Energy and Technology.

Nate, who is in his second term, is assigned to the committees for Environment, Energy and Technology, Judiciary, Rules and Administration and Revenue and Taxation.

Giddings is assigned to the committees for Local Government, State Affairs and Resources and Conservation.

Hanks is assigned to the committees for Agricultural Affairs, Health and Welfare and Judiciary, Rules and Administration.

Zito is assigned to the committees for Agricultural Affairs, Judiciary, Rules and Administration and State Affairs.

Hanks, Moon, Zito and Giddings could not be reached for comment.

Ongoing battles

“It’s especially disturbing when I see the voice of one legislator being taken away with no clear reason why.”

Nate has been publicly tied to Scott in recent months, as the pair recently released their legislative agenda through Growing Freedom for Idaho — a conservative website outlining plans to lower taxes and promote government transparency.

Using social media, Scott has used the platform to openly blast Bedke, the media and conservatives she believes are part of “the establishment.”

“I always stand up for the citizens of Idaho and it’s especially disturbing when I see the voice of one legislator being taken away with no clear reason why,” Nate said. “I always do my best to represent my citizens, but I’m also vigilant about making sure that every legislator has a voice.”

Nate said he is still unclear as why, specifically, Bedke removed Scott from her committee assignments and whether it was even tied to the alleged comment about female lawmakers.

When asked if he would boycott committee meetings or abstain from voting in meetings, Nate said he would fulfill his legal obligations if Bedke doesn’t remove him from his committee meetings.

Idaho House Rule 7 notes that a representative must be present on the House floor and if he or she is absent without leave, the Sergeant at Arms will bring in the absentee. Arrest of absentees shall not be made unless ordered by a majority of members present. The House rules do not, however, specify whether a lawmaker is required to attend a committee meeting.

“I will do what I am legally obligated to do,” Nate said. “If the rules require me to be on committees (Bedke) hasn’t removed me from, I will fulfill my legal obligations and represent my citizens and all of Idaho to the best of my ability.”

This story originally appeared in the Idaho-Press Tribune. It is used here with permission.

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