It was a long campaign season and now lawmakers are gathering in Coeur d’Alene to kick back, relax, and prepare for a legislative session that promises to be very difficult.
The North Idaho Chamber of Commerce is hosting 2010 Legislative Tour, a meet-up designed to get lawmakers away from the Capitol in Boise and to the northernmost parts of the state. The chamber says the point of the event is to get legislators thinking about issues affecting Idahoans who don’t live in the Treasure Valley. ”We want to show you as much as we can and let you experience north Idaho,” said chamber president Brian McGregor at the opening dinner Sunday night.
Senators and representatives met with officials Sunday afternoon from North Idaho College, Lewis-Clark State College, and the University of Idaho for updates on education efforts in the area. They are slated to travel around north Idaho Monday, meeting with mining executives, touring naval facilities, and visiting museums along the way.
Lawmakers must pay a fee for attendance, but the event is also sponsored by several prominent companies, including construction firm CH2M Hill, utility provider Avista, Simplot, and Union Pacific.
Lawmakers are not free from politicking, however. For the first time since general elections Nov. 2, House and Senate Republicans and Democrats will meet with their respective caucuses and begin to discuss issues in preparation for the 2011 legislative session, which begins Jan. 11.
There will be no official talk of elections for party leadership positions, but sources in each caucus say there will be discussion among party members about whom they want to lead in the next two years. Parties are slated to choose leadership at the beginning of December, when most lawmakers will be in Boise for orientation and planning.
Much of the tour will focus on transportation-related issues, with addresses Monday from Lt. Gov. Brad Little, head of the transportation task force charged with finding new funding for Idaho roads, and Brian Ness, director of the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD). Little will speak on the task force’s progress and Ness is slated to talk about ITD’s pending realignment.
Gov. Butch Otter will also speak Monday at a banquet in his honor, though it is not known what he will say.
Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, is also slated to meet with embattled Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, over an ethics panel’s recommendation to remove him from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. The panel delved into Hart’s highly-publicized tax woes this summer and made the recommendation in September, but Denney declined to act until after general elections. Denney will issue his ruling before the end of the tour, set to conclude mid-day Tuesday after lunch at Silverwood Theme Park in Athol.