Continuing a process begun with Representative Margaret Henbest, D-Boise, in 2008 of inviting retiring members of the Idaho House to serve as Speaker for part of the day’s session, Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, handed the gavel to Representative Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, who is leaving the House to run for Congress.
Such gestures enable the Idaho House to celebrate a number of “firsts.” Henbest was “first woman speaker,” as well as being a Democrat presiding over the largely Republican House. Representative George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, had a turn on Monday as the first Speaker from Kootenai County — a fact noted by Representative Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, as being a nice thing to see, even if he was from the “wrong” party. Similarly, Labrador may have been the first Latino to preside over the chamber.
Naturally, House members treated Labrador with all the deference due the Speaker.
Representatives vote by pushing a button (now on their laptops, though it used to be a physical button the desk) that is either green for “yes” or red for “no.” If a Representative in the chamber neglects to push a button, it is the Speaker’s job to inquire.
So on the last bill of the morning, S1367, most of the Representatives neglected to push a button, requiring Labrador to, if you’ll excuse the expression, laboriously call on each Representative in turn to determine their votes. One Representative even apologized for “accidentally” pushing his button and asked to withdraw his vote.
After a good laugh, everyone pushed their buttons.
However, Labrador got payback. Representative Steve Kren, R-Nampa, asked him whether the earlier suspension of Rule 70 — which would allow Representatives to eat and drink at their seats, as well as remove their jackets, though not smoke — was just for the day or for the rest of the session, and then started to sit down without waiting for the Speaker’s answer. Labrador rebuked Kren for his violation of protocol before answering the question.
As the House took steps toward adjourning for the day, Labrador was coached in what he was supposed to say to adjourn the House, phrase by phrase, by a secretary. Then Minority Leader Representative John Rusche, D-Lewiston, pointed out that Labrador had neglected to actually take the vote to adjourn.
“This is harder than it looks, all right?” Labrador responded, as the House laughed.
The secretary then handed him the gavel and the day’s session was over, to thunderous applause.
Full disclosure: Sharon Fisher is a candidate for the Idaho Legislature, District 21.