Amidst the stress of the extended legislative session, it’s important to look for reminders that, underneath it all, the legislators really do like each other.
The Idaho Senate showed this Thursday when they grilled the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Vice Chair, Senator Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint — and, by extension, Lieutenant Governor Brad Little — over the appropriations bill for the lieutenant governor’s office.
After Keough presented the appropriations bill — similar appropriations presentations had been made pro forma all week — a bipartisan group of Senators, starting with Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, and including other JFAC members such as Senator Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello and Senator Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, began asking her question after question, to which Little dutifully each time asked her whether she would yield.
“You owe me a dinner, Mr. President,” Keough told Little, whose formal title when presiding over the Senate is President.
Questions included whether the furnishings in the office had been provided by the state appropriation, just what oversight there was over the office anyway, and whether Keough could be sure Little was working full-time and not in the desert hunting ground squirrels.
Then, when the vote came, instead of the streamlined process where the Senators consent to use the roll call from a previous vote, the secretary did a full roll call, naming each Senator in turn — most of whom refused to give a vote, and with some voting “no” and others voting with an allowed 60-second explanation, including not wanting to get on the Lieutenant Governor’s “list.” At the end of the roll call, all the Senators who’d voted “no” — including Davis, who asked to be reminded which way he’d voted — asked to change their vote to “yes” (though Siddoway, teasing President Barack Obama, tried to change his vote to “present” and was told by Little that the Idaho Legislature doesn’t allow that).
While some might argue that the procedure wasted time, it did appear to release some of the tension that has been accumulating this week as the Senate, House, JFAC, and the Governor’s office debate how to handle the remaining thorny issues of personnel cost reductions and transportation funding.
The budget passed, 34-0-1.