Hahn, Greg. “The Session’s Movers and Shakers.” The Idaho Statesman, April 1, 2007.

The Session’s Movers and Shakers
Greg Hahn

Every year at the Statehouse, a few folks rise to the top.

Some have taken new leadership roles, others emerge from the rank and file. Some tackle complex issues, others find ways to make things simpler.

Here’s a look at some of the people who shaped the 2007 legislative session that ended Friday night.

The ‘Three Houseketeers’

In the House Transportation Committee, they all sit in a row. Same on the House floor.

Two of the three share a one-room office, and the third is just on the other side of the assistant they all share, too.

All three are on the House tax committee, as well, but they’re a little more spread out there.

Midvale Rep. Lawerence Denney may be the new House speaker, but the three men on his leadership team were the most visible leaders on the House floor.

Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star, Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke of Oakley and Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts of McCall are three conservatives who jumped into the session with spreadsheets and big ideas, determined to make their mark.

Moyle, the most experienced, has been swaying votes on the House since his freshman term eight years ago. Bedke tackled the education budget in his first few years and helped lead an effort that broke that budget into chunks the Republican Party wanted to make it easier to handle. Roberts is the feather-ruffler.

He got himself in some trouble early on by standing up to old leaders but has since worked himself back into the mainstream — and brought the mainstream to the political right in the process.

These three leaders angered Democrats and moderates, fought with the senators over highway funding and more, and persuaded the House to overturn a Republican governor’s veto for just the third time since 1919.

But they still managed to keep smiles on their faces — and on those around them — on the last day as they worked with everyone to craft the highway compromise that ended the session Friday night.

True Bipartisanship Can Be Uncommon

Former Harvard professor Keith Allred set out two years ago to found “The Common Interest,” a bipartisan group of moderates, and to find it — that intersection of party line and pragmatism that he thought could cut through the political grandstanding and produce good state policy.

Last year, Allred and his group seized on an idea Democrats loved but Republicans had always opposed — tying the value of the homeowner’s exemption to the rising price of houses in the state. Allred helped convince many Republicans, and the measure passed.

This year, Allred focused on primary elections, at first to stop some conservative Republicans from fully closing primaries to just registered party members. But Allred called his former colleagues at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and learned that studies show partially closed primaries produce elected officials who are more in line politically with the districts they represent.

This time, legislative Democrats opposed The Common Interest.

The fate of Allred and his group may lie in how he continues to walk those party lines.

Up-and-Comers Build a Coalition, Lose to Otter

Meridian Sen. Russell Fulcher and Boise Rep. Cliff Bayer — both Republicans from south Ada County’s District 21 — started last summer to build a new grocery tax credit increase.

Bayer, in his third term, and Fulcher, in his second, worked for months to create the $47.5 million grocery tax credit increase that passed the House.

The two quiet conservatives both crunch numbers on the budget committee and both come from brainy backgrounds. Bayer is a medical researcher, and Fulcher was a high-tech executive who has gone into commercial real estate.

Their idea rose to the top of a surfeit of proposals that included ideas from current and former governors.

The two supported the changes made in the Senate. They helped hold together the coalition almost all the way — until the veto. Otter wanted a less-expensive plan targeting more tax relief on groceries to poor people, not across the board as Bayer and Fulcher proposed.

“We probably, in hindsight, started too early this time,” Fulcher said. “We were lining up with the last governor.”

Malmen Returns

By the time you’ve helped run the governor’s office for the third time, you’ve got a pretty good handle on how things work.

Jeff Malmen was Gov. Phil Batt’s chief of staff. He ran the budget office under Gov. Dirk Kempthorne. Now, he’s back as Gov. Butch Otter’s chief of staff, and his $120,000 salary is $15,000 more than the governor makes (and Malmen took a big pay cut from his congressional job).

Most lawmakers see Otter as a straightforward libertarian-

leaning Republican — a guy who tells them what he thinks and means it. But they see Malmen as a wily political strategist, and many saw Malmen’s fingerprints on negotiations from the Capitol expansion debates at the start of the session to the highway funding impasse that held up the end.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, credited much of the final deal to Otter and Malmen, whose shuttle diplomacy kept the talks alive for two days.

Langhorst and Kelly Lead a Big Boise Caucus

In the most Democratic of Democratic moves, Senate Assistant Minority Leader Mike Burkett of Boise and Senate Minority Caucus Chair Edgar Malepeai of Pocatello gave their leadership seats to newer lawmakers from Boise at the start of the session.

Sen. David Langhorst, assistant minority leader, and Sen. Kate Kelly, minority caucus chair, joined Minority Leader Clint Stennett of Ketchum in Senate Democratic leadership, and became the top legislative leaders from the largest city in Idaho.

Boiseans have long hailed from the “Great State of Ada” in the minds of rural lawmakers, but the voters forced even more changes this year. Democrats swept four of the five districts in city limits, and Democratic power shifted valleys a bit — from Sun to Treasure.

While the state Constitution meant their House counterparts had to take the lead on local issues like community colleges, transit taxes and more, Langhorst and Kelly forged bipartisan relationships on other major issues.

Langhorst joined Republican Sens. Tim Corder of Mountain Home and Joe Stegner of Lewiston to push for major changes to the tax system and create a summer interim committee to explore eliminating tax exemptions.

Kelly and fellow attorney Bart Davis, the Senate majority leader, worked together to tighten open meeting laws.

Reach reporter Greg Hahn at

377-6425 or ghahn@


Cutline:Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

From left, Reps. Brent Crane, R-Nampa; Scott Bedke, R-Oakley; and Mike Moyle, R-Star, confer Friday in the majority caucus room at the Statehouse after House Republicans spent several hours behind closed doors trying to work out a compromise to the Connecting Idaho highway bonding plan.

Copyright, 2007, The Idaho Statesman, All Rights Reserved.