Last week, legislators gathered at the Statehouse to determine leadership positions and committee assignments. In terms of conservation, there’s good news, some bad news, and some upholding of the status quo. 2020 has caused enough heartburn, so let’s start with the expected outcomes and end with the positives.
Leadership positions in the House and Senate changed little. Though Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, did face a challenge from Representative Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, he retains his spot as speaker of the House. Senator Chuck Winder, R-Boise, will move into his role as president pro tempore after Brent Hill’s retirement last session. This was also an expected outcome. CVI looks forward to working with both of them this upcoming session.
One committee to watch closely this session is House Environment, Energy & Technology (EET). CVI’s work around mitigating the impacts of climate change and expanding access to affordable, clean energy will focus here. EET’s charge is to handle legislation relating to cyber-security, hazardous waste, sewage and recycling. It meets on even days in the afternoon in EW41. We’ll monitor this committee to defend against potentially harmful bills concerning energy and climate.
The House Resources & Conservation and Senate Resources & Environment Committees are both central to CVI’s work. Bills concerning public land, wildlife management, recreation and sportsman access, and water quality are likely to originate in these committees. This work has been largely defensive in past sessions, but CVI and our conservation partners may have the opportunity to do some proactive work this session. House Resources meets on odd days in the afternoon in EW40. Senate Resources & Environment meets M,W,F at 1:30 in WW55.
How Can the Public Be Involved During COVID?
Legislative Council, in partnership with leadership from each body, will determine how the legislative process will play out come January 11th. The legislative services office (LSO) has made some changes to accommodate for physical distancing, mostly inside committee rooms, but we are still unsure how committees will receive public testimony. LSO has piloted different remote testimony technologies and, like many of us, legislators and legislative staff alike are gaining extra training in online tools that may need to be leveraged during session. Will the public have an opportunity to submit testimony via the web or by phone? Or will the public be required to comment in person? At this point, things are running as they always do. It will likely be up to each individual committee chair to determine whether remote testimony will be accepted.
CVI is working hard to identify ways to keep citizens engaged during what will likely be a very strange session. We plan on mobilizing our voter engagement team in a bigger way than ever before. We are bringing on more tools and thinking critically about how we can leverage unified voices in support of conservation. That will look like asking you to contact a committee chair, write a supportive letter, or activate your own network in support of — or defense against — bills. As in previous years, the Senate and House floors along with most committee hearings are live streamed through Idaho Public Television’s website. You can also sign up for our weekly legislative email alerts here to stay up to speed on the Statehouse.
As with everything pandemic related, this could all be completely different by mid January. We will work hard to keep you in the loop as information becomes available. One thing is certain: Idaho’s 2021 Legislative Session is likely to be…unprecedented. Buckle up.