Lots of new faces coming to Statehouse

Nov. 10—Retirements, redistricting and a slew of unsuccessful reelection bids will result in a nearly 50% turnover in the Idaho Legislature next session.

Based on Tuesday's general election results, 20 of 35 seats in the Idaho Senate in 2023 will be occupied by people who weren't there during the 2022 session.

Similarly, 31 of 70 House seats will have new representatives.

Overall, 51 of the 105 legislative seats will be occupied by new members. That includes about a dozen former lawmakers who are returning to service, or House members who are moving over to the Senate.

Tuesday's general election accounted for very little effect on the overall turnover. Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, lost his reelection bid to former Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Viola (see related story on PAge 1C). Two House members — Reps. Codi Galloway, R-Boise, and Laurie Lickley, R-Jerome — also lost their bids for Senate seats.

Most of the turnover stems from lawmakers who decided to retire this year, or who were forcibly retired by voters during the May Republican primary.

"It's going to be a big deal, just from the sheer logistics of having to learn the job," said House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.

Bedke was one of the House lawmakers who chose to give up his seat this year. He ran for lieutenant governor and was elected Tuesday, and will now preside over the Senate.

In a normal election year, he said, there's usually enough veteran lawmakers returning to the Legislature that they can show the newbies the ropes and help them understand the process.

"There's some institutional knowledge they can draft behind," Bedke said. "But in some cases now, that won't exist."

When comparing the years of service of the lawmakers who were in office during the 2022 session with those who were elected Tuesday, the House and Senate will lose a combined 370 years of legislative experience this year, or 46% of its institutional knowledge base.

Other turnover statistics from the Tuesday election include:

Seven of 10 Senate committee chairpersons will not be returning, along with six vice chairpersons.

Seven of 15 House committee chairpersons are out, along with eight vice chairpersons.

Twelve of 20 members of the joint budget committee will not be returning, including the two co-chairpersons and both vice chairpersons.

The Senate Education Committee lost five of nine members, including its chairperson; the House Education Committee lost seven of 15 members, including its vice chairperson;

The House and Senate Health and Welfare committees lost 11 of their combined 19 members, including both chairpersons and the Senate vice chairperson.

"You're going to have a lot of new chairmen (next session) trying to figure out how to run things," Nelson said Wednesday. "In some cases you may have second-term lawmakers serving as chairmen."

If the new legislators come in and immediately try to make big changes in state law, it could result in chaos and a lot of unintended consequences.

Bedke, however, thinks the Legislature is more likely to tackle a scaled-back agenda that focuses on the essentials.

Even that list, though, is pretty significant. It includes the state budget, as well as deciding what to do with the $410 million in education funding that lawmakers set aside during the Sept. 1 special session.

"And the backdrop to all of this is going to be the uncertain economic times," Bedke said. "A slowdown is coming. I think Idaho is well-positioned to handle it, but there's still a lot of things for the new lawmakers to learn."

The good news, he said, is that all the new and returning lawmakers "will be acting in good faith" and have in mind what they think is best for the state.

"It will be incumbent upon leadership to channel that sentiment in a positive direction," Bedke said.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.