Locking down 35

By Devon Downey, Idaho Reports

A proposed constitutional amendment would ensure that the number of legislative districts in Idaho stays at 35.

House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) introduced a resolution in the House State Affairs Committee that would amend the Idaho Constitution to remove language that allows for between 30 and 35 districts. Bedke explained that the “proposed change would set the floor and the ceiling at 35 legislative districts.” 

In his testimony, Bedke referenced that the previous two redistricting plans had to be settled in court and intends for this bill to prevent a plan that uses fewer districts. He acknowledged that some of the districts in Idaho are geographically large, and that if they had to add even more population to some districts they would become unwieldy.

The bill was printed on a unanimous voice vote, but Rep. Brooke Green (D-Boise) released a statement through the Idaho Joint Democratic Caucus email expressing concerns with the change after the committee adjourned. “If we are going to change the constitution, we need to tread lightly,” Green said. “This legislation is especially concerning because it ties the hands of future legislators. We should use serious caution when attempting to legislate the future.”

Green’s concern over the legislation is not centered on the bill itself, rather on the necessity of it. “The bill before us will require us to open up our state constitution and this deserves a lot of dialogue.” 

If history is any guide, there will be plenty of dialogue. Legislation last year intending to add an additional member to the redistricting commission was heavily criticized by Democrats. At the hearing last year, the three Democrats on the committee walked out in protest of the speed in which the bill was proposed and debated.

Currently, the Speaker’s bill is only sponsored by the Republican leadership of the House; however, Bedke noted that “the co-sponsor page is wide open.” 

The public hearing for this amendment will be set at a later date, and we will continue to follow the story on Idaho Reports.

 

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