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Idaho House lives up to conservative promises, faces left-leaning Senate

Idaho House lives up to conservative promises, faces left-leaning Senate

Wayne Hoffman
April 20, 2021
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April 20, 2021

Idaho has the most conservative House of Representatives it has ever seen. That is not the doing of House Speaker Scott Bedke. Bedke hasn’t changed at all, clocking in at 66 percent right now on the Idaho Freedom Index. 

What’s different is the makeup of the rest of the Republicans serving in the state House of Representatives, which is behaving exactly as I predicted following the May 2020 primary. My expectation then was that Idahoans had elected the most conservative House of Representatives in the state’s entire history. When given an option, voters tended to select the candidate who promised to be more conservative than their opposition. 

As of today, out of a 70-member House, 42 members have scored more than 70% on the Idaho Freedom Index. Last year, which was also a pretty good year for conservatives in the House, saw 30 members score 70 percent or better. 

More dramatic is the way in which the House has attacked spending: As of today, 26 House members have scored higher than 70% on the Idaho Spending Index, which looks strictly at the Legislature’s budget bills. Last year, only 12 House members scored above 70%.

The conservative outcome on both policy and budget issues is seen in the chamber’s defeat of a record number of bills this year — bills that in any other year would have passed. These are bills that would have grown government, restricted free speech, imposed new burdensome regulations on businesses, and so on. 

It’s the House conservatives who have led the charge against the indoctrination of Idaho school students from pre-kindergarten to college. It’s the House that has been at the forefront of containing the power of the executive branch—the governor and the attorney general.

But all's not well on the other side of the Rotunda. The state Senate continues to be the venue where bad legislation emanates and where good legislation from the House goes to die. The Senate is decidedly left of center, where special interests and government bureaucrats are more likely to get their way. While I complain about Speaker Bedke’s voting record, he’s Ted Cruz compared to Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder. 

Winder’s Freedom Index Score, 43%, is consistent with several of his Republican and Democrat Senate colleagues. In other words, there’s little distinguishing Boise’s liberal North End Democrats from Winder or most of the rest of Senate GOP leadership. The Senate Republican leadership’s best performer is Mark Harris at just 58%. 

Out of the entire 35-member Senate, only four members have a Freedom Index score higher than 70%. Almost half the chamber is under 50%. On spending, the Senate is a vast wasteland. Only two senators are above 70%, and believe it or not, that’s double last year’s said performance, meaning Sen. Regina Bayer now has found a friend in Sen. Christy Zito to help her vote against big spending bills.

The House and Senate are both run by Republicans, but only one has a conservative track record. The other is the state Senate.

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