BOISE — While statewide redistricting in 2012 may have reshuffled the political cards, the Idaho Senate still holds a strong suit of legislative experience this year.

Thirty-three of 35 senators have already served in the Idaho Legislature.

Of those Senate members, 21 are elected Statehouse veterans who have held at least one full two-year term of office — often many more — in the Senate; three elected for the first time have served out partial Senate terms; and nine have moved across the Capitol Rotunda from the Idaho House of Representatives. 

In the biggest Senate freshman class coming over from the House in recent memory, eight of those nine senators moved directly across from the House to the Senate following the Nov. 6 post-redistricting general election.

From Southeastern Idaho, Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, is in that House to Senate freshman group. So is Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, who was named vice-chairman of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee Dec. 6, during a legislative organizational session. The House transfers bring with them both experience and enthusiasm, noted Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. 

“They are excited to be here,” Hill said of the six new Senate GOP majority freshmen from the House. “And . . . it’s really cool. It’s fun to see. They’re almost like brand-new legislators. It’s a new experience for them, and they’re excited about being here. And they, oh, they’re good to work with. You know …we need somebody to serve on a certain committee, you know, could you, ‘Oh, yeah, whatever you want us to do.’ You know, they are just great to work with.”

A little more than a month before the start of the Jan. 7 regular legislative session, Lacey seemed ready to hit the ground running.

“There’s no deer in the headlight look right now, because we know everybody,” Lacey said. 

Lacey and new Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, are the two Democrats among the eight senators that have transferred directly from the House. A ninth Senate freshman — Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise — served two terms in the House earlier. Durst returns to the Legislature after a one-term absence.

Freshman Sens. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, and Fred Martin, R-Boise, are the only first-time state legislators in the Senate.

In the House meanwhile, where Oakley Republican Scott Bedke became Speaker of the House (replacing Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale), 29 of the 70 members are freshmen without legislative experience. Additionally, Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Huston, substituted to finish out a House term in 2012. And yet another state lawmaker, Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, earlier served one House term (1990-92).

The wild cards among House personnel contrast sharply with the experience-packed Senate.

“So, our new people are coming in with a lot of experience, as compared to the House where they do have a lot of people (who are) brand new,” Hill said. “And so, you know, their learning curve may take a little longer than ours. So, I’m just thrilled. I think it’s a great opportunity for us.”