House 2 12 19

The Idaho House meets on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019.

BOISE — Amid a major spat between House Republicans and Democrats that threatened to slow the House’s business to a crawl for the rest of this year’s legislative session, a controversial redistricting bill was pulled from the House floor on Tuesday by unanimous consent.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, asked to send HJR 2 — the GOP redistricting bill that proposed amending Idaho’s Constitution to add a seventh member to the Redistricting Commission — back to the House State Affairs Committee. The bill would let the state’s top elected officials — all Republicans — pick that final tie-breaking commission member.

“That resolution, when it came to the floor, caused a lot of concern from some of our members here on the floor,” Moyle said. “I think when we look at amending the Constitution, we need to do the best we can to make sure we’re addressing everyone’s concerns. … We would like them to take a little more time looking at that resolution.”

The proposal, which was introduced by House State Affairs Chairman Steven Harris, R-Meridian, and brought up for a committee hearing just 48 hours later, drew opposition from all but one of a dozen citizens who testified on it on short notice last week. The committee’s Democrats walked out before the committee vote in protest. House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, then objected to waiving the full reading of bills in the House, forcing all bills to be read in full, and said he’d continue to do so for the rest of the session if the majority persisted in pushing the bill.

Idaho’s bipartisan citizen redistricting commission was created by a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 1994; it is evenly split between the two parties. It’s responsible for redrawing legislative and congressional district lines to reflect population changes in the Census every 10 years; it’s a politically fraught job that prior to the creation of the commission, was handled, amid much angst and politics, by lawmakers themselves.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said after Tuesday’s House session, “I think there’s some things that both sides of the aisle can agree on, and I want to explore them.”

Erpelding said, “I’m open to informal conversations, but I do not support changing the Redistricting Commission.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.