Bedke House State Affairs 2-12-20

The House State Affairs Committee has voted unanimously in favor of HJR 4, House Speaker Scott Bedke’s resolution for a constitutional amendment to fix Idaho’s number of legislative districts at the current 35. It would need two-thirds support in each house plus majority support from the voters at the next general election to change the Idaho Constitution.

“Even under that circumstance, we have legislative districts that span literally from Oregon to Montana, huge geographic districts, contrasted to the ones here in the Treasure Valley and some of the more populated areas of the state,” Bedke told the committee. If Idaho were to drop below 35 districts, he said, those rural districts would be even larger.

Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, asked Bedke if the change would make it harder “if we ever wanted to go back to ... one senator from each county.” Idaho has 44 counties. “I would say that that ship has sailed,” Bedke responded, due to United States Supreme Court decisions that came down in the 1960s regarding the one-person, one-vote principle. “With respect, I think that ship has sailed.”

Zito thanked Bedke.

“We have a 40-ish year culture of having 35 districts,” Bedke said. “I think this is good policy.” It will make the job of Idaho’s citizen redistricting commission simpler, he said, if they know in advance the number of districts. The resolution now moves to the full House.

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.

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