Thursday, February 26, 2015

Idaho Presidential Primary Bill Pushes Through Split Committee

Odd battle lines formed in the Idaho state Senate State Affairs Committee during a hearing to discuss legislation to reestablish a presidential primary election in the Gem state on Thursday, February 25.

Democrats joined some Republicans against the bill supported by state Senate Republican leadership sitting on the State Affairs Committee. At issue in the hearing for SB 1066 was the cost to taxpayers to fund the reestablished and separate presidential primary that would be scheduled for the second Tuesday in March. The estimated $2 million price tag was too much for what was viewed by Democrats and Republicans on the committee against the bill as a party function. Betsy Z. Russell at the Idaho Spokesman-Review captured that sentiment from the hearing:
Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said, “The discussion we had today mostly spoke about one party. And I really think that $2 million from the general fund for a political practice is inappropriate, and I won’t be supporting this bill.”
Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton thought the money could be spent better elsewhere:
“We could get you better teachers if we had $2 million more a year to put in that budget than what we’re about to do here. Think about that.”
Yet, both the state Senate majority leader and assistant majority leader -- who both sit on the committee -- spoke in favor of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said in favor of the bill:
“But in this moment, I want to … provide an opportunity for every party to accept the invitation to make their process, even in a closed political voting process, as open to all who are willing to live by those rules as possible. I think SB 1066 is the closest I’ve seen so far.”
Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, is sponsoring the legislation, and despite vocal opposition to the bill on budgetary grounds, the committee found enough support to pass the bill though and recommend that it "do pass" when it is considered on the Senate floor. That is where the bill moves next.

March 8, the second Tuesday in March in 2016, is a date on which the Michigan and Ohio primaries are currently scheduled. Neighboring Washington state is also eyeing that as a possible landing spot for its primary as well.

UPDATE (3/3/15): Second, similar primary bill passes Senate

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