Idaho: Legislature sees new faces
Updated: Friday, December 07, 2012 12:30 PM
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- The Idaho Legislature will have a lot of new faces next year but farm groups believe the 105-member body will remain favorable to agriculture.
"People are fairly pleased with the statewide elections for the Legislature," said Rick Waitley, executive director of Food Producers of Idaho, which includes most of the state's main farm and ranch groups.
"I don't see anything jumping out at me that is alarming," he added. "I think we're in pretty good shape."
Heading into the election, there was concern among many ag groups that the state's redistricting process could impact agriculture's clout in the Legislature. A few dozen members opted not to run again because of redistricting and Idaho's ongoing population shift means there are more legislative seats in urban areas.
But no major agricultural advocates who chose to run again lost their races and the Legislature even picked up some new ones, such as Steve Miller, a Republican farmer who pulled out a very narrow victory in heavily liberal Blaine County.
"That will be a good pick-up," said Sen. Bert Brackett, a Republican rancher from Rogerson who won his re-election bid with 68 percent of the vote. "Generally, I think agriculture fared pretty well."
There are a lot of new faces but the legislative body retained a lot of veterans from rural areas, including many farmers and ranchers and others involved with agribusiness, said Idaho Farm Bureau Federation spokesman John Thompson.
"We didn't see a big shift," Thompson said. "We think the Legislature still parallels the views of our membership for the most part."
Waitley said ag lobbyists he has spoken with are impressed with the quality of the new members.
As for those new members, "Our job is to reach out to (them) and help them understand our policies and where we're coming from," Thompson said.
Ag groups said they were pleased that Idaho's two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador, both retained their seats.
Simpson is the veteran Idaho congressman who attached a rider to a congressional budget bill that required wolves to be removed from the endangered species list.
Labrador is a first-term congressman and attorney who is known for his expertise on the immigration issue.
"Mike Simpson continues to climb in his leadership ranks, which is important to Idaho, and Raul Labrador is viewed as having very good insight on immigration issues," Waitley said.
Thompson said he's glad Simpson will continue his work as chairman of the House Interior and Environmental Appropriations Subcommittee, and with Labrador's expertise on immigration issues, "he could take a leadership role in that area."