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Idaho Rep. Anderson gets redemption from Bedke

Dan Popkey
January 11, 2013
Idaho Statesman

Two years ago when Rep. Eric Anderson lost his vice chairmanship of the House State Affairs Committee, Speaker Lawerence Denney called it an oversight. Denney said Anderson would have to live with the loss of power.

Despite Denney's statement that "sometimes we miss things," Anderson and many observers figured he was punished for lodging an ethics complaint against Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. Denney had warned such a complaint would bring "fallout."

Hart is a famed tax scofflaw who claimed legislative immunity rather than timely pay about $600,000 in income taxes owed to the state and federal governments. He was evicted from his House seat by voters in the May GOP primary, removing a well-branded embarrassment.

But it seems that Anderson, R-Priest Lake, was again overlooked this session, missing out on a key committee assignment.

Only this time, new Speaker Scott Bedke restored Anderson to a sought-after post on the House Resources & Conservation Committee.

Bedke appointed Anderson to the panel Wednesday, saying a paperwork snafu was responsible for the House Journal failing to include Anderson on Resources at December's organizational session.

"This is just a puck that got behind the goalkeeper," Bedke said. "Honest. For whatever reason we had it on all our papers but it didn't make it into the Journal."

Anderson said he learned of the error last week from a constituent who viewed the committee list online. "I told somebody my committee assignments and they came back and said, 'You might want to double-check.'"

Ironically enough, Denney, R-Midvale, chairs the Resources Committee, a plum Bedke provided out of respect to the former speaker and his experience.

Anderson, a five-term lawmaker, was a trusted lieutenant in Bedke's challenge to Denney. Bedke made Anderson chairman of Ways & Means, which meets at the speaker's behest, typically to quickly introduce or kill bills.

But Anderson wanted on Resources because his district includes tens of thousands of acres of state and federal forests.

Anderson said he has no suspicion Denney tried to keep him off the panel. Anderson hopes to work with Denney on timber legislation and said Denney warmly greeted him on the floor Wednesday after the correction to the Journal.

"That was an important moment to me," Anderson said. "He came and extended his hand, and I mine. I think that's what we need to do. I'm really, really sincere about Lawerence. It means a lot."

Denney confirmed reaching out. "I said, 'Welcome to the committee.'"

Asked about the twice-overlooked Anderson's bad luck, Denney just laughed, but added that he played no role in the mix-up that left Anderson briefly in the 2013 cold.

Despite his legislative seniority, Anderson is the junior member on the 18-member committee. The December appointees all rank above him, including freshman Reps. Terry Gestrin, R-Donnelly, and Steven Miller, R-Fairfield, who have officially out-served him by a month.

Anderson said he has no beef. "It's perfectly fine. I'm honored to be there."

Bedke said other members asked for what he called a "coveted" committee seat and that it took time to sort through the mess. "Certainly, every other freshman wanted it and there were some veterans as well," Bedke said.

But Bedke chose Anderson. "I'm surrounded by the largest school endowment timberland that we have," Anderson said. "It's a committee I've always wanted to be on."

Anderson is best known for his crusades against invasive species, which began with quagga mussels early in his career. He's the guy responsible for boat-check stations and is a national expert on the topic.

Like an oyster growing a pearl, Anderson's persistence has been rewarded.

Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics

Originally posted at

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