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Idaho lawmakers gather in Boise to prepare for upcoming legislative session

The organizational session gets leadership, committee assignments, and lawmakers caught up heading into the new session.

BOISE, Idaho — It began as a mix and mingle morning at the Idaho Statehouse as lawmakers, brand new and tenured, shuffled the floor as history waited.  Then suddenly a familiar bang of the house gavel, the catalyst for a final farewell.

It was this week 10 years ago that Republican Scott Bedke was elected as Idaho House Speaker. On Thursday, he gaveled from the House lectern, leading the room with blue carpet one last time. Bedke is set to move on, taking over as Idaho Lt. Governor.

Then came the business portion of the morning, a major item: electing a new house speaker. After closed door caucus meetings Wednesday, the nomination from the Republican majority was made, Mike Moyle for House Speaker.

A voice vote in the House confirmed the nomination of Moyle. He was waiting in the wings, ready to take his oath of office.

A hug, and applause, and finally on to parting words from Bedke:

"Always default to a higher standard,” Bedke said.

Then the moment, Moyle taking his new spot at the front of the house, a new era begins.

“Very humbling, very humbling," Moyle said. "You know, very blessed to be here, but there's a lot of work to do as we try to unite the House and get everything done that needs to be done."

Republican Mike Moyle has served in the Idaho Legislature since 1998, and has worked closely with Bedke since. The pair shared a moment on the floor, a moment that belongs to them but is an interesting visual.

“Scott and I've been here for a little bit. We've been friends for a long time. One of the funniest things that the kids used to love to do is go and help me move cattle and hide deer on their ranches over there," Moyle said. "So, he's a personal friend, has been for a while, and it's kind of a humbling experience to have that parting of the way. So, we just talked about some personal stuff, but it was good."

The new house speaker knows he has his work cut out for him.

“There's always something that causes us to have excitement in the House. There's always that bill that you least expect that gets everybody wound up," Moyle said. "Just looking forward to figure out what those issues are and how we solve them for the better.”

Bedke’s parting words, “default to a higher standard," is a sentiment Moyle appreciates.

“I think that in the world we live in today, we've lost that. I think sometimes we are in a world that it's easy to attack people and question their motives and we don't have all the facts," Moyle said. "With this new social media stuff, that doesn't have to be true. They can just say it, and I think that he's trying to say, you know, do what's right. Take the higher ground, and that's good advice.”  

As a longtime member of the Idaho House, Moyle knows he is set to preside over spirited conversations and debates. He believes this group of lawmakers can achieve great things for Idaho.

“Those on the right, in the middle, the left, whatever, I think they all have common ground and they all have common interests and they all have what's best for Idaho," Moyle said. "I think there's ways to find those common ground. If you've watched me through the years, I've had the ability to do that, where we've worked on issues, in bringing everybody at the table, and I think that we have to do bring everybody in a room and everybody can have to work together to come to a solution."

Speaker Moyle is not the only one with a new title. Over in the Idaho Senate Democrats have a new Minority Leader, Boise Senator Melissa Wintrow.

“I never dreamed I would run for office, ever," Wintrow said. "When somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'hey, you should do that,' I'm just so glad that I did. It's been a blessing to serve this state, to be in a position to help just everyday folks and really try to push for policies that really help people."

Wintrow replaces the now retired Democrat Michelle Stennett.

Wintrow shared her thoughts on a Senate that looks vastly different than it did last year, setting up a whole new dynamic at the statehouse.

“There is a lot of change in this body,” Wintrow said. “I'm hopeful. I'm going to do all I can, roll up my sleeves and get to the work that the people of Idaho want, you know, property tax relief and those kind of things, education.”

Wintrow said she is encouraged by the leaders of the Senate GOP and looks forward to working alongside them.

“I'm going to do everything I can to build relationships and collaborate and with a lot of new people, though, you just don't know, because I remember when I was first elected, I was a deer in the headlights. You know, they talk about that fire hose in your face and people are learning a ton," Wintrow said. "So, I think the first part of the session will just be patience as people learn the ropes and they learn the rules and how to communicate on the floor and build those relationships. But hopefully as we go and we get to know each other, we'll do good work."

Statehouse leaders are working to finalize committee chair assignments, those should round out Friday.

From there, it is a countdown to the first day of the new legislative session, coming up on Monday, Jan. 9.

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