By Cameron Rasmusson
It’s been a week of attacks and counterattacks in the Idaho House of Representatives following Rep. Heather Scott’s loss of her committee positions.
The Blanchard Republican was stripped of all committee assignments by House Speaker Scott Bedke following her December comments that female legislators only receive leadership positions if they “spread their legs.” The punishment dramatically lessened Scott’s ability to influence legislation before it advances to the House floor.
“Ultimately, the buck stops here,” Bedke told Boise reporters. “I don’t do these things lightly or in a knee-jerk way. No one likes things like this, but I did not set these events into action.”
The disciplinary action was as controversial as Scott herself. Many Tea Party-aligned conservatives were outraged at the diminishing of a District 1 legislative voice, with some describing Scott as “speaking truth to power.” Scott’s critics, meanwhile, called the punishment warranted for the remark’s perceived crudity and sexism, as well as Scott’s history of favoring ideological pet projects over practical governance and constituent work.
The day after the disciplinary action, Scott set her sights on her critics. In a radio interview with Nate Shelman, she claimed she was punished while Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, was promoted after a blogger alleged Perry was having an affair.
“We have a legislator that has an affair and she is promoted,” Scott said. “You should not have to sleep around to get a committee chair.”
According to Kimberlee Kruesi, Associated Press reporter, Perry’s status as the chair of the House Local Government Committee is more likely a downgrade from previous assignments. The committee rarely meets and has negligible influence on meaningful legislation.
Scott blames Perry for her punishment due to a letter Perry wrote claiming Scott has exhibited a pattern of bizarre behavior. The letter alleges that Scott has traveled to other legislators’ districts to bad-mouth them in front of their constituents and is prone to giving snide looks while in sessions.
“The escalating pattern of behavior exhibited by Representative Scott has had a negative effect on many members of the caucus, particularly the female members,” Perry wrote. “They do not feel safe working in her presence.”
The also alleges that Scott damaged the Capitol building in search of bugs, which she believed were planted by House leadership to spy on her. Scott denied these accusations in her radio interview, calling them slanderous and saying she is considering getting her lawyer involved. However, the Spokesman-Review reported Tuesday that Reps. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, and Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, both say they witnessed Scott cut into a device she thought could be a “listening device” but was in fact a fire suppression tool.
In addition to several District 1 conservatives, Scott has support from representatives who disagree with Bedke’s decision. Reps. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg; Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony; Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley; Christy Zito, R-Hammett; and Priscilla Giddings R-White Bird asked Bedke this week that he strip them of their committee assignments until Scott regains hers.
The Bonner County Republican Central Committee recently passed a resolution demanding “in the strongest terms of civility” that Scott’s committees be reinstated.