By Cameron Rasmusson
District 1 Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, was restored to her committee assignments Wednesday morning after a punitive four-week suspension.
The North Idaho lawmaker, who began her sophomore term this year, lost her committee positions after saying in December that female legislators only advance to leadership roles if they “spread their legs.” With the issue resolved, Scott returns to her seats on the House Commerce and Human Resources; Environment, Energy and Technology; and State Affairs committees.
Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, revoked her committee assignments after receiving complaints from several of her colleagues.
“Rep. Heather Scott has acknowledged that what she said and did, on numerous occasions, was wrong,” Bedke said in a statement. “She seems to have taken ownership and responsibility for her offensive comments. She has made efforts to apologize to those who were personally harmed or offended by her statements and actions. It’s unfortunate that it took her this long to do so, but that is all I required her to do. I expect her future actions to confirm her sincerity. I hope she has learned something from this that will make her a better legislator.”
Scott took issue with Bedke’s statement and his overall handling of the situation in a newsletter released later that day.
“The unprofessional manner in which this entire situation was handled reveals that there is room for improvement in communication, mutual respect and leadership inside the Idaho House of Representatives,” she wrote.
Scott continued: “I believe Mr. Bedke’s recent statement to the newspaper is a bit disingenuous considering that he refers to my statements ‘and actions’. To this day, he has still not completely told me why I was removed from my committees and he allowed the situation to escalate for unknown reasons.”
According to Scott, her comments were aimed at Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, who she said was “rewarded” after having an affair by being appointed chair of the House Local Government Committee. Boise journalists contended that the committee, which rarely meets, is hardly an upgrade from Perry’s previous assignments.
Perry, meanwhile, contended that Scott’s comments were the latest in a string of inappropriate behavior. In a letter to Bedke, she said that Scott had traveled to other legislators’ districts and demeaned them to their constituents. She also said Scott damaged a Capitol building ceiling searching for listening devices she believed House leadership used to spy on her. Scott later denied this story, only to have three other legislators back the claim.
The Spokesman-Review reports that Scott was allowed to return to her committees after meeting with a half-dozen female legislators who had specific concerns. The meeting took place Monday and was overseen by House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, R-Nampa.
“My many apologies never seemed to be good enough to please Speaker Bedke, so I opted for a public apology weeks ago,” Scott wrote in her newsletter. “When that wasn’t enough, I was assured that one last apology to a small group two days ago would be the final requirement.”
Scott’s removal from her committee assignments was no light punishment. It is in committees that lawmakers introduce and shape legislation before presenting it to the broader body for consideration. Scott’s local supporters cried foul, saying that District 1’s representation had been significantly diminished. Many of Scott’s supporters flooded Bedke’s office with complaints. However, in an interview with Idaho Public Television, the speaker said that he’d received more support than criticism for his decision.
Others wondered why Scott was punished when President Donald Trump is on record making cruder comments. In reply, Bedke told Idaho Public Television’s Melissa Davlin that he expects better under his leadership.
“Not on my watch,” he told IPT’s Idaho Reports. “The search for the second wrong that excuses the first wrong—two wrongs do not make a right.”
Scott believes the punishment for her comments was an excuse to undermine her “freedom agenda,” a suite of tea party conservative goals that emphasize state sovereignty. According to Scott, two bills under that agenda—a repeal of Common Core education standards and its Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing—have been delivered to the Senate and House education committees.
For his part, Bedke said the length and severity of the punishment was due to Scott apologizing for her choice of words while ignoring her impugning the character of fellow legislators.
“To say that her words were chosen improperly is to miss the mark,” he told Idaho Reports. “It was about the message, and that message was reprehensible.”
While we have you ...
... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.
You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal