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Legislature Plans for Smaller Sessions

Cramping that lawmaking style

Nobody said home renovations were easy. But when your home is the Idaho State Capitol and your family is the 105-member Idaho Legislature, the halfway house can be a drag. Idaho lawmakers are planning to spend at least two sessions outside of their traditional home while it undergoes a major renovation in 2008. Local architect Kent Krohn of Leatham, Krohn, Van Ocker Architects estimates it will take between $2 million and $3 million just to get the old Ada County Courthouse ready to accommodate lawmakers.

And it ain't gonna be luxury either. Lawmakers will go from finely-appointed offices and desks to a cramped building where old courtrooms will approximate their Senate and House chambers, with a lot less space and simple tables in the place of real desks.

"They'll be little school desks, at most," said Rep. Margaret Henbest, a Boise Democrat. That's because the 70-member House is crowded enough in their old digs back at the Capitol, compared to the 35-member Senate.

"For the House, it's going to be fairly claustrophobic," said Jeff Youtz, the budget and policy analysis supervisor who will become the director of Legislative Services this summer when Carl Bianchi retires. But where's the space for the hoi palloi? Instead of a public gallery space to watch the sausage getting made, Krohn, Youtz and others propose a video screen to broadcast the goings-on to an outside conference room where the public might sit.