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Lynn Luker

'I always tried to do things in the right order'

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Four-term Boise Republican House Rep. Lynn Luker turned 60 this past August.

"I guess what that means is that life on earth takes on a different perspective," he told Boise Weekly.

Indeed, Luker has had several perspectives in his 60 years: As a young boy, he watched America's first astronauts launch into space from Cape Canaveral, Fla.; as a self-proclaimed conservative college student, he attended the liberal-leaning University of California at Berkeley and the University of Idaho law school; and for the better part of a decade, he has been an Idaho legislator.

The Eagle Scout, attorney, husband of 38 years, father of eight and grandfather of 16 sat down with BW to talk about his formative years, his concern with the health insurance exchange and his proposal to limit Idaho legislators to only one elected office.

Are you a native Idahoan?

I was born in Idaho Falls. My father worked for the Atomic Energy Commission--the precursor to the Idaho National Lab. We eventually moved to Florida, where my father worked for NASA.

Those must have been the early years of the Mercury program.

That's right. Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Scott Carpenter and John Glenn. I was about 7 years old and the space program was as big as life. Eventually, NASA transferred my father out to Lompoc, Calif., where he was security administrator for the Western Missile Test Range. That's where they would launch all of the satellites back then.

What was the big dream for you at the time?

I guess in the back of my mind, I thought about going to law school. I had a two-year mission in Southern Germany for the LDS church and when I returned, I went to the University of California at Berkeley. That was a very interesting, invigorating education for a somewhat conservative young man.

Did you grow up in a conservative household?

Actually, we didn't talk too much about politics. But when I walked onto campus, I registered to vote as a Republican.

After graduating with a law degree from the U of I, where did you start out?

I clerked at the Idaho Supreme Court for Justice [Robert] Bakes for two years. Beyond that, I was in partnership with my good friend and mentor Jerry Goicoechea for about 17 years and I've been on my own since about 2000. I've shied away from big firms. I think I'm more independent.

A number of your colleagues have discovered over the years that it's economically challenging to maintain their employment while serving in the Legislature.

I guess that's part of my story. I always tried to do things in the right order. I had a significant part of my career behind me--I had paid off my bills, so financially, it wasn't a stretch as it would be for a younger person.

Your legislative district [No. 15] moved a bit west during the last redistricting process. What's the best way to characterize your constituents?

It's quite a mix. I think we picked up more suburban professionals. It's definitely middle-class and fairly conservative.

Let's talk about some key issues currently being debated. What's your sense of how Idaho Core Standards are working?

There are a number of areas where I have concerns: No. 1, the testing; No. 2, the data collection; the third piece is curriculum; and No. 4 is the question of whether the tail is wagging the dog. I know the bus has left the barn on Idaho Core already, but we need to ask if we're choosing our own curriculum or if we're being dictated to by nationally approved testing.

Gov. Otter's task force on education is pushing hard for 21 recommendations, and at the top of that list is restoration of funding to pre-recession levels.

I'm certainly supportive of that.

But that's a chunk of money.

I know the governor said we can't do it all it once, but adequate funding has to be our first priority.

You voted against the creation of an Idaho-based health insurance exchange in 2013.

It was a pretty close vote and you'll remember it was a long debate but, yes, it did pass.

Do you expect an effort to overturn that vote?

Frankly, I don't see the votes this year to undo the exchange. But I think we have a huge issue with security. One of the things that we put into last year's bill was that the exchange had to certify that it was secure before they began taking applications. But it turns out those certifications came from the federal government and they weren't worth the paper they were printed on.

You're currently proposing that legislators shouldn't be sitting on other elected panels.

Let's say someone is sitting on a city council, a school board or a fire district. Well, the Legislature is responsible for overall policies and you have to ask yourself whose interests would those dual-office holders represent. There's going to have some conflict at that point.

How long do you want to continue serving in the Legislature?

It's enjoyable and stimulating. But I do get concerned when we have bills and there are only lobbyists there to speak. So we really have to be on our toes to ask the right questions.