A lieutenant governor strolling in to talk with the governor or chief of staff is hardly a shocking development – unless you consider how life was before former House Speaker Scott Bedke took the job a few weeks ago.
He provides a marked contrast from his predecessor, Janice McGeachin, who spent much of her term campaigning for Gov. Brad Little’s job. Suffice it to say that no tears were shed when McGeachin left the lieutenant governor’s office in early January.
Bedke’s relationship with the governor is much different. He and Little are native Idahoans, fellow ranchers, former legislative colleagues and longtime friends. The two may have spirited discussions about various issues, but there is no serious disagreement about the state’s general direction or the governor’s agenda.
“We work for the citizens of this state,” Bedke says. “Elections are over, and I don’t think we are well served as citizens when there are cross purposes.”
So, we all can breathe easily when Little leaves the state and Bedke serves as “acting” governor. As Little quipped in his State of the State address, the only thing he’d need to worry about is Bedke making a “riveting” speech about water adjudication. There will be no more politically-motivated executive orders when the governor crosses the state line.
“I will not misuse the office,” Bedke says.
Don’t get the impression that Bedke will be silent during his time as lieutenant governor. He served 10 years as House speaker, the longest-serving speaker in the state’s history, so he has plenty of opinions about state government. And the governor is smart enough to listen.
“I bring value in several areas – all the natural resource issues, with emphasis on water,” Bedke says. “I bring value with my legislative experience, with knowing how the process works and institutional knowledge. I served on the education, budget and transportation committees – arguably, the equivalent of a post-graduate degree in all those areas.”
More importantly, Little and Bedke have a mutual trust.
A lieutenant governor’s job description is relatively simple. The person serving in that position presides over the Senate during the legislative session, which Bedke does routinely, and serves as acting governor when the boss is out of state – which Bedke will do responsibly. His duties from there will depend on arrangements he makes with the governor.
Bedke’s role will be much different from his days as speaker, where managing the House and the egos was enough of a challenge. It also included negotiations with the Senate and executive branch. He has no major policy role as lieutenant governor, other than to break tie votes in the Senate. But knowing Bedke and his hard-charging nature, he won’t treat his new job like a three-month vacation from his ranch.
“I’m looking forward to being out in the communities and seeing how it’s working,” Bedke says. “I enjoyed being speaker and enjoyed serving in the Legislature, but you can only do that for so long. I’m going to extend the reach of the governor. He can’t be everywhere at once, but we can be in twice as many places if he and I are out there.”
And, as with the governor, Bedke will talk a lot about education – while promoting the governor’s call for higher-education scholarships for Idaho students.
“That’s not just for community colleges and universities,” Bedke said. “It can give kids a leg up on in-demand careers, and I think that’s a good idea.”
To some within the Republican Party, it’s just one of these “liberal” initiatives that only RINOs can appreciate. Bedke has a different take.
“Everybody wants to make education a wedge issue, but I’ve traveled the state and talked with a lot of people. It doesn’t matter if you are Republican or Democrat, or live east, west, north or south. People want their kids exposed to a quality education. That means having good facilities and good teachers in every classroom,” he said. “We take the oath that we will provide a general, uniform and thorough system of free schools to Idaho kids. If you want to defund education, then let’s talk about changing the constitution. People who live up to that commitment are not liberal.”
Bedke may well spend the next four years auditioning for bigger things – such as governor. That’s what lieutenant governors, including Little, have done over the years. For now, Bedke is doing well to provide a sense of dignity and calmness to the job.
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