Thursday, April 25, 2024

Amador picked to chair Ways and Means

Staff Writer | December 8, 2020 1:00 AM

Paul Amador knows as well as anyone right now the importance of maintaining flexibility.

“I can only talk for a little bit,” he admitted in a phone interview Monday. “I’m on baby watch.”

Amador and his wife, Julie, are expecting their second child any hour now. By the time you read this on Julie’s Tuesday due date, Simon Eli Amador might have already made his grand entrance into the world.

“It could happen any time now,” Amador said. “I just need to stay on my toes.”

Staying on his toes is a footing he’ll need to get used to for the foreseeable future. The Coeur d’Alene representative about to begin his third term in the Idaho House will start the session in January with more than the monickers of father, husband and legislator to fulfill. The popular local was appointed chair of the Idaho House Ways and Means Committee Friday. In a Monday announcement, Amador said he was humbled and honored by the appointment.

“Ways and Means is a really interesting — and kind of powerful — committee,” Amador told The Press. “The unique part of Ways and Means is that it’s not subject-specific, so it can really deal with a variety of issues.”

Unlike the U.S. Congress’s Ways and Means, which historically deals with tax code and revenue drivers, Idaho’s version is a catch-all that, because of its flexibility to call meetings to order at the chair’s request, can bring new legislation to the table at little more than a moment’s notice. While that can sometimes mean bills without a chance can get floated through Ways and Means as a kind of test balloon, the committee can also be used by House leadership to spearhead critical legislation.

“The insider joke,” Amador said, “is that Ways and Means is where bills either go to die or go very quickly.”

That kind of freedom to tackle issues without the restraints other committees — such as Education or Judiciary — traditionally affords the chair with enough access to work with House leadership on key issues, particularly with Rep. Scott Bedke (R-Oakley), the House Speaker who appointed Amador Friday.

“Ways and Means is a different kind of beast,” Amador said. “A lot of times, it can be where we’ll see the Speaker’s gotta-get-it-done legislation go through.”

Amador said some of those musts could involve COVID-related legislation, an issue that has kept the entire world on its toes this year and will likely keep Idaho legislators on their toes in the new session.

“COVID has given us a lot of challenges, certainly,” Amador said, “but I think we all see there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We all need to be diligent over the last few months.”

Amador added he hopes to use his new position to help his state recover from the virus that has not only damaged the economy like no other event in our lifetimes but also claimed 1,055 Idahoans since the pandemic began.

“A lot of times,” he said, “I hear people say — off the cuff really — ‘The government’s not here to protect my life,’ and I strongly disagree with that. One of the whole reasons we form a government is to protect people’s lives … I’m hoping whatever comes our way in this new session, we’ll be able to safeguard one another.”

In other Idaho House news:

Rep. Ron Mendive will chair the Local Government Committee. The Coeur d’Alene legislator since 2012 will return for his second term as chair of the committee designed to, among other responsibilities, establish a framework in Idaho code for smaller municipalities like cities and counties to negotiate.

Rep. Tony Wisniewski (R-Post Falls) will serve as vice-chair on the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee. Wisniewski will bring his education in mechanical engineering and professional experience in aerospace manufacturing and the nuclear field to the science-heavy committee.

Rep. Jim Addis (R-Coeur d’Alene) accepted his appointment as vice-chair of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Friday. The committee facilitates legislation related to tax administration language, sales tax, income tax, property tax and spending bills, among other bills. Addis, who was originally assigned to the committee in 2019, said he will continue his push to safeguard locals’ pocketbooks in the new session.

“I expect to focus on the taxpayer,” Addis said, “and how we can help protect Idahoans and North Idaho in the coming year.”