Idaho Rep. Nielsen’s Miss Emily Litella moment

Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, is known for his fierce opposition to federal encroachments. On Tuesday, Nielsen smelled a fed bogeyman where none existed and ultimately quieted his objection to an heretofore non-controversial spending bill.

Senate Bill 1210 appropriates $11.9 million for fire suppression, pest control and hazardous materials cleanup in fiscal 2013, which ended in June.

The money was used by the Idaho Department of Lands to fight fires on state and private lands, by the Idaho Department of Agriculture to kill Japanese beetles and potato cyst nematodes, and by the Military Division to clean up after “hazmat” incidents.

The measure passed the Senate 33-0 last week, among a number of routine early-session supplemental appropriations. Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, carried the bill on the House floor.

During opening debate by Bolz, Nielsen asked if any of the firefighting costs were attributable to federal lands. Bolz replied that they were not. Nielsen said he didn’t quite hear the answer. Bolz repeated himself, saying the firefighting took place on state and private lands.

As Bolz sat down to open debate, Nielsen shot up.

“I have some problem with this if I understand correctly that it includes federal ground,” Nielsen began.


With colleagues shaking their heads and saying “No, it doesn’t,” Nielsen stopped.

“Oh, it doesn’t?” he said. “OK. Then I’ll sit down.”

“We’ll consider that debate in favor,” quipped House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, winning the best laugh of the 24th legislative day of the 2014 session.

After Nielsen’s unintentional reprise of Gilda Radner’s hilarious Miss Emily Litella role — made famous on “Saturday Night Live” — the bill passed without further ado, 67-0.

It’s not the first time Nielsen’s hearing has failed him on the floor. Last year, he thought a colleague had disparaged charter schools, mistaking “rural” for “real” and prompting him to remark: “Charter schools are REAL schools, too!”

Radner’s character, for you youngsters, took a little misunderstanding a long way. When corrected, she said, simply, “Never mind.”


Letilla was a complement to another dingy Radner character, Roseanne Rosannadanna. I sometimes confuse the two, and did so in my original post. We’ve all got some Miss Emily in us, Rep. Nielsen!


Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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