Chadderdon reflects on legislative accomplishments

Legislator retiring Nov. 30 after serving 8 years in the state House

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COEUR d'ALENE - Marge Chadderdon always looked forward to starting a new session of the Idaho Legislature in Boise, and she was just as eager to return home to North Idaho and live under the laws she helped write.

Chadderdon, first elected in 2004, is retiring Nov. 30, having served eight years in the state House, representing District 4, which primarily includes Coeur d'Alene.

"It's a very treasured time in my life," Chadderdon, 74, of Coeur d'Alene, said as she looked back Tuesday. "It was my privilege to have served."

Alongside her fellow lawmakers, she said she has done work she hopes will benefit the state for years to come, including reducing taxes, funding transportation projects, helping pave the way for a new technical-professional high school, and introducing more technology into public schools.

She said she'll never forget her colleagues in the House.

"The overall quality of the people that do serve as legislators is great," she said. "So many of them are so dedicated. It's great to see the cross-section of people from all over the state."

And, she said, "It was always great to meet the new legislators coming in."

There should be some major changes in time for the next legislative session, with at least 30 new legislators likely to be seated in the House and at least 10 in the Senate, she said.

With the help of her colleagues in the Legislature, and then-Gov. Jim Risch, she worked to end the millions of dollars that property taxpayers had to pay annually for school maintenance and operations.

While property tax relief was provided, sales taxes were increased slightly to provide school funding.

"It was one of the debates about how education should be paid for," she said. "It's better through sales tax, that way everyone participates. The property taxes were escalating so high as property values rose."

She voted for legislation that allowed the Idaho Transportation Department to finance projects through the so-called GARVEE transportation program. Money for the program now comes from gas taxes and fees associated with cars and trucks.

"I look back now and think of all the great roads and bridges repaired and built," she said. "It was a big move, and never done before."

She said the recently opened Sand Creek Byway - routing U.S. 95 out of downtown Sandpoint - is an example of a GARVEE project.

She added, "It's left our transportation system in the state of Idaho in a lot better shape. It was kind of a pioneer program."

She worked on legislation that allowed three school districts in North Idaho to collaborate on the Kootenai Technical Education Campus.

Long term, she said, KTEC will help grow and train Idaho's labor pool.

She sees the passage of Idaho's "Students Come First" legislation, unveiled by schools Superintendent Tom Luna, as another legislative achievement.

The legislation includes phasing in laptop computers for every high school student, and a new focus on online learning, among other changes.

She said, "I think it's the wave of the future, and if you don't get with it you'll leave a lot of students behind."

She said criticism leveled against Luna and lawmakers was natural, given that major and unprecedented changes were occurring.

"It changes teachers' duties, but there will still be traditional classroom work," she said.

Her primary committee appointment in the House was to education, convening every morning during the legislative sessions. She also held seats on the business and local government committees.

She had first-hand experience in local government, serving on the Fernan Council in the 1980s. She plans to move from Fernan to downtown Coeur d'Alene soon. She also was a one-time Hayden resident.

Before becoming a legislator, Chadderdon co-owned five Carpet Center stores, but sold them off.

She has nine grandchildren, all graduates or students of the University of Idaho.

"I wasn't born in Idaho, but I certainly love Idaho," she said. She was born in eastern Montana, and raised on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

Following her retirement from the Legislature - and instead of heading to Boise for yet another legislative session - she plans to take a vacation cruise in January.

"Then I'll go someplace warm and follow the Legislature on my laptop," she said. "I can be a constituent and call them and ask, 'Why did you vote that way?'"

In the future, she plans to make some trips to Boise to visit legislators.

Even though she's retiring, she still sounded like she's ready for another campaign, saying at the end of her interview with The Press, "The main thing we all need is to grow the economy and provide jobs for people, for the benefit of their families. And we need to educate the children."

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