‘I’m really going to miss it’: Idaho House chief clerk takes on new job with national band

Towards the end of the 2022 legislative session in March, after one of the only sick days she had ever taken in 10 years in the Idaho Legislative Assembly, Carrie Maulin grated and coughed as she read the text full multi-page bills – an exercise that is normally unnecessary but can be forced by an objection from lawmakers, depending on the rules.

And Maulin is someone who always follows the rules.

Maulin has served as chief clerk of the Idaho House of Representatives since 2016 and worked as the House Journal’s clerk before that. At the end of this month, she will end her term to take up a position with the National Conference of State Legislatures as Director of Legislative Staff Services. His replacement will be another of many new faces in the 2023 legislative session, with at least 19 new lawmakers expected to replace incumbents who lost their primaries in May.

The Chief Clerk works full-time during the legislative session at the beginning of the year and part-time the rest of the year. According to the job description, the clerk is responsible for advising the Speaker of the House and other members of the House on how the agency is expected to conduct itself in accordance with the Idaho Constitution, House rules, and other parliamentary procedures. One of the qualifications is the ability to “work under extreme pressure” and communicate effectively with legislators, officials and the general public.

This pressure is often felt during indoor sessions, such as when an MP forces the reading of a bill. Maulin said his job was not to react and become history, but simply to do his job.

“I say this often and I mean that when we work up there, we are just furniture. The story isn’t about us, it’s not what we do,” she said. “If we do our job well, no one ever knows what we’re doing, because we’re just there to make sure the Legislative Assembly runs on time.”

Idaho Chief Clerk Carrie Maulin reads from her podium in the House Chambers on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for the Idaho Capital Sun)

Legislators: Maulin’s professionalism and calm were invaluable to the political process

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said Maulin has always conducted herself professionally as chief clerk, and he has no doubt she will be an asset in her next job. His disappointment at his departure was tempered by the fact that he will not be a speaker in 2023, he said.

“She was a great parliamentarian and an excellent student of the process,” Bedke said. “When things got tense, she kept her cool and her knowledge of the system and process diffused tense situations because she understood it and was able to communicate it when people’s emotions were running high. And that was absolutely valuable to the process.

Bedke said Maulin was able to articulate rules and processes in a concrete way, even for lawmakers who weren’t in the mood to hear it.

“She was able to explain the process and the rules in a way that was very disarming to even the most passionate antagonists,” Bedke said.

Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, was elected as a lawmaker at the same time Maulin began her job there in 2012 and said that even when he and Maulin disagreed on a procedural matter, she was professional and well informed.

“There is no one better. She will be missed so much, it’s unbelievable,” Youngblood said. “This lady, there wasn’t a question I could ask about House rules and rulings on bills that she wasn’t just great to work with and had the answers.”

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The chief clerk did not seek the position, but he felt comfortable there

As the daughter of a US Navy intelligence officer, Maulin grew up all over the world and surrounded by politics. She was born in Hawaii and graduated from high school in the Dominican Republic, and her brother was born in the Middle East. So when she took the job as a newspaper clerk in 2012, she felt like she had found a place that combined her interests in the news with her strong organizational skills.

“It sums up all my nerdness in one,” Maulin said. “I like the cheesiness of all the documentation we do. We keep track of every bill that comes into the House, whether it’s from the House or the Senate. We do the final legal filing, and they use it in court cases. It’s kind of this super rush of 90 to 100 days of using your brain to the max and I find that challenging, but also super interesting.

Idaho House Chief Clerk Carrie Maulin at her desk on June 9, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

But that was by no means the career she intended to have. Maulin earned a bachelor’s degree in interior design from the University of Idaho and spent a few years working decorating model homes. She then moved on to the position of General Manager of Boise Watershed exhibitions, a conservation project with an educational center for children to learn water and climate science. But after five years of working there, Maulin said she was tired of begging for money and ready to do something else. A friend of his who is the chief financial officer of the Idaho Legislative Assembly, Terri Franks-Smith, sent him the position of newspaper clerk.

“It was kind of one of those things, ‘Well, here we go,'” Maulin said.

The 2020 Special Session was ‘one of the scariest times’ in the building

There are many aspects of the job that she has enjoyed, including working with most members over the years. But the past two years have brought significant challenges, including the August 2020 special session, when protesters who were angry at COVID-19 restrictions broken a window in the gallery of the Chamber and rushed.

“(It) was one of the scariest times I’ve ever had in the building,” Maulin said. “I was embarrassed for our state that we had that kind of dynamic on Capitol Hill and in the House. I get that they were very irritated with the proclamations (from Governor Brad Little) and all that, and I get that this is people’s house, but to really come in and just trash the building because you’re upset, I don’t don’t think it’s good.”

The next regular session in 2021 was also difficult, she said, as the pandemic continued and the political environment was like a powder keg. She regularly received messages from people across the country asking if everything was okay.

“It didn’t change my mind about being committed, but it did make me see my job and my world differently, which is pretty sad,” she said.

Maulin and his staff also worked hard to avoid contracting COVID themselves, despite the fact that the rest of the Idaho legislature has passed no formal rules about testing or notifying if someone has the virus. COVID or had been exposed to the virus. Maulin and his staff were tested three times a week, in part because if any of them fell ill during session, it would bog down the legislative process.

“If the whole clerk’s office collapsed, the Legislative Assembly could not function,” Maulin said.

During the same session, the Legislature grappled with one of the most serious ethics cases in its history with former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, a Republican who represented Lewiston. A House intern who previously worked as a page when she was in high school reported that von Ehlinger, 39, raped her in March 2021, when she was 19. He resigned from his legislative seat in April 2021 and a jury found him guilty of the crime in April 2022.

Not only was Maulin tasked with helping the House Ethics Committee triage the complaint process, but she had to testify at the hearing. She cries thinking about the situation and says it was heartbreaking.

“It’s one of the worst things I’ve experienced in my entire life. This should never happen,” she said. “It was terrible for the staff, terrible for the reputation of the Legislative Assembly. My heart is broken for her.

Idaho Chief Clerk Carrie Maulin looks up at the full gallery from her podium in the Chambers of the House on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for the Idaho Capital Sun)

Changes to Idaho Legislature included civility breakdown, clerk says

Those experiences aren’t the reason she’s leaving, Maulin said, but going through them made her more open to the opportunity with the National Conference of State Legislatures when she saw it. On top of all that, over the past decade she said there have been dramatic changes across the Legislative Assembly.

“One of the things that I think is the most obvious is kind of a breakdown in civility, and I think the Legislative Assembly is a reflection of the world, so I think you see that on social media,” she said. “You see that in some of the protests, and those videos you see online of people losing their minds to someone lining up in front of them.”

This breakdown in civility shows up in the Legislative Assembly when members speak to each other and quickly object to the content of debates, Maulin said, and it’s manifested in the frequency of lawmakers demanding that bills be read on the floor. While it is often used as a minority party tool to slow the progress of a particular bill, it has often been used by Republican members for reasons that are unclear to Maulin.

“(They) used it as a kind of truncheon, I would say, to make a point on the floor, that’s my interpretation anyway,” she said. “I heard one MP say specifically, ‘I don’t like that MP, so I’m going to get his bills read.'”

New Chief Clerk of the House to be determined

Maulin’s replacement has yet to be hired, but she said she was trying to leave as many instructions as possible for her successor to ease the transition. She also offered to return in November to help train new lawmakers for the large class of first-year lawmakers arriving in 2023.

Maulin said many of the members she has worked with are some of the nicest people she has met in her life, and she had a great working relationship with Bedke, who said she was an example of a dedicated Idaho resident who could have worked anywhere and chose to work at the Capitol.

“The system is better for her after being there,” he said.

Regardless of what comes next or what has already happened, Maulin loved the job.

“I’m really going to miss it,” she said.

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