Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stennett to miss entire legislative session

Senator's wife says his cancer treatment has been effective

State Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, will miss the entire 2009 session of the Idaho Legislature, his wife, Michelle Stennett, said Monday.

Stennett is undergoing treatment for brain cancer. Michelle Stennett said the treatments leave him very tired.

"The doctors recommend that he focus his attention and energy on healing," Stennett told the Idaho Mountain Express.

Stennett underwent surgery a year ago for removal of a brain tumor. He continues to receive treatment at his Ketchum home.

In a prepared statement released Monday, Stennett said the decision was not easy.

"Public service is my life," he stated. "For the past 20 years, my winters have been spent in the Statehouse. It is very disheartening to not participate this session. However, I am unsure when I will be able to return, so it is in the best interest of District 25 to have effective, continued service by Jon Thorson.

"I intend to resume my duties as soon as I am able after the session and I sincerely appreciate the encouragement and support from everyone."

While Stennett sits out the session, former Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson will continue to serve in his place. Thorson began that role when the session began Jan. 12. He said he and Stennett talk regularly about his work representing District 25, which he said he's still working to get a feel for.

"It's taking a little while to get up to speed," he said.

Among the issues he's looking at while down in Boise, he said, is a measure to affect siting of coal-fired power plants.

Thorson said he is also a co-sponsor of legislation that would restrict the use of cellular phones, except for hands-free devices, and texting while driving.

"They're both safety issues," he said.

Thorson has taken on Stennett's assignments to the State Affairs, and Resources and Environment Senate committees.

Stennett is also Senate minority leader. While he's in treatment, Sen. Kate Kelly of Boise has taken his place in that role.

Stennett's District 25 colleague, State Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, described the task Thorson faces getting up to speed as a challenging one.

"There's a ton to learn," she said. "There's a lot to read."

Jaquet said she's been visiting with Thorson regularly and is working to bring him into the team of Democratic legislators in Boise.

"We're trying to work together," she said.

Meanwhile, the Stennetts remain upbeat about Clint's return to the Senate.

"Clint will come back as soon as he's able," Michelle said. "The cancer treatment is doing well. It is being effective. We're very optimistic about this, and the doctors are as well."

Jason Kauffman:

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