State legislator: Idaho lawmakers discussed not fully adjourning session this year 

The longest session in history lasted 118 days. Tuesday will be the 86th day this session.

By: - April 6, 2021 4:25 am

Rotunda at the Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

A Republican committee chairman said Idaho legislators have discussed the possibility of not making the traditional motion to adjourn their business for the year.  

Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said legislators’ concerns about Gov. Brad Little’s authority and handling of CARES Act stimulus funding while the Legislature was not in session in 2020 prompted the discussions. 

Rep. Lance Clow

“As you know, there were legislators who were concerned last summer we couldn’t call ourselves into session very easily,” Clow said during a March 22 telephone interview. 

Clow said the talks occurred prior to the Legislature’s abrupt recess amid a COVID-19 outbreak. 

Much of the early part of the 2021 legislative session was dominated by legislators’ efforts to push back at Little or roll back COVID-19 safety protocols. 

The House and Senate passed resolutions this year seeking to create an amendment to the Idaho Constitution that would allow the Legislature to call itself back into session. As things stand today, only the governor is empowered to call a special session. 

Little called the most recent special session of the Idaho Legislature officially referred to as an extraordinary session in August. 

The Legislature is scheduled to reconvene its normal session at noon Tuesday following a 17-day recess due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Statehouse.

The general thinking was legislators may have had just about a week or so of work remaining to pass any budget bills and major unresolved legislation. 

The Legislature went at recess March 19, while March 26 was the nonbinding date legislative leaders targeted for adjournment before the session began in January.  

Clow, who serves as chairman of the House Education Committee, said wrapping things up may not be that simple.

“There were some discussions about how we would end the session anyway,” Clow said.

Clow said it is possible the Legislature “would not necessarily have the traditional sine die (adjournment) anyway like we have.”

Idaho has a part-time Legislature that convenes for about 80 to 90 days in session each year. On the last day when the House and Senate adjourn for the year, the legislator who makes the motion uses the Latin phrase “sine die,” which roughly means they are adjourning without plans to return. 

It’s unclear whether legislators would make such a move or if there is precedent. The longest session on record lasted 118 days in 2003, the Idaho Press Reported. In 2009, the session lasted 117 days. 

If the legislators don’t adjourn for the year, Clow speculated they could remain in session and use the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to provide guidance for spending Idaho’s share of the most recent federal COVID relief stimulus funds.

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Clark Corbin
Clark Corbin

Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.