Idaho Senate fails to override Gov. Little’s veto by one vote

The override failed by a single vote because it requires a two-thirds vote to override a gubernatorial veto.

By: - April 19, 2021 5:06 pm
The Senate in session at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021.

The Senate in session at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The power struggle between the Legislature and Gov. Brad Little continued Monday as the Senate tried but failed to overturn Little’s veto of a bill that was designed to limit a governor’s power during emergencies.

Fresh off a four-day recess, the Senate voted to 23-12 to override Little’s veto of Senate Bill 1136. The override failed by a single vote because it requires a two-thirds vote to override a gubernatorial veto.

Senate Bill 1136 is one of two “just plain irresponsible” bills that Little said he would veto on Friday. The bill would have limited emergency declarations to 60 days unless extended by the Legislature. The bill also would have prevented a governor from altering, adjusting or suspending any section of Idaho law during an emergency. It also prohibited restrictions on a person’s ability to work, regardless of their job type. 

Little also pledged to veto House Bill 135 when it reaches his desk. That bill also aimed to place limits on the duration of emergency orders and declarations unless they were extended by the Legislature. 

Little said the two bills violated the Idaho Constitution in numerous places.

“These bills are an emotional, kneejerk reaction because of anger about the pandemic and some of my decisions during an uncertain time last year,” Little said during his veto announcement. 

During floor debate Monday, Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, urged senators not to override Little’s veto. He cautioned his colleagues about writing bills based on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

“This kind of legislation needs to, in a sense, to live for the ages,” Burgoyne said. “Situations that we cannot contemplate, situations that we cannot now understand in a world that will be changed from ours are likely to have to utilize whatever legislation comes out of this Legislature this session with respect to emergencies.”

Republican senators led the effort to try to override the veto.

“This particular piece of legislation takes the position that that response should have the lightest touch in governmental powers,” Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, said.

“We don’t believe as Idahoans that anyone individually should have unlimited power, whether there is an emergency or not.”

Since the Senate’s effort to override failed, Little’s veto stands, and Senate Bill 1136 is dead for the year. 

Once Little vetoes House Bill 135, the Legislature will have the option to try to override it, too.

Idaho legislative session hits 100-day mark

The longest legislative session in the past 10 years will hit the 100-day mark Tuesday at the Statehouse. 

Monday was the Senate’s first day back following a four-day recess. Senators took the recess (their second of the 2021 session) because they said they cannot finish their business without knowing where the state budget stands. 

Legislators continue to be gridlocked over the budget and the ongoing power struggle with Little. 

Since April 6, the Idaho House has killed three major budgets — the public school budget for teachers’ salaries, the higher education budget and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Welfare budget

The state is required to pass a balanced budget each year, and the new budget would need to be in place by July 1, the first day of the state’s new fiscal year.

The Division of Welfare budget has been rewritten and could be called up for a vote on the House floor as soon as Tuesday.

But the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee has not yet reconvened to rewrite the higher education or teacher salary budget bills. 

JFAC did not meet Monday. As of late Monday afternoon, JFAC isn’t scheduled to meet Tuesday either, suggesting the session will continue at least for several more days. 

The longest session in state history ran for 118 days in 2003.


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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.