Could Idaho’s legislative session wrap Wednesday? Leadership pushes for recess

Idaho House passes bill that declares a new emergency hundreds of times to prevent state government shutdown

By: - May 4, 2021 7:57 pm

Senate Majority Leader Kelly Arthur Anthon (R, Burley) speaks at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Legislative leaders say they are preparing a push to finish the work of passing the state budget and voting on the few remaining bills by Wednesday night. 

The Senate plans to reconvene Wednesday morning and have most of its work complete by 3 p.m., which is when the House is due back in session.  

“I would say to members of the body be prepared to work as long as it takes to finish up the business of the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, said on the Senate floor. 

But that does not mean legislators will adjourn the session for the year on Wednesday. 

Legislative leadership plans to take another recess to see whether Gov. Brad Little will sign or veto the flurry of bills that passed out of the Statehouse this week.

“Hopefully tomorrow night if all goes well we will be able to recess for a few days, like a week, while we wait to see what the governor does,” House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, said on the House floor.

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Idaho House passes bill designed to avoid potential government shutdown

The Idaho House passed a bill Tuesday that declares a new emergency hundreds of times as part of an effort to prevent a potential state government shutdown.

House Bill 394 is designed to amend the effective date of more than 200 bills the Legislature has already passed this year so that the new laws and budget bills become effective July 1. 

Legislators pushed the bill forward because of concerns that the Idaho Constitution requires that bills do not take effect until 60 days after a legislative session ends. The problem is the new state budget would need to take effect July 1, which is now less than 60 days away.

The bill contains the word “emergency” 656 times and declares a new emergency hundreds of times. The House passed it quickly and without any debate, in contrast to how the House has responded to other emergencies throughout the 2021 session. Conservative legislators have spent much of the session pushing back against emergency orders and criticizing Little for the emergency orders he signed in 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

GOP legislators have pushed several bills, including again on Tuesday, that are designed to limit emergency orders and ensure the Legislature can repeal emergency orders. 

Nevertheless, one of the final bills under consideration during the session received the House’s overwhelming blessing to add hundreds of emergencies to state law. House Bill 394 passed 64-1. It heads next to the Senate for consideration. 

Senate fails to override Little’s veto on bill restricting emergency orders

The Idaho Senate failed Tuesday to override Little’s veto of a bill that would have restricted emergency orders and a governor’s authority. 

The Senate voted 21-12 to override the of House Bill 135, falling just short of the two-thirds supermajority required to override a veto.

House Bill 135 would have limited the duration of emergency declarations to 60 days unless extended by the Legislature. The bill would have also prohibited a governor from altering or suspending provisions of Idaho law during the emergency. 

Little vetoed that bill and a similar bill, Senate Bill 1136, last month. He called the bills “just plain irresponsible” and said they violate the Idaho Constitution in several ways.

The Senate also failed to override Little’s veto of Senate Bill 1136, so both vetoes will now stand and both bills are dead for the year. 

However, the House Ways and Means Committee introduced three new bills Monday that break the major parts of the vetoed bills into separate bills, so the longstanding power struggle over emergency declarations and gubernatorial power is likely to continue as long as the session lasts. 

The Idaho House did successfully vote 48-19 to override the veto of House Bill 135 on April 21. However, the veto stands because it requires a two-thirds supermajority of both legislative chambers to override a veto and the Senate fell just short Tuesday.

One of the longest legislative sessions in Idaho history continues

Tuesday was the 114th day of the 2021 legislative session, which convened Jan. 11 at the Idaho Statehouse in downtown Boise.

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

Idaho legislators will break the record if they do not adjourn the session for the year. That is referred to as “adjourning sine die,” using a Latin phrase to indicate the Legislature will adjourn without naming a day to reconvene.

This year’s session appears likely to break the record with legislative leaders planning to call another recess Wednesday night. 

Most legislative sessions run for 75-85 days. But this year Idaho legislators have been locked in a power struggle with Little and delayed setting major portions of the state budget. Legislators have also taken several recesses already. The entire Legislature took a 17-day recess March 19 due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the House. The Senate took shorter recesses two other times while it waited for the House to pass state budget bills that had been killed or held up.  

Each day legislators are at recess counts toward the total number of days in the session.

 

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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.

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