Costs for the past 1.5 months of longest legislative session in Idaho history exceed $500,000

Costs include per diem, payroll for staffers, mileage and vouchered expenses for House, Senate members

By: - June 1, 2021 4:20 am

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

Costs for the final two weeks of action during the longest legislative session in Idaho history cost taxpayers an additional $68,695.

That brings the total costs since legislators returned from their first recess April 6 to $511,878.14, according to data the Idaho Capital Sun obtained via a public records request. 

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The costs include per diem for members of the Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate, payroll for staffers working on the session and mileage and vouchered expenses for members of the Idaho House. 

For the latest period of expenses from May 3-12, costs break down as follows:

(Keep in mind there are 70 House members and 35 senators)

  • $31,576 total per diem for House members.
  • $8,758 for payroll for staffers working with the House. 
  • $289 for miles or travel expenses for members of the House (processed and paid to date, as of Thursday).
  • $163 for other vouchered expenses for the House.
  • $16,208 total per diem for members of the Idaho Senate. 
  • $11,701 for payroll for staffers working with the Senate.
  • $0 for mileage and expenses for members of the Idaho Senate.

The total for expenses from when the Legislature returned from the first recess April 6 through May 2 was $443,183.14, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported

Legislators receive an annual salary that is not affected by the length of the session. 

During the extended recess from March 19 to April 6 when legislators were not at the Statehouse, two legislators did not accept per diem.

Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, wrote a check to the state for $1,065 to return his per diem pay, state records show. Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle, declined to accept the per diem in the first place, he told the Idaho Capital Sun. 

The 2021 session is the longest in state history and ran for 122 days before the Senate adjourned for the year May 12. 

However, the Idaho House voted down a motion to adjourn and instead voted to go at recess again, until a date no later than Dec. 31.

The disagreement over adjourning the session has put the state in an unprecedented and precarious situation. The Idaho Constitution states that neither legislative chamber may adjourn for more than three day “without the concurrence of the other.”

Gov. Brad Little predicted the situation could become a question for the courts. 

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Because the House did not adjourn for the year, Friday could be considered day 138 of the legislative session, even though the Legislature did not meet. 

A legal analysis by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office states that there is no clear mechanism for one chamber to force the other back into session to take legislative action. 

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

Legislative sessions always begin in early January and there is no limit to their length in state law or the Idaho Constitution. However, most sessions run for about 75-90 days and adjourn by late March or early April.

The session ran so long this year that legislators had to scramble to pass emergency legislation spelling out that all bills and budget bills will take effect on the first day of the state’s new fiscal year on July 1. They had to pass the emergency legislation or risk a partial state government shutdown because the session did not adjourn more than 60 days before the new fiscal year and the Idaho Constitution says no bill shall take effect until 60 days after the session adjourns for the year. 

 

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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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