Governor says lawmakers must decide how to proceed after elimination of March presidential primary

Gov. Brad Little reflects on 2023 legislative session, primary election changes during press conference

By: - April 19, 2023 5:13 pm
Idaho Gov. Brad Little at the State of the State

In this file photo, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, lower center, looks up to the gallery just before he gives his State of the State speech in the House chambers of the State Capitol building on Jan. 9, 2023. Behind him are Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, Speaker of the House Mike Moyle, R-Star, and Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke of Oakley. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Idaho Gov. Brad Little said in a press conference Wednesday that he does not anticipate a special legislative session happening after Republican and Democratic party leaders recently raised concerns about a new law that eliminates the March presidential primary election.

House Bill 138, a bill that was pushed by Secretary of State Phil McGrane and Rep. Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello, as a way to consolidate elections and save the state about $2.7 million every four years, overwhelmingly passed in both legislative chambers.

Little signed the bill into law on March 30, but Senate Bill 1186 — a trailer bill allowing candidates to file to run in the state’s presidential primary in May — was necessary to consolidate the elections. That bill died when the legislative session adjourned because the House didn’t address the legislation.

Kootenai County Republican Central Committee Chairman Brent Regan said in an April 12 editorial that the elimination of the March election is the result of rushing legislation without building consensus and support. 

Little said in the press conference there is time to make appropriate changes before the 2024 election, but the Idaho Legislature would have to be “a lot more hasty” than they were during the bill’s original passage in the upcoming 2024 session to address the issue.

House Assistant Minority Leader and chairwoman of the Idaho Democratic Party Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, said in a written statement that she supports calling a special session to address the issue. 

“It’s not up to me anymore,” Little said about calling a special session. “If you’re going to do a special session, I would urge my legislative branch leadership to do the same thing that I and my predecessors have done. You’ve got one bill, there’s a general agreement on it prior to people arriving here and get it done.”

Reflecting back on the session, Little said he would have preferred to receive bills earlier in the session. 

“My bill box was empty for the longest period of time,” Little said, adding that the vast majority of the bills weren’t ready to sign until late in the session.

Little said he was pleased with the passage of multiple education-related bills, including providing high school graduates with funds to attend community college or workforce training, increasing state funding for public schools and providing school districts and charter schools with the funding to provide raises of $6,359 for all teachers. 

“That was my number one priority, and I was pleased with it,” he said about education legislation. 

‘We’ll see how this plays out’: Idaho governor talks transgender youth care ban

Little said he considered alternatives to signing House Bill 71, but he said he signed it considering other states have passed similar legislation. 

Set to take effect Jan. 1, 2024, House Bill 71 bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth, including puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries. It also makes it a felony for any medical practitioner to help a minor seek gender-affirming treatment. 

“It was heart-wrenching some of the testimony that was given, but we’ll see how this plays out,” he said. 

The governor’s office previously told the Idaho Capital Sun that the bill provoked more constituent calls, emails and letters than any other piece of legislation this year. His office received more than 6,500 calls and emails asking the governor to veto the bill, and more than 14,800 calls and emails asking him to sign it.

Little said he acknowledges that major medical associations across the country support gender-affirming care for minors who are experiencing gender dysphoria, but he said signing the bill addresses “unintended consequences” of providing that care to transgender youth.

Little said he supports doing more to provide behavioral health help to youth struggling with mental health.

“I don’t want people to have to go out of the state, but some of them may,” he said about transgender youth. “We need to do more behavioral health to help. If I can identify a mental health problem early with a little bit of resources from a school district or a faith based group or fill in the blank, I know I can stop a lot of problems later.”


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Mia Maldonado
Mia Maldonado

Mia Maldonado joined the Idaho Capital Sun after working as a breaking news reporter at the Idaho Statesman covering stories related to crime, education, growth and politics. She previously interned at the Idaho Capital Sun through the Voces Internship of Idaho, an equity-driven program for young Latinos to work in Idaho news. Born and raised in Coeur d'Alene, Mia moved to the Treasure Valley for college where she graduated from the College of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and international political economy.