Gem State Roundup

Little says disagreement over adjourning legislative session could become question for the courts 

By: - May 20, 2021 4:00 am

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

Gov. Brad Little says the disagreement over how to wrap up the longest legislative session in state history could become a matter for the courts because of the unprecedented situation Idaho is in.

Late in the evening on March 12, the Idaho Senate voted to adjourn the 2021 legislative session for the year after 122 days. However, the Idaho House of Representatives voted down a motion from the Democrats to adjourn and instead voted to enter into an extended recess to continue until no later than Dec. 31. 

House leaders said they want to give themselves the power to reconvene to address the unexpected.

But the Idaho Constitution says one chamber of the Legislature cannot adjourn for more than three days without the concurrence of the other. 

Chief Deputy Idaho Attorney General Brian Kane issued a legal analysis last week saying the situation is unique and unprecedented in Idaho. 

“This is such uncharted territory,” Little told the Idaho Capital Sun in an interview in his office Wednesday afternoon. 

“I believe there is a difference of opinion between the House and the Senate,” Little added. “It looks to me like there’s going to be a constitutional question that’s going to show up in the courts sooner or later.”

In his May 13 legal analysis, Kane wrote that one interpretation of the situation could be that both chambers could be considered to be at an extended recess. Kane also wrote that he is not aware of any legal mechanism the House could use to call the Senate back into session if the Senate disagreed about reconvening. Functionally, the House would need the Senate to reconvene if it wished to pass any bills. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be much the House could accomplish. 

The House going at recess instead of adjourning appears to be an effort to allow the House to attempt to reconvene the Legislature without waiting for Little to authorize a special session of the Legislature. 

As things stand today, only the governor may authorize a special session, like Little did in 2020.

This session, both the House and Senate adopted Senate Joint Resolution 102, which calls for an amendment to the Idaho Constitution to allow the Legislature to call itself back in session. Senate Joint Resolution 102 will go before voters in the November 2022 election. It requires a majority of voters to approve the proposed amendment.  

When asked if following up the longest session in state history with an extended, uncertain recess is a sign the Legislature is drifting toward becoming a full-time professional legislative branch like Congress, Little said “I hope not.”

“The issue is going to be on the ballot in 2022 anyways, so the public is going to get to weigh in on it,” Little said.


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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.