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Politics & Government

Should Idaho Lawmakers Call Their Own Special Sessions? It’ll Be Up To Voters

An overhead shot of the Idaho House Chamber. Most of the lawmakers are in their seats.
Thomas Hawk

Idaho voters will decide next year whether they want to allow the legislature to meet in special session without the governor’s permission.

The proposed constitutional amendment passed the House Tuesday largely along party lines. Three Republicans joined all 12 Democrats in opposing it.

In order to call a special session, 60% of the House and Senate would have to agree on a topic before they could meet up in Boise.

Idaho is one of 14 states where the legislature can’t call itself back into session, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Right now, only the governor can call a special session.

House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks (R-Meridian) said being able to reconvene without the governor’s permission makes power among the branches of government more equal.

“If we’re limited to only being able to function within a short period of time throughout the year, I don’t see how you could even argue that we’re equal,” Monks said.

But critics said the proposed constitutional amendment would move Idaho’s part-time legislature closer to one that meets full-time.

Rep. Colin Nash (D-Boise) pointed out Tuesday was the 100th day of this year’s session — the longest session since 2009 and one of just three sessions exceeding 100 days in the last 20 years.

“I did not sign up for this, to be part of a full-time legislature, and I feel like this is putting us on the road to that if we’re not already well down that road,” Nash said.

Monks said lawmakers are sticking around to potentially spend federal coronavirus relief money.

If they could reconvene later in the year, though, Monks said they might’ve chosen to adjourn already.

“Right now, the system is forcing us to be here long,” he said.

But the legislature still has several outstanding holes in the budget — something lawmakers are constitutionally required to balance every year before July.

The constitutional amendment now goes to voters in November 2022. It just needs a simple majority to pass.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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