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Politics & Government

House GOP Floats Recessing Until September As Session Drags On

Idaho Capitol Front
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Idaho Capitol

Idaho lawmakers could soon leave Boise, but only temporarily, as one of the state’s longest legislative sessions could stretch on for months.

A new resolution introduced in the House Friday would allow the legislature to recess until Sept. 1 so lawmakers could potentially reschedule deadlines related to redistricting.

“There’s some concern over [when] the census numbers are going to come in and whether we have to make any adjustments because they are so late,” House Majority Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) said Friday.

The U.S. Census Bureau said in February it would deliver census data to all states by Sept. 30. The previous date to give census information to states was March 31st, but was postponed because of COVID-19.

That data is needed for Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission to redraw legislative and congressional district maps to use for the 2022 elections.

The resolution would also bypass the need for Gov. Brad Little to call them back into special session, which only he has the power to do under the Idaho Constitution. A constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers to call special sessions won’t be on the ballot until 2022.

Lawmakers wouldn’t be able to collect per diem as they did during last month’s outbreak of COVID-19 at the Capitol, which cost taxpayers more than $200,000, according to the Idaho Statesman.

But House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) said the proposal could have unintended consequences.

“I’m sure this isn’t an intentional outcome of it, but I am concerned it would have the effect of stripping the citizens of, or at least manifestly delaying, their referendum rights,” Rubel said.

Citizens can reject laws passed by the legislature through a referendum. But they must collect tens of thousands of signatures within 60 days of lawmakers officially adjourning for the year.

That’s in addition to new and much stricter signature gathering requirements approved by the legislature this year, which critics say make referendums and initiatives practically impossible to get on the ballot.

A top Republican in the House said that wasn’t intentional and they’ll discuss it over the weekend.

But lawmakers have also said in the past they want to stick around Boise to spend Idaho's nearly $1.9 billion in federal coronavirus relief money.

The House has yet to pass several budgets related to education after torpedoing two of them over concerns teachers are indoctrinating kids with social justice concepts. House lawmakers Thursday passed a bill attempting to address the issue.

Friday marked the 103th legislative day of the 2021 session, the third longest session in the past 20 years. The 2003 session lasted 118 days, while the 2009 session ran 117 days.

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

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