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Politics & Government

Legislature Recesses, Will Set Record When Lawmakers Return Next Week

The front of the Idaho Capital Building.

After a legislative session filled with rancor over the governor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, state lawmakers appear to be drawing it to a close.

It took 115 days before lawmakers passed the remaining budget bills and recessed until next week to wait out any potential vetoes from Gov. Brad Little.

For much of the session, the animus aimed at the governor barely stopped short of bareknuckle brawl.

While lawmakers aimed to restrict his powers during an emergency, they referred to Little as everything from a tyrant to a king. Some said the legislature is the supreme branch of government and that they’re not co-equal.

Over the last few days, both the House and Senate passed a handful of bills that would curb executive authority after Little vetoed two other proposals.

While they wouldn’t limit a governor’s ability to extend declared disaster declarations without legislative approval, the bills would still prevent them from restricting a person’s job based on classification, setting caps on gathering sizes or changing state laws.

Another issue played a large role in sending the session into extra innings: attempts to eliminate critical race theory from public schools.

Last week, the governor signed a bill that would withhold public funding from schools if teachers compelled students to believe certain viewpoints “often” found in critical race theory.

House lawmakers shot down two budget bills earlier this year – one funding Idaho’s colleges and universities and another paying for K-12 teacher salaries. They wouldn’t take up the proposals again until legislation passed to protect students against “indoctrination” that pupils, teachers and administrators assured them wasn’t happening.

They ultimately cut $2.5 million from the higher ed budget, though some far-right lawmakers wanted to cut another $18 million.

The House also dealt with serious allegations that one of their own raped a 19-year-old intern. Aaron von Ehlinger resigned his seat last week after a blistering ethics hearing. Von Ehlinger hasn’t been charged with a crime, though a criminal investigation by Boise police is ongoing.

When lawmakers meet again next Wednesday, it will officially set the record as the longest legislative session in state history.

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

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

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