The first piece of legislation passed by the House during the 2021 Idaho legislative session would allow lawmakers to call themselves back into session at any point in the year.
Currently, only the governor can convene a special session of the Idaho legislature – something Gov. Brad Little did last August.
Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt (R-Eagle), one of the dozens of co-sponsors of the proposed amendment, said its goal is clear.
“It is simple and it is powerful in allowing the people to always have a voice in our state,” DeMordaunt said.
The proposal is one of the top priorities lawmakers had coming into the session as a way to counteract what many of them view as a heavy-handed response to the pandemic by Little.
Many House lawmakers Thursday voiced their frustrations during debate, including House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R-Star).
“I didn’t get elected to come down here and sit around and let the governor be king,” Moyle said.
The proposed constitutional amendment would require 60% of lawmakers to sign off on coming back into session. They wouldn’t need to limit which topics they take up or how much time they spend in Boise.
Those concerns, among others, led six Republicans to ultimately vote against the measure, though it passed 51-18.
Rep. Fred Wood (R-Burley) was one of them. He worried that any legislation brought forward during a special session that was convened with the approval of just 60% of lawmakers could mean the proposal could be vetoed without enough support to override it.
“We’ve operated for 130 years as a state with not being able to call ourselves back and I don’t think we’ve been hurt by that,” Wood said.
Without guardrails limiting what bills could be introduced is “the quickest way there is to [having] a full-time legislature,” he said.
Concerns over the cost of these sessions, which Moyle speculated could happen “once or twice a year” so the legislative branch could “fix some problems,” also surfaced.
It’s estimated to cost taxpayers more than $20,000 per day lawmakers are in session, though if additional security is needed, those costs could be significantly higher.
The proposal now heads to the Senate where it will need a two-thirds majority to pass. If it does, a simple majority of Idaho voters would need to approve it in the 2022 general election to be adopted.
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