Sine Die: Idaho Legislature Ends Acrimonious Session

Apr 11, 2019

The Idaho Legislature has adjourned for the year after a fractious and drawn out session.

Lawmakers stayed in Boise nearly three weeks longer than planned as the House demanded mandatory work requirements for the state’s Medicaid expansion program and more power in approving or rejecting rules created by state agencies.

Gov. Brad Little (R) signed the Medicaid amendments into law earlier this week, but both chambers have been deadlocked over a routine bill that annually reauthorizes every rule in state government – everything from rules surrounding social safety net programs to school curriculum.

House Republicans twice rejected that bill in as many days, saying they want to require any new rules get approval from both chambers. Right now, only the House or Senate has to sign off on certain types of new rules.

With the legislature gaveling out for the year, more than 8,000 pages of administrative rules are set to expire July 1.

The governor’s office and the heads of each state agency can revive them as temporary rules. But each of them will need to be approved during the next legislative session by both chambers.

“I think that this may end up to not being as bad as everyone thinks it might be today,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley).

Rep. Jason Monks (R-Nampa) backed up that assertion. “This is a win for us, for us to be able to go back through that process and to make sure they’re working as they’re supposed to.”

But letting these rules expire and reauthorizing them will likely cost taxpayers money. State officials say the bill for doing so could reach nearly $400,000.

Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) says it also means that weeks of work by legislative committees to review proposed rules this year was for nothing.

“They just flushed a month and a half of that work down the toilet today by just deciding not to take any action on any of the rules that we passed and now we’re going to be back to square one and have to do it all over again next year on top of the new stuff that’s brought,” Rubel said.

The House and Senate are expected to create an informal working group over the next few months to study the issue. Such a group would not be an official interim committee and meetings may not be announced or open to the public.

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