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Idaho panel OKs plan for lawmakers to call special sessions

Courtesy Idaho Statesman
BOISE (AP) — A House panel on Thursday approved a proposed constitutional amendment allowing the part-time Idaho Legislature to call itself into session.
The House State Affairs Committee on a voice vote sent the resolution to the full House, where it will need a two-thirds majority to pass. It has already cleared the Senate.
If the measure passes the House, the proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters in November 2022. If voters approve with a simple majority, the Legislature could call itself back into session if 60% of lawmakers in each the House and Senate agree.
“The most important thing that this does, it allows ourselves to come back,” Republican Rep. Jason Monks told the committee.
Idaho is one of 14 states where only the governor can call special legislative sessions, and they are limited to topics defined before the sessions.
Opponents have said that allowing lawmakers to call special sessions could lead to the Legislature becoming full-time.
A previous version of the measure cleared the House in January but ran into problems in the Senate, in part, because special sessions would not have had limits on topics that could be considered. That version is dead in the Senate.
The new version that passed the Senate appears to have language limiting topics.
However, Monks told the House committee that special sessions could expand to other topics if they win 60% approval in the House and Senate. Essentially, based on the joint resolution’s language, that would appear to have the effect of creating another special session to address a new topic.
“If we called ourselves to talk about property tax, or you pick your subject matter, and we wanted to talk about (other matters) we wouldn’t be able to do that without another request that we would file ourselves,” he said. “So we could still talk about something else, we would just need to make sure that we had 60% willing to do that. Not necessarily a bad thing in my mind.”
A joint resolution that passes both the House and Senate with a two-thirds majority does not need a governor’s signature, but instead goes to voters as a possible amendment to the Idaho Constitution.
Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias made the motion to send the joint resolution to the full House.
“I think this substantially improves the previous joint resolution because it brings the expectations that we have for all state employees into alignment with the expectations taxpayers will have for us,” he said. “The taxpayer needs to know what we are going to talk about.”
The proposed constitutional amendment stems from lawmaker dissatisfaction with restrictions — and their inability to do anything about them — that Republican Gov. Brad Little put in place last March to reduce coronavirus infections and deaths.
The restrictions included a temporary lockdown and restrictions on who could go to work. The Republican-dominated Legislature had adjourned for the year by then and was unable to call itself back into session.
Lawmakers also have insisted that they and not Little should have decided how to spend the $1.25 billion the state received in federal coronavirus rescue money early last year.
The post Idaho panel OKs plan for lawmakers to call special sessions appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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