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Idaho Legislature will break the record for longest session in state’s history

·3 min read

This year’s legislative session will be Idaho’s longest in state history.

Both the House and Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution that allows legislators to recess for six days, starting Thursday, and return on May 12. By then, the session will have lasted 122 days and counting — shattering the previous record of 118 days in 2003.

The plan when they return is to deal with any actions Gov. Brad Little chooses to take on legislation. He has five days to decide whether to veto bills after they arrive on his desk.

The question will be whether Little vetoes four new bills fast-tracked through the legislative process to curb the governor’s emergency powers. Little last month vetoed previous versions of the bills. The House and Senate will each need a two-thirds majority vote to override a veto. Little’s spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

Idaho’s longest session in history includes 26 days of recess for the House and about 30 days of recess for the Senate, including weekends. One and a half days for the House were spent on ethics hearings over former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, who was accused of sexual assault by a 19-year-old intern and later resigned.

But after Wednesday night, Republican leaders went home with their major boxes checked off. They fast-tracked a round of bills in the past two weeks: cuts to university budgets over “social justice” programs in an appropriation bill, a property tax cut bill, income tax cuts, a transportation funding bill, and four bills to curb the governor’s emergency powers.

“This has been a tough session, I’m not going to say otherwise,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, by phone late Wednesday night. “It’s been difficult, but I think that we’ve had some real successes here.”

Idaho taxpayers won’t pay per diem

When legislators temporarily shut down the session over a COVID-19 outbreak in the House, they chose to continue daily compensation they automatically receive for 17 days — at a cost of about $318,000 to taxpayers.

The legislation for the latest temporary recess, Senate Concurrent Resolution 111, also paused the automatic per diem rates during the session. A few House members — Reps. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard; Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley; and Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens — argued against it.

Scott said she has sometimes used her campaign finances for living expenses in Boise during the session. She said it’s difficult for her to drive back and forth from North Idaho not knowing how long the session will go on.

House Majority Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, said lawmakers can still keep their receipts and turn them in to have their expenses reimbursed.

“I would point out that we are all here to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Blanksma said. “A lot of us, and I would argue the vast majority of us, will be at home for these potential recess days. And I think that it’s completely unfair to expect the taxpayer to reimburse us for doing our work at home.”

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