BOISE -- The clock is ticking as Idaho lawmakers take care of last-minute business. The plan right now is to end the session on Friday, but there are still some big items to sort out before then.
Most notably, all of the budget and appropriations measures, especially the $1.3 billion education budget. While it's looking like a Friday wrap-up, leadership says that could always change, but they're working toward that target.
"I think we have a good chance for this Friday. Get people home for Easter and let them stay there," Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill said.
On Monday, both the Senate and House ticked through bills and leaders met to figure out what might be ahead this week.
"We're trying to determine bills that might have some controversy, things the wheels could come off that would make us stay here a little longer than we were planning, and try to avoid those kinds of problems. And if we think there may be some problems, let's get those addressed now at the beginning of the week, so we don't get some surprises toward the end of the week," Hill said.
The session, if it ends Friday, would be 82 days, which is on the shorter end. Leadership says that shows efficiency, even with a record number of freshman lawmakers.
"There was still plenty to do. But we had some good people. Yes, we had some new people, but they came in ready to work. They came in very serious. They wanted to get things done. They wanted to do the people's business, maybe sometimes more than those who've been around for a long time, so we were very impressed with the crop of new legislators we got, both in the House as well as in the Senate," Hill said.
Speaker of the House Scott Bedke met with committee chairs to figure out a list of priorities to keep this session on track to be short, if possible.
"If something important comes up that we have to address, we're not going to just close our eyes and our ears and not take care of the people's business," Bedke said. "Just stay tuned. I mean, it's hard to predict everything at this point."
"There's a lot of bills still in the pipeline. Important appropriations bills, the ed budget is still in the pipeline, and we certainly can't leave without addressing that, obviously. But there are some other bills in some of the Senate committees that House members are very concerned about, and there are a bunch of Senate bills that are in House committees that the Senators are concerned about," Bedke said. "So we're going to sit down here with the chairmen right now and we're going to go over the list and we're going to see where we're at. The bills that they've got to have, the bills they'd like to have and the bills they don't care that much about."
Leaders say one thing that likely won't be entertained anymore this year is Medicaid expansion. House Minority Leader John Rusche criticized that today, calling it "cowardice".