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Idaho lawmakers aim to finish up business on Wednesday, officially end session Friday

Amid coronavirus concerns, lawmakers say they are trying to finish necessary business quickly.

BOISE, Idaho — With concerns about coronavirus and being aware of social distancing, there are a lot of questions about when Idaho lawmakers will be able to go home from the 2020 legislative session.

Many say the end of the session should be soon.  

“It certainly has been a little unusual,” says House Speaker Scott Bedke.

Bedke sums it by saying business at the Statehouse has been odd at times this week. There is now an end in sight. 

“We fill finish our business today, I predict,” Bedke said Wednesday afternoon. 

The plan for now is to get legislative business done by the end of the day Wednesday, with a formal sine die penciled in for Friday. Not all legislators would have to stick around, but Bedke says they simply can’t finish the session from home.

“We would have to have at least a quorum, and no, there is no provision in our Constitution or in statute to do anything remotely,” Bedke said. “It will be up to each individual, if they make the trip the taxpayers will cover it, but it will be up to them.”

Bedke says the process of transmitting bills to the governor takes time, that’s part of the reason why they can’t finish, or sine die for the session immediately.  

Some legislators do not think sine die by Friday is 100 percent realistic.

“I have no idea when we will be done,” said Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb.

Buckner-Webb says she thinks the session should already be over. She understands there is important business to do, but she thinks some legislation could have waited.

“It doesn’t mean that they have to go undone forever but for the time that is now, I firmly believe we should be out of this body,” said Buckner-Webb.

At this juncture Buckner-Webb and other Democrats say things like the transgender athlete bill didn’t have to be done right away. It did pass the house on its final vote early Wednesday, it now heads to the governor.

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“Those kinds of bills don’t only impact somebody with a label, it impacts all of us and it impacts our humanity talks about who we are, what we believe, and who we will be in the future,” said Buckner-Webb.

Looking back at the session, Bedke says from his point of view, really important legislation passed, like investments in education. 

“We’ve raised the starting teacher salaries and we’ve made a major investment to keep and retain and attract veteran teachers to Idaho. I think that we can look back at that and be proud of it,” Bedke said.

Top of mind though for many inside the Statehouse remains concerns over the spread of coronavirus. Already, a few lawmakers have left for the session. Buckner-Webb applauds them.

“They made a good choice for them and I’m kind of wavering every ¬¬day. I would like to believe that we are going to get it done today, and I may have to make that same decision,” said Buckner-Webb.

Bedke echoes what other House Republicans have said over the last few days, they are taking the situation seriously but just want to finish their business before ending the session.

“We are very aware of the situation going on outside the building but in here we have the people’s business to finish and that’s what we are going to do, hopefully wrapping up today,” Bedke said.

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