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Voters approve Idaho's special session constitutional amendment

Senate Joint Resolution 102 allows the Idaho Legislature to call itself back into session if 60% of lawmakers vote in favor, without the governor's approval.

IDAHO, USA — Idaho lawmakers will soon be able to call themselves back into session without the governor's approval. In Tuesday's general election, Senate Joint Resolution 102 (SJR 102) passed with 52% "yes" votes. 

The constitutional amendment was decided by roughly 22,000 votes, with 99% of precincts reporting Wednesday night. 

Idaho was one of only 14 states where the governor had the independent power to call the legislature back for special sessions. SJR 102 allows the Idaho Legislature to call itself into a special session upon the request of 60% of lawmakers. 

Although it is not technically designated as part time, the legislature has always been known as such. Lawmakers meet every year from January until typically the end of March, sometimes into early April.

A special session called by the Idaho Legislature could last for weeks or months, whereas a special session from the Governor of Idaho can only last 20 days.

Stephanie Witt, Idaho politics expert at Boise State University, said the special session power could get expensive. 

"It costs about $30,000 a day to pay for the costs of keeping the legislature there," Witt said. "So, each day that they're back in a special session, there's a price tag for that."  

Some people against the ballot measure, like Democratic Party Chair Lauren Necochea, argue granting this power to the legislature wastes taxpayer money.

"We really should only come to town if the governor and both chambers agree on a course of action and a plan of action," Necochea said. "The legislature is to the right of the governor, and they're fighting with each other, and now, we're going to be happy coming to town with more legislative sessions so that they can duke it out more frequently."

However, lawmakers in favor of the ballot measure – including House Majority Caucus Leader, Republican Megan Blanksma – believe the amendment gives the legislature more freedom to do the people's business.  

"The legislature has constitutional responsibilities, just like the governor has constitutional responsibilities, and one of the legislature's constitutional responsibilities is budgeting the tax dollars," Blanksma said. "That ability was removed from the legislature when COVID occurred and massive amounts of dollars moved in."

It is unknown how often the Idaho Legislature will call itself into session, but Necochea said it may be similar to the Utah Legislature, which has called itself back into special session 10 times since 2020. 

"It's just not the best way to run a railroad," Necochea said.

KTVB reached out to Governor Brad Little's office for a statement. Little responded with the following comment:

"I am hopeful legislators will take very seriously their new powers and limit their legislative work as much as possible to the regular session annually." 

Ultimately, Blanksma said it is the will of the people.

"It looks like the voters are deciding that what they want is legislature with a majority, not just willy nilly, but with a majority can call itself back," Blanksma said.

Idaho was not the only state to have a constitutional amendment up for vote in Tuesday's election. Kentucky and Arkansas had similar measures on the ballot, although theirs failed.

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RELATED: Idaho election results 2022

Many have come out against SJR 102, saying its a "legislative power grab," like former Idaho Governor Butch Otter. Jim Jones, former attorney general,  wrote in an op-ed to the Idaho Press that, "The Legislature demonstrated the folly of that idea with its shameful, wasteful rump session last year."

Ron Nate, a former Republican Idaho House member, wrote in a blog to the Idaho Freedom Foundation that SJR 102 would help them act in their "proper role" in order to circumvent certain things the Governor can do without the permission of the legislature.

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