BOISE, Idaho — Idaho legislators continue to work on passing legislation late in the 2021 session and are hoping to wrap up soon. This week, however, bills are entering the Statehouse extremely quickly, which is rare this late in the session.
The Idaho House Ways and Means Committee met several times within the last 48 hours to introduce a handful of new bills. One of those bills, which regards ballot initiatives, was introduced by House Republicans around 7 p.m. on Tuesday night
Earlier in the session, the Legislature passed a bill that would require groups to gather 6% of signatures of registered voters in all of Idaho’s legislative districts. Groups were previously required to gather 6% of signatures from registered voters in 18 legislative districts.
The recently-introduced bill would require any ballot initiative that is already circulating to fall under the new requirements. This means ballot initiatives that were filed under the old rules would now have to comply with the new, more difficult rules.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said. “We are here into May and this Is shaping up to be the longest session in Idaho history.”
Rubel believes it is disingenuous for the Legislature to rush major legislation at the very end of the session.
“This is sausage-making at its worst, bringing these pretty substantial issues up in the manner of which they're being brought up,” she said. “To be clear, in my mind, this is the messiest way you can make laws.”
Rubel also has an issue with the manner in which House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, brought up a highly-anticipated property tax bill. It was introduced on Monday and was passed out of committee hours later.
Less than 24 hours later, it passed the full House and a Senate committee.
“So the public and all the people affected by it had absolutely no opportunity to do research on what this bill did,” Rubel said.
KTVB reached out to House majority leadership about the last-minute legislation but was unable to reach a lawmaker for comment. However, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke spoke with KTVB's Joe Parris about the Legislature's intentions to wrap up in the near future and the beneficial legislation they are working to pass.
"Significant income tax relief, complete with a refund check, a transportation package to address the growing pains in our road systems in the state,” Bedke said. “As well as property tax relief and tidying up the things that we learned last summer with regard to the emergency declaration."
To be clear, not all legislation was introduced this week and passed 24 hours later, but the process of rushing things through is frustrating to some lawmakers.
“To do this kind of "hair-on-fire," "emergency-ram-things-through-with-no-analysis" when we're on the 114th day of session, to me is just nonsense,” Rubel said.
Bedke acknowledged it has been a tough session for most people, but he also thinks some good has come out of it.
“In the aftermath of the pandemic, so there have been complications this year, but I think by and large we fulfilled our responses, responsibilities, and then they made a pretty good way,” he said.
There is now a plan that would allow the Legislature to finish up nearly all of their business on Wednesday.
The Senate is going to meet in the morning and try to finish passing bills. The House is going to meet in the afternoon and finish things up on their end. Then the plan is to recess instead of the traditional sine die.
The reason is because they want to see what Gov. Brad Little does. If he signs everything that's passed, the session could be over on Monday.
If he vetoes something, however, the Legislature could come back next week.
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