Idaho Court Ruling Has Lawmakers Bracing For 2018 Session

Oct 27, 2017

An Idaho Supreme Court ruling has the state's top legislative leaders scrambling to prepare for how to close out the 2018 session months before it kicks off in January.

Idaho's 14-member legislative council met Friday to discuss a draft requiring the Legislature to wait for an unspecified amount of time to allow for the bills to be transmitted to the governor's desk before officially adjourning.

Officials added they don't expect to adopt the rule change during the upcoming session, but instead want to test out the process to work out any possible kinks.

"The reason to make it simply a draft is because the Legislature has never been through this before, let's give the body flexibility while still providing some sort of roadmap," said Eric Milstead, director of Legislative Services Offices, who helped come up with the rule proposal.

The state's highest court ruled earlier this year that it was illegal for the Idaho Legislature to adjourn before the governor received the bills passed throughout the session.

Instead, the court said the Idaho Legislature must present all bills to the governor before lawmakers can go home for the year.

The ruling was part of a lawsuit filed by nearly 30 state Republican lawmakers who sued the state arguing that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter improperly vetoed a bill that would have repealed the sales tax on groceries. The court upheld Otter's veto.

While the decision doesn't affect the majority of taxpayers, it did upend decades of legislative procedure for future legislative sessions.

"We're in unchartered territory," Milstead said.

Several council members objected to holding off adopting the new procedure, pointing out the importance of the Legislature having firm guidelines. Others raised concerns about lawmakers waiting.

"So it sounds to me like we're going to be sitting around and we're going to be being paid for the time the bills are being transmitted, is that correct?" asked Democratic Rep. Phylis King, of Boise.

"That's correct," said Republican Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, of Rexburg. "That's one of the consequences that we ended up with here."

The council didn't make any decision on Friday, but agreed they hope to adjourn by March 27.