BOISE, Idaho — After the longest session in Idaho state history lasting 311 days, lawmakers formally adjourned sine die Wednesday, November 17th, 2021.
During the three-day extension of the regular session, lawmakers attempted to pass multiple pieces of legislation addressing vaccine mandates, immunization discrimination and religious exemptions.
The only thing that passed the House and Senate was a joint statement expressing disapproval of federal vaccine mandates.
“We passed bills that got out of the House that didn’t quite make it through the Senate,” Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said. “Some are frustrated other think that that’s a good idea and how it should work.”
Bedke says there are mixed results following the tense three-day return to the statehouse.
“The public had a chance to come and participate and they did with all of their passion or all of their emotion at times but when the dust settled, we hadn’t moved the ball very far,” Bedke said.
House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel says the process was rushed and people weren’t given enough time to read over and analyze the bills for consideration.
“I’m quite relieved no binding legislation was passed,” Rubel said. “I think some of these bills had some serious unintended consequences in terms of really harming our business community, creating threats to public health. The bills before us should not have passed so I think that is all well and good.”
The three-day return costs about $100,000 of taxpayer money, but the only thing to pass through the House and Senate was Senate Joint Memorial 105.
“[The bill] is a nonbinding letter to congress saying we don’t like the federal mandates. The fiscal note listed on that was the cost of a postage stamp,” Rubel said. “It's a $100,000 postage stamp.”
When asked if the return to the statehouse was a waste of time, or a way to advance toward the goal of passing legislation, Bedke acknowledged the cost of the return but said it pushes the legislature closer to their desired outcome.
“Yeah, it costs money to bring everybody from across the state here and have staff and whatnot. I think most people expect that. I think Idahoans need to be secure in my statement when I say, this is not a backdoor attempt to become a full-time legislature,” Bedke said.
Boise State Political Science Professor, Jaclyn Kettler, says all of the bills that were held in committee are likely to be brought up again in January.
“What will be interesting is to see if legislators rework some of these proposals in the meantime or whether they are reintroduced basically identical this time,” Kettler said. “They will need to be reintroduced and so they will go through the hearing process again to then be reintroduced as bills.”
“We have a Senate, and we have a House and they’ve got to work together and maybe a little bit more communication and maybe a little bit more coordination could have gotten these issues cross the finish line, but it didn’t so that’s where we will start in January,” Bedke said.
Lawmakers will return to the statehouse for the start of the 2022 Legislative Session on January 10.