BOISE, Idaho — With SRJ 102 – a constitutional amendment you will see on the General Election ballot - lawmakers are hoping to call themselves back into a special session without approval from the governor.
The Idaho legislature is a part-time legislature, but over the last few years, lawmakers have slowly chipped away at that title, coming back into a few special sessions and holding the longest special session in state history in 2021.
As of now, Idaho’s constitution only allows Gov. Brad Little the power to call lawmakers back into a special session but some lawmakers are looking to change that and say the executive branch has too much power.
“We just felt like the people wanted us to come into session but we couldn’t,” President Pro Tempore Chuck Winder (R)-Boise said. “The purpose of it is to allow Idaho to become the 37th state that allows the legislature to call themselves into session under extraordinary circumstances.”
Winder says circumstances like a pandemic or natural disaster could be reasons why the legislature would need to call itself back for an extraordinary session.
A yes vote on the resolution would allow the legislature to convene in a special session if 60% of the members in each house agree.
“To me, it’s a separation of powers, between the three branches of government,” Winder said. “The legislature should not be at the mercy of the executive branch or here, in this case, the governor’s office”
A no vote would keep the constitution exactly how it is now.
“The if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it principle is somewhat applicable here,” Ilana Rubel said. “We’ve operated very well as a part-time legislature as envisioned by the framers of the Idaho constitution for 130 years. I think this amendment will bring us a lot closer to a full-time year-round legislature which I think is going to be very expensive for Idahoans.”
Rubel says it's at least $30,000 dollars a day when lawmakers are in session.
In 2021 - lawmakers held the longest session in state history, not adjourning for the year and coming back months later to conduct business.
“I think that was an interesting dry run or audition for this concept. We had more than 30 bills, they were very poorly thought out and in the end, not a single viable piece of legislation passed,” Rubel said.
All Idaho ballots will have this amendment for you to vote on come November 8. If you live in Ada County, you can view your sample ballot here.