Like other even-numbered years, this year is going to have an election for all the state representatives and senators, with a primary in May followed by a general election in November. So legislators want to get out of office soon so they can start campaigning.
If you remember last year, you may recall that some legislators, mostly ones in the House, had proposed bills that didn’t go anywhere. Some of them never even got printed. Some of them got printed but were assigned to the Ways & Means Committee, which is where bills go to die. Other bills got assigned to appropriate committees but never got a hearing.
Some of the legislators who sponsored those bills got upset that their bills weren’t being considered and went to the media, insisted on having all bills read out loud as a protest, called for parliamentary maneuvers to have bills considered anyway, and otherwise acted out.
This year, the Speaker of the House didn’t want to deal with that sort of behavior, so many more bills have gotten printed and are getting hearings and even passing.
(Ironically, one of the few bills that didn’t even get printed this year was a campaign financing bill sponsored by a committee chairman, in his own committee, where legislators would have had to reveal their personal finances.)
Here are some of the bills that have progressed this session, which might not have done so in previous years. They have all passed out of committee and may soon be heard by the full House.
n Ensuring that courts follow only Idaho and U.S. law. This is widely believed to be a bill against the Muslim Sharia law system, although the words Muslim and Sharia don’t appear in the bill. This is the third year for this bill after it was amended the first year and not heard the second year.
n Allowing Idaho state government to nullify federal laws or court decisions that legislators feel are against the Idaho Constitution, even though the attorney general said it was probably setting Idaho up for a lawsuit. Last year, this bill wasn’t heard.
n Forbidding schools, counties and other groups from holding a bond or a levy election within a year of a failed one, even if changes are made. This bill is headed to the House amending order to change the year to 11 months.
What’s going to be interesting is to see what happens to those bills from this point on. Will they all pass the House? Will the Senate then hear the bills, as well? If they do pass both the House and the Senate, will Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, in his final year as governor, veto them?
Remember, too, that this year the Legislature had to set up new procedures for adjourning sine die at the end of the session, because last year the Legislature adjourned, the governor vetoed a bill, and 30 legislators filed a court case because they believed he had waited too long to veto it. Also, because the governor vetoed the bill after the Legislature had adjourned, legislators didn’t have a chance to override his veto.
Now, before the Legislature can adjourn for the session, the governor must deal with all the bills, whether he signs them, vetoes them or lets them become law without his signature. That means if the governor vetoes these bills, the legislators — who may want to use those bills in their campaigns — will have the chance to override his veto.
The result could be some really interesting new laws — and some really interesting, and expensive, new court cases.