Senate Tax Chairman Hal Bunderson, R-Meridian, requested an Idaho Attorney General’s opinion more than a month ago on whether Gov. Jim Risch really could limit the special legislative session to just one bill – something former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robert Huntley now is challenging. David High, chief of the civil litigation division for Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, issued a four-page opinion concluding that Risch can do it. “The governor would appear to have the authority to limit the special session to consideration of a particular bill,” High wrote in the July 7 opinion.
Accordingly, Bunderson has issued a letter to all senators stating that when his Local Government and Taxation Committee holds its hearing on the governor’s bill, any other bills or other topics “not specific to the House Bill presently known as RS 16445” will be considered “extraneous,” and committee debate on them will not be allowed. “We need full disclosure of the bill’s strengths and weaknesses. Let it pass or fail on its own merits,” Bunderson wrote.
He accompanied his letter with a draft “white paper” listing pros and cons of the legislation, which Bunderson opposes. “In my opinion, at the end of the day, if this bill passes, this session will be remembered not for the day we reduced property taxes or solved the property tax problem, it’ll be the day when we have structurally changed our education policy in a permanent way,” he said yesterday.
However, Bunderson also said he’d made a commitment to Senate leadership to not block the bill in his committee. “I think people have to be accountable,” he said. “I will not vote for the bill in committee unless we have a tie vote. Then I will vote to move it to the floor, with a proviso that I will debate against it and I will vote against it, but I’m doing it so that people can be accountable on this issue which is the sole purpose of the session. I think it’s inappropriate that one or two legislators stop this from progressing to a full vote on the floor.”