What if the Idaho Legislature were in session in December? Holding its budget hearings in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, say, and/or going through the rules review process that usually takes most legislative committees the first three weeks of the session? This rather offbeat possibility – that the 2008 legislative session could actually kind of start in 2007 – is being floated as the state looks ahead to its first legislative session outside the Capitol, which has been emptied for the big renovation project. Lawmakers will be camped out in the old Ada County Courthouse across the street, which is being remodeled to host two years’ Legislatures, but still is expected to be cramped.
Legislative Services Director Jeff Youtz said if lawmakers held some of those meetings in December, it’d give staff a chance to “trouble shoot” the new facility and make sure everything’s working right for the big startup in January. It’d also shorten up the time legislators have to spend in their new, close quarters for their regular session, which typically runs from January through March or April. “It may not work out, but it’s one way to trim two or three weeks off the session,” Youtz said.
The Legislative Council will kick around the ideas at its next meeting later this month, but Youtz said no decisions are likely until later. “This is just the first effort at a serious dialogue,” he said. Youtz, whose office already has moved into the old courthouse, said of the temporary Statehouse, “I think it’ll work satisfactorily, but it will be inconvenient based on the way we’ve done business in the past. … Maybe the facility itself will be the biggest driver in limiting the length of the session.”
One thing the old courthouse has that the Capitol lacked: Jail cells.