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What if Legislature alternated one short session, one long one?

Idaho Sen. Branden Durst (Betsy Russell)
Idaho Sen. Branden Durst (Betsy Russell)

What if Idaho’s Legislature only met for a short, maximum 60-day session in even-numbered years, to set a budget, and then held longer sessions of up to 150 days every other year? That’s the proposal from new Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, who introduced a resolution today calling for the change. “I wanted to basically mimic what they’ve done in Washington state,” Durst said. “The reason is because we’re dealing with some pretty complicated issues, and we’re all citizen legislators.” In the alternate years when there were longer sessions, he said, lawmakers would have more chance to learn about and fully debate the issues, and they wouldn’t be doing so during an election year. “We could come to a more informed decision, which is better for the state,” Durst said.

Durst, who turned 33 today, said it’d also be better for those lawmakers who are employed, to know for certain how long they’d be gone from work for lawmaking duties. “It’s very frustrating for an employer not to have the certainty,” he said. Durst said he was employed the year he served in the House during the near-record 117-day session in 2009, but “I wasn’t employed the next session.” His firm let him go in December of that year. “They didn’t want to go through that again,” he said.

Durst also gave the opening prayer in the Senate chamber today. “Our chaplain’s gone for the week,” he explained. “Two members of the majority have offered the last two. They said, ‘Does anybody want to?’ and I was glad to volunteer.”

Durst also introduced another personal bill today, a measure that would require legislative authorization before the State Board of Education could pass rules requiring online classes for high school graduation.  The reason: When the State Board repealed the last online course graduation rule, after voters rejected the “Students Come First” school reform laws, several board members said they still thought online classes should be required, and that they should revisit the issue in a few months. “My opinion is they’re tone-deaf,” Durst said. He said voters were clear on that issue when they rejected Proposition 3 on Nov. 6 by a two-thirds margin.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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