BOISE – Plans for Idaho’s legislative session to wrap up this week went awry on Thursday when the House Republican Caucus insisted it wants to extend the session for a full five days after the final bills are presented to the governor, which would give lawmakers a chance to try to override any veto.
The Senate GOP caucus reached the same decision, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said it considered because of the House members’ decision.
Democrats on both sides aren’t enthusiastic about the plan; Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said, “We weren’t asked.”
House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said, “Our caucus is of the opinion that we shouldn’t just stick around for the sake of sticking around, and that it is a great expense for the taxpayers. I think we should go home and quit wasting taxpayers’ money.”
This means the session could run through the middle of next week – or longer, if something comes up.
“Idle hands are the devil’s playground, and the longer that we’re here, the more opportunity there is for somebody to do something,” Erpelding said.
House Majority Caucus Chair John VanderWoude, R-Nampa, said, “We told everyone, everyone better be here. If you’re going to be being paid, you’d better be here and find something constructive to do.”
He noted, “We get paid whether we’re here or not.”
VanderWoude said during Thursday’s closed-door House GOP caucus meeting, “Almost everyone who spoke, spoke in favor of staying the five days. They think it’s our responsibility to make sure that the laws that we pass go into effect.”
Republicans control 29 of the 35 seats in the Idaho Senate and 59 of the 70 in the House.
If lawmakers stay in session, Gov. Butch Otter has five days from the time he’s presented with bills to sign them, veto them, or allow them to become law without his signature. Once lawmakers adjourn sine die – without a day – he has 10 days.
Last year’s Idaho Supreme Court ruling that lawmakers must present all bills to the governor before they adjourn sine die – or they can’t go into effect – has changed lawmakers’ approach this year, VanderWoude said. “We’ve always had this ability,” to stay in session until the governor’s dealt with all the bills, he said. “It just got highlighted in the Supreme Court decision.”
Winder said GOP senators want to stay the full five days “basically just to show the accountability – we’re the legislative body. We have a constitutional responsibility to the people of the state … to provide oversight to the governor.”
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