House OKs proposed constitutional amendment

·4 min read

Apr. 21—It took a near-record 100 days to get it done, but Idaho lawmakers have finally accomplished their top priority for the 2021 session.

On a 54-15 near-party-line vote Tuesday in Boise, the House passed a proposed constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to call itself back for a special session under certain conditions.

All six representatives from north central Idaho supported the measure.

The legislation previously passed the Senate on a 24-11 vote. It now goes to Idaho voters in the 2022 general election for final approval.

The Idaho Constitution currently gives the governor the sole authority to call a special session. Lawmakers have long been vexed by that limitation. The chafing reached a fever pitch last summer, when they were essentially sidelined during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Joint Resolution 102 would amend the Constitution and allow lawmakers to call themselves back for a special session, upon written petition by 60 percent of the House and Senate membership.

The special session would be limited to the subject matter outlined in the written petition.

House and Senate Republicans said this was their top priority for the 2021 session, along with several bills aimed at curtailing the governor's emergency powers and readjusting the balance of power between the legislative and executive branch.

So far only two major balance of power bills have passed the Legislature, and the governor announced last week that he intends to veto them both. The Senate failed to override the first veto Monday; the governor has until Saturday to take action on the second bill.

Should that override attempt fail, it would likely leave SJR 102 as the only significant accomplishment of the 2021 session, as far as the balance of power issue goes.

NO DEAL ON EDUCATION FUNDING — The House and Senate both had relatively light agendas Tuesday, as the behind-the-scene negotiations continue in hopes of resolving an existing impasse over education funding.

House Republicans previously killed the 2022 higher education budget, as well as the 2022 public schools teacher pay bill, because of concerns over social justice curricula and alleged efforts to indoctrinate students.

Two proposals to deal with the issue have been presented to the House Ways and Means Committee. One was held in committee. The second, House Bill 375, was scheduled to have a public hearing before the House Education Committee on Tuesday, but was pulled at the last minute.

The joint budget committee is apparently waiting for some version of the bill to be approved before new higher education and public school teacher pay budgets are introduced.

The delay means the House and Senate are running out of other bills to focus on. Both chambers adjourned before noon.

The House did approve a handful of appropriations bills Tuesday. However, it was two steps forward and one step back as allies of Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin succeeded in getting her 2022 budget returned to the joint budget committee. They objected to a proposed $7,400 cut in the bill and want the funding restored.

DEFENDING GUN RIGHTS — Legislation further strengthening Idaho's already significant commitment to Second Amendment rights passed the Senate on a 28-7 party-line vote.

Senate Bill 1205 comes in response to potential efforts by the Biden administration to restrict certain firearm components and to promote federal "red flag" laws that allow courts to temporarily remove weapons from people who may be a danger to themselves or others.

"This is not a nullification bill. This is a nonsupport bill," said Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, who co-sponsored the legislation. "It states that federal actions that violate the Idaho Constitution will not be enforced or supported by government entities in Idaho."

The measure prohibits state and local government entities and agencies from expending funds or using any resources to enforce or administer a federal executive order, treaty, law or regulation that treats firearms, components or ammunition contrary to Article I, Section 11 of the Idaho Constitution.

Section 11 spells out the right to keep and bear arms. It allows laws dealing with concealed carry, but otherwise prohibits any law requiring licensure or registration for owning or possessing firearms. It also prohibits the confiscation of any firearms except those used in the commission of a felony.

Spence covers politics for the Tribune. He may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.

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