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After state’s longest session, Idaho Senate passes bill to limit how long legislators are in Boise

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Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, presents Senate Bill 1239 on the floor at the Idaho Capitol. (Screengrab courtesy of Idaho in Session)

Senate Bill 1239 will now head to Idaho House of Representatives for consideration

In November 2021, the Idaho Legislature adjourned from the longest legislative session in state history – clocking in at 311 days.

On Monday, the Idaho Senate passed a bill 28-6 that would place a time limit on how long the session can run, with three exceptions.

“We hear talk all the time about how much it costs each day while you’re here in Boise, and this would give us a chance to look at our time here through the lens of a taxpayer,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon.

Usually, sessions run 75 to 90 days from early January until late March or early April. For the 2021 session, the cost to taxpayers after the Legislature took its first recess on April 6 — typically about the time when legislators would adjourn for the year sine die — was $558,470.92, according to previous Idaho Capital sun reporting.

Senate Bill 1239 as amended would require the Legislature to wrap up its business on or before 11:59 p.m. on the last Friday in March each year.

The bill also allows the Legislature to elongate the session for three circumstances:

  • To address a governor’s veto or potential veto of legislation.
  • To address a declared state of emergency or disaster emergency. 
  • If the House and the Senate pass a concurrent resolution to extend the session. That option must be approved by a majority of the members in each legislative body.

Several legislators who voted against the bill, including Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said he could support the idea if it were presented as an amendment to the Idaho Constitution, which would come before Idaho voters to make the change rather than through the legislative process.
The bill must also pass the Idaho House and be considered by the governor to become law.