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By the numbers: Idaho legislators introducing more bills that do not become law

Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Otto Kitsinger
Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Before the session adjourned, Senate Republicans called out House ‘craziness’

Over the past 10 years, the Idaho Legislature has gradually been introducing a higher percentage of bills that are not enacted into law.

This year 258, or 42.3%, of the 596 bills legislators introduced in the Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate were not enacted into law. By comparison, from 2013 through 2016, the highest percentage of bills introduced but not enacted into law was 34.5% in 2013, an Idaho Capital Sun analysis ofLegislative Services Officedata found.

The 42.3% figure from this year was the second highest in the past 10 years, trailing only the previous year, 2021, when 44.9% of bills weren’t enacted into law.

There are many reasons why bills are introduced and don’t become law.

But Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, called out the Idaho House during a March 9 press conference for pushing forward “craziness.”

“There are a lot of bills, more so than normal, that are in drawers on our side of the building,” Winder said. “I think most of them will stay there, so I don’t think you’ll see some of the craziness that the House seems to like to do get very far in the Senate.”

This year, Republicans the Idaho House introduced or passed several controversial bills that the Idaho Senate never took up, including:

  • House Bill 675: Which would have made it a felony to provide hormonal therapy or gender reassignment surgery to a child and referred to such care as “genitial mutilation.”
  • House Bill 666: Which would have removed an exemption in state law that protected libraries, museums, colleges, universities and schools and their employees from prosecution for materials that are “harmful to minors.”
  • House Bill 761: Which would have made it so that student IDs were no longer accepted at the polls and that Idahoans who register to vote on Election Day would need to bring additional documentation to prove their citizenship, residence and identity. Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, introduced three other similar bills that all died when the session adjourned. 
  • House Bill 693: Which would have prohibited absentee ballot drop boxes. 
  • House Bill 439: Which would have made it so that voters who are not affiliated with a political party could no longer affiliate with a political party on the day of a primary election. 
  • House Bill 547: Which would have made it a crime to turn in an absentee ballot for a friend, neighbor or co-worker who is not a relative or living with the voter. 

In terms of duration, the 2022 Idaho legislative session that adjourned Thursday represented a return to normal compared to the record 2021 stop-and-go-session.
The 2022 session ran for 81 days, well short of the 311-day session that started and stopped throughout most of 2021. This year’s session was more in line with the 2020 session (75 days) and the 2018 and 2017 sessions (80 days each).

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.