Burgoyne to pitch plan to limit Legislative session to 90 days

Burgoyne to pitch plan to limit Legislative session to 90 days

by
Dustin Hurst
January 28, 2010
Dustin Hurst
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January 28, 2010

Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, will attempt to introduce a bill before the House State Affairs Committee that will require the Legislature to do all the people’s work in 90 calendar days or less.

Burgoyne said, in an interview with IdahoReporter.com, that he would like to see Idaho join the 39 other states which limit the length of their legislative session because although sessions in Idaho continually become longer, the additional length doesn’t necessarily translate to more work.

“We can get the work done in 90 days,” said Burgoyne.  “As a matter of good government, we ought to be doing our work expeditiously.”

The proposal comes on the heels of the 2009 legislative session, which stretched on for 117 days, 1 shy of tying the record for the longest session in Idaho history.  Several Idaho leaders, including Gov. Butch Otter in his State of the State address, have called on lawmakers to ensure this session is short, yet productive.

It is estimated that the Legislature costs Idaho taxpayers $35,000 per day.  Utah, Idaho’s neighbor to the south, limits its Legislative sessions to just 45 days.

The demographical makeup of the Legislature is also of concern to Burgoyne.  He said that sessions with varied length often exclude citizens who work full-time jobs who aren’t able to simply pick up and leave a job for an unknown amount of time.

“We need people of all walks of life,” said Burgoyne.  “I think it’s useful to get the perspective of the people with kids in the school system.”  He added that he would also he would like to see more laborers, farmers, retired people, and young people in the Legislature.

One of the people Burgoyne would seemingly want to join the ranks is Boise State University Student Body President Trevor Grigg, who is planning a run against Democratic Rep. Phylis King of Boise in November’s general election.  Following his presentation to Senate Education Committee Wednesday, Grigg, who is 25, shared some of his thoughts on the Burgoyne bill.

“The focus of our government should not be to attract a certain type of person to the rank and file, but to effectively and properly perform the duties of the Legislature no matter how long it takes,” said Grigg. “A bill like that has the potential to cost us more in the form of bad or rushed policy which affects the state in the long run.”

Other legislators shared their concerns about the proposal with IdahoReporter.com Wednesday. Meridian Republican Rep. Joe Palmer, who sits on the committee, said he worries about putting an unforgiving cap on sessions because of the budgetary process.

“I don’t think the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) could do it on time,” Palmer said.

Idaho Falls Republican Sen. Dean Mortimer, who sits on JFAC, said that the committee can usually end in 90 days, but it ultimately depends on the issues and money problems each year.  He said last year’s lengthy session was due, in part, to the extra three weeks it took JFAC to address how to appropriate federal stimulus dollars.

Personally, Mortimer said that “in theory” he supports the measure, but is also concerned with the strict language of the proposal.  The bill must have emergency provisions that would allow the Legislature to go longer if absolutely needed, said Mortimer.   He added that it would be futile to end a session on an arbitrary date just to incur more costs by calling a special session.

The measure will be taken up before the committee at 9 a.m. in the lower east wing of the Statehouse. IdahoReporter.com will bring you the result of the vote on the plan as it comes.

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