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New legislation could run up against end of session

New legislation could run up against end of session

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
March 16, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
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March 16, 2010

Republican leaders in the Idaho Legislature have set a March 26 target for ending the legislative session, which would give lawmakers less than two weeks, or nine session days, to finish their business.  That looming deadline hasn’t stopped some senators from introducing new legislation late in the session.

Senate Education Committee chair John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, introduced legislation Monday in his committee that would allow school districts to look over charter school applications.  He said the proposal writes into law the current practices of school districts and the charter school commission.  “I think it’s very important that charters receive consideration from their local school board,” Goedde said.

Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, pointed out that trying to get the proposal through both chambers of the Legislature is a daunting task.  “It looks like it’s got a pretty steep uphill climb,” he said.  “I wonder if we’re just wasting all of the efforts.”  There are several steps in the process.  The proposal would need to be introduced in another committee before coming back to the education committee, which could recommend it receive a full Senate vote.  If the Senate approves the legislation, it would head back to the House, where the process would start over.  Each of those steps would take one legislative day to accomplish, unless leaders suspend the rules.  It’s unlikely that would happen for all but the highest profile pieces of legislation, including budget bills.  Goedde told Pearce his newest proposal isn’t the kind of legislation that would extend the legislative session until it is approved.  That could leave it on the to-do list when lawmakers leave Boise.

Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, introduced new legislation on grandparent visitation rights Monday, but during the introduction admitted that it won’t become law this year.  “I recognize that we’re at the end of this session and we will not have time to take this anywhere, but I think it’s so important that we get this printed,” Mortimer said.  “I believe that this is an excellent starting point for getting a final bill.”  Introducing or printing legislation allows it to be published on the state website, which would let interested parties look at proposals and make suggestions.  Mortimer said he’s already done a lot of work on the grandparents’ visitation plan, which would respond to federal and state court cases that have limited the rights of grandparents to visit their grandchildren.

Legislation sent back for rewrites is also running out of time if lawmakers stick to their March 26 deadline.  The Senate State Affair Committee didn’t approve a plan Monday that would give the state more discretion when selecting construction contractors.  The proposal would have allowed the Department of Administration and state agencies to use past performance on contracts and other factors to exclude contractors before they bid on a project.  “We would like to have as much latitude as we can to select the correct contractor,” said Tim Mason, the administrator of the Division of Public Works within the administration department.

Several senators objected to the department’s ability to use good faith factors to determine qualified bidders.  Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, said it could blacklist some contractors.  “It’s a subjective classification that you’re creating,” he said.

“That would be an overexaggeration of what would be happening,” Mason responded to Stegner.  “The notion of blacklisting—I think that term is anathema to what we would be doing.”

Senators shelved the legislation on a 5-4 vote.  Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said he could support the measure with changes, including limiting the extra discretion on contractors to certain special projects.  After the meeting, Davis talked with Mason and others working on the legislation about potential changes.  If a compromise can be reached, the legislation could be amended, which might allow it to become law this year.

One way lawmakers are trying to get all their work done is by holding longer floor sessions.  The Senate will hold several afternoon sessions this week after doing it only twice so far this session.  The House has had several sessions stretch into the afternoon as well.

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