Senate Bill 1112 — Special sessions

Senate Bill 1112 — Special sessions

by
Parrish Miller
February 21, 2021

Bill Description: Senate Bill 1112 would allow the Legislature to call itself into a special session within 15 days of a written request of at least 60% of its members.

Rating: 0

Amendment Analysis: The amendment to Senate Bill 1112 does not change the rating. The amended version of the bill retains the thresholds found in the original, but it removes the secretary of state from the process.

Analyst Note: Senate Bill 1112 creates Section 67-465, Idaho Code, to allow the Legislature to call itself into a special session within 15 days of a written request of at least 60% of the body.

The process for calling a special session would require at least 60% of the legislators in each chamber to sign a joint petition that includes, in addition to names, districts, and signatures, the "specific subject or subjects to be considered during the special session" and the "identified need for the special session."

The petition would be delivered to the secretary of state and upon its receipt and verification, the Legislature would convene no "sooner than forty-eight (48) hours or later than fifteen (15) days after the proclamation is delivered to the secretary of state." An exception is made to waive the 48-hour delay in the case of a "demonstrable emergency" that "requires immediate action by the legislature."

A special session convened under the provisions of this chapter would be limited to introducing and passing bills "encompassed by the subjects specified in the proclamation and those necessary to provide for the expenses of the session and other matters incidental thereto."

The long-term, indirect impacts of this change on the freedoms of individuals and businesses in Idaho are impossible to predict. They will depend on when and why the Legislature might choose to exercise the option to call itself into a special session.

One possible benefit of this change is that the Legislature could call itself into a special session, after the governor declared a state of emergency, to terminate the declaration. If other legislation that has been introduced during the 2021 regular session related to declarations of emergency and extreme peril should become law, the Legislature will be uniquely empowered to extend such declarations should they occur in the future.

We must note, however, that this proposal does not limit the Legislature's ability to call itself into a special session only only in response to a declared emergency. Indeed, it contains no limits on when this authority may be exercised.

Many negative results could come from allowing the Legislature to call itself into a special session, because it would not need an urgent reason to do so. A special session could be used to pass laws that would be harmful to liberty. For example, legislators could call themselves into a special session during the summer to discuss a tax increase they were reluctant to debate in the months before a primary election.

Another possibility is that lame-duck legislators could call themselves into a special session after a general election to quickly pass laws they believe newly elected legislators would not endorse in the next session.

Because the passage of Senate Bill 1112 would not, in and of itself, harm or enhance the freedoms of Idahoans, it does not earn either a positive or a negative rating in the Freedom Index. That said, we would strongly encourage legislators to consider seriously the potential for harm and misuse of this proposal, in addition to the potential benefits.

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