Bill Description: Senate Joint Resolution 102 would amend the Idaho Constitution to allow the Legislature to call itself into an extraordinary session within 15 days of a written request of at least 60% of the body.
Analyst Note: Senate Joint Resolution 102 proposes to amend the state constitution, a step that always merits a close examination. This proposal would amend Section 8, Article III, of the Idaho Constitution to read as follows:
Section 8. SESSIONS OF LEGISLATURE. (1) The regular sessions of the legislature
shall must be held annually at the capital of the state, commencing on the second Monday of January of each year, unless a different day shall have been appointed by law, and at other times in extraordinary sessions when convened by the governor and in organizational sessions commencing on the first Thursday of December after the general election, unless a different day shall have been appointed by law.
(2) The legislature, while remaining a part-time, citizen legislature, must also be convened in special session by the president pro tempore of the senate and the speaker of the house of representatives upon receipt of a joint written petition of at least sixty percent of the membership of each house, specifying the subjects to be considered. Such special session must commence no later than fifteen days after the petition is received by the president pro tempore of the senate and the speaker of the house of representatives. At a special session convened pursuant to this section, the legislature shall have no power to consider or pass any bills or resolutions on any subjects other than those specified in the petition and those necessary to provide for the expenses of the session.
[Underlined text would be added to Section 8; text that has a strikethrough would be removed from it.]
It is impossible to accurately predict the long-term, indirect impacts of this change on the freedoms of individuals and businesses. They will depend on when and why the Legislature might choose to exercise the option to call itself into an extraordinary session.
One possible benefit of this change is that the Legislature could call itself into an extraordinary session after the governor declared a state of emergency or extreme peril. Legislators could modify or end such declarations. If other legislation that has been introduced during this session related to declarations of emergency should become law, the Legislature will have the power to extend such declarations as well.
We must note, however, that this proposal does not limit the legislature's ability to call itself into an extraordinary session only to periods of 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 an extraordinary session, because it would not need an urgent reason to do so. This expansion of legislative power could be used for actions that would harm liberty. For example, legislators could call themselves into an extraordinary 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 an extraordinary session after a general election in order to quickly pass laws they believe newly elected legislators would not endorse in the next session.
Because the passage of the proposed constitutional amendment 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 in addition to the potential benefits of this proposal.