Idaho Senate calls it quits, but House says not so fast
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Senate called an end to the 2020 legislative session on Thursday, but the House isn’t quite ready to be done and only adjourned until Friday, apparently waiting to see if lawmakers would have to override possible vetoes from Republican Gov. Brad Little.
One is a bill banning transgender people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates despite a federal court ruling Idaho lost declaring such a ban unconstitutional, and that the Idaho attorney general’s office says could end up costing the state $1 million if it goes to court again.
The other bill bans transgender women from competing in women’s sports despite also getting warnings that such a law is unconstitutional.
Both bills had overwhelming support among House and Senate Republicans.
“The House and the Senate have reserved their right under the Constitution to act on veto,” said Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke, adding House members would talk to their families Thursday evening about staying longer. He said he expected the House to formally vote to end the session Friday but didn’t predict the outcome. “We’ll see how that goes,” he said.
Little hasn’t indicated his intentions. A handful of large Idaho businesses have asked him to veto the bills because they make Idaho look intolerant. Little has until next week to sign or veto them if the House stays in session. He could take either action by Friday morning.
On Friday, he was scheduled to travel around the state visiting health districts to shore up defenses against the coronavirus. The number of cases jumped to 23 Thursday.
Otherwise, all of the business between the House and Senate is concluded. Republican House leaders even held an end-of-session news conference, as did Democratic leaders of the House and Senate.
In general, House Republicans said they passed some important tax legislation, but goals at the start of the session to provide property tax and grocery tax relief never made it through the Senate.
Bills put forward by Democrats in the House never got a hearing.
“I feel this session was marked largely by tone-deafness and wasted time and opportunity,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel. “Every effort by the Democrats to put forth (legislation) to address property tax relief was stymied by House Republicans.”
Another bill that made it to the governor without support from Democrats would make abortion a crime in Idaho should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing the procedure. Another bill bans affirmative action for state agencies, state contracting and public education.
There are some notable accomplishments from this year’s session that have either been signed by Little or are unlikely to be vetoed.
Little on Tuesday signed into law a bill creating transparency in medical bills and to rein in predatory medical debt collectors.
Little also signed a telehealth bill that allows doctors to interact with patients online, which could prove a significant development with the coronavirus now established in Idaho.
Other legislation approved by the Legislature set 16 as the minimum age for a person to get married, while also limiting the marriages of 16- and 17-year-olds to someone not more than three years older.
A Medicaid budget bill that also funds Medicaid expansion survived a close vote in the House early in the week and headed to the governor.
Lawmakers also put away money for hard times. That account has about $375 million and will be closer to $425 million this summer. The economic downturn expected due to the coronavirus could bite into that.
Lawmakers approved a budget for K-12 education of about $1.8 billion, the largest expense for the state, and also bolstered efforts to attract new teachers and hold on to veteran teachers.
Several bills that made it through the House limiting school bonds and levies died in the Senate.
Also of note this session, the House in January kicked out one of its members, voting 65-0 to expel Republican John Green of Post Falls a day after he was convicted of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government.