How do the legislatures in the Mountain States work? To answer this question, we checked with legislative officials in Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. MSPC sent the same questions about the legislative process to each state. Here is the response we received from the Idaho Legislative Services Office (LSO). The questions we posed are in italics.
Length of legislative session/special sessions – When do regular legislative sessions begin and how long are they scheduled for? How is a special session called and how long can that session run?
Idaho LSO: “According to Section 8, Article III of the Constitution of the State of Idaho, regular sessions are held annually at the capital on the second Monday of January of each year, unless a different day shall have been appointed by law. According to Section 67-404, Idaho Code, ‘At the hour of twelve o’clock M. on the Monday on or nearest the ninth day in January the regular session of the legislature shall be convened.’ Legislative sessions are not scheduled for a specific amount of time, rather until business is finished.
The governor may convene the legislature in an extraordinary session by proclamation, and the legislature may only act on the subject in the proclamation, according to Section 9, Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Idaho. According to Section 8, Article III of the Constitution of the State of Idaho, the legislature may also be convened in a 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 and may only act on the subject in the petition. According to Section 23, Article III of the Constitution of the State of Idaho, extra sessions convened by the governor shall not exceed a period longer than 20 days.”
Bill introduction process/restrictions – What is the bill introduction process and are there any restrictions on when or how many bills can be introduced?
Idaho LSO: The following information is directly from the legislative resources online and a more detailed description can be found here.
‘A bill may be introduced by a member, a group of members or a standing committee. After the 20th day of the session in the House and the 12th day in the Senate, bills may be introduced only by committee. After the 36th day, bills may be introduced only by certain committees. In the House: State Affairs, Appropriations, Education, Revenue and Taxation, Health and Welfare and Ways and Means Committee. In the Senate: State Affairs, Finance, and Judiciary and Rules.’
‘When the RS (proposed legislation) is approved after a short committee hearing, it is presented to the Chief Clerk of the House or Secretary of the Senate and assigned a bill number. The bill is then introduced (First Reading) by being read on the floor in the 8th Order of Business in the House and the 11th Order of Business in the Senate. When a bill has been passed by one house it is transmitted to the other and follows the same process as any new bill. It will be introduced (First Reading), referred to a committee for review and recommendation and then, if sent to the floor, will flow through the calendars (Second Reading, and Third Reading) until reaching a final vote at the Third Reading Calendar.’
There are no restrictions on how many bills are introduced."
Bill reports/fiscal notes – Are bill reports and fiscal notes made available publicly before committee/floor action on a bill?
Idaho LSO: “Yes, they can be found at the bill center on the website. For example, the 2023 session can be found here.”
Bill/vote tracking – Is there a resource available for the public to track legislative action on bills and committee/floor roll calls?
Idaho LSO: “Yes, our online bill center includes this information. For example, the 2023 session can be found here.”
Within the bill center, there are five different viewing options, Legislation by Bill Number (Mini Data), Legislation by Subject/Topic, Enacted Legislation, Vetoed Legislation, Final Bill Status. Each bill view, except the final weekly bill status report, is linked to the bill information including the bill text, statement of purpose/fiscal note, the committee where it was introduced, actions taken listed by date, vote results, and final action. All introduced bills are listed in the Legislation by Bill Number and Legislation by Subject/Topic.
Each committee’s information is also on the website and the public can see the agendas and minutes for each meeting in each committee. The public can also subscribe to individual committees to follow committee action at this site.”
Public hearings – Is there a process for the public to receive notification of public hearing agendas? Are there any time requirements for public hearing agendas to be posted before committee action on a bill (5-day notice, etc.)?
Idaho LSO: “The legislature provides online resources for the public to subscribe to individual committee updates, follow bills through the tracking system, and stream and download committee meeting and floor proceedings. While State of Idaho open meeting laws do not apply to the Legislature, both chambers strive to meet those standards (agendas posted 24-48 hours prior to meetings) whenever possible.”
Waiting periods for actions on bills/amendments – Are there any waiting period requirements before action can be taken on bill text or amendments (3-day publicly available first, etc.)?
Idaho LSO: “According to Senate Rule 10 and House Rule 11, in order for a bill to be voted on, there must be three readings on separate days before it is voted on in one house and must be read again three times on separate days in the other house prior to the vote. This provision can be dispensed with by a two-thirds vote in the House, and in the case of urgency in the Senate by suspending the rule with a two-thirds vote.
Bills in the Senate can only be amended on the floor in the 14th order and the amendment must be submitted the prior day.”
Budget votes – Are there any waiting period requirements after a budget has been introduced before legislative action can be taken on the proposal?
Idaho LSO: “The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee calendar is crafted so that agency budget hearings occur during the first approximately six weeks of the legislative session. Following all budget hearings, budget setting takes place based on individual motions made in committee. The successful motions are then used to draft appropriation bills which are voted on by each house through the bill voting process. As with other bills and following Senate and House Rules, appropriation bills to be voted on must have three readings on separate days before it is voted on in one house and must be read again three times on separate days in the other house prior to the vote. This provision can be dispensed with by a two-thirds vote in the House, and in the case of urgency in the Senate by suspending the rule with a two-thirds vote.”
Remote testimony – Is remote testimony available for all public hearings? If yes, what are the requirements (sign-in 24hrs before hearing, etc.)?
Idaho LSO: “Yes, remote testimony is available, but is at the discretion of the committee chair. Guidelines on registration, protocols, and more information can be found on all committee pages and here.”
Video live stream/archives – Are committee hearings and floor action live-streamed and archived? If yes, where are these broadcasts available?
Idaho LSO: “Yes, all committee hearings and floor action are available for live stream here.
Senate Committee information can be found here.
House Committee information can be found here.
Archived videos can be found here.
Each committee website and downloadable agendas have the specific links listed for the public to access live streams. Each committee site also has archived agendas, minutes, and video streams available to download. Most video downloads are available by the end of the day the meeting occurred. Archived committee meetings and floor proceedings are available from 2013 to present.”
Bill signing process – How long does the governor have to act on a bill after it is approved by the legislature? Is there a pocket-veto or do approved bills automatically become law after a certain amount of time if the governor doesn’t act?
Idaho LSO: “According to Section 10, Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Idaho, all bills passed by the legislature shall be presented to the governor. The governor will sign approved bills and the signed bills shall become law. If the governor does not approve (a veto), it will be returned to the originating house, with the objections. The originating house may reconsider the bill, and the motion must pass with two-thirds in favor. If the veto is overridden in the originating house, then the bill with the objections will be sent to the other house and must also pass with two-thirds in favor to become law.
According to Section 10, Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Idaho, bills not returned by the governor within five days (excluding Sundays) shall become law as if the governor signed it. If the legislature adjourns, then the governor shall file the bill with his objections to the secretary of state within ten days after adjournment or it becomes law.”
Veto authority – What type of veto authority exists for the governor (line item, etc.)?
Idaho LSO: “According to Section 10, Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Idaho, a bill vetoed by the governor shall be returned to the house where it originated with the objections. According to Section 11, Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Idaho, the governor has the power to disapprove of any item or items (line item veto) of a bill making appropriations of money, and the parts approved will become law and those unapproved will become void. Objected items can be separately reconsidered in a similar manner as vetoed bills. Objections to line items in an appropriation bill may only pertain to dollar amounts and must strike (zero out) the entire dollar amount in question. Reduction of dollar amounts or striking of language is not allowed.”
Veto override process – What is the veto override process for the legislature?
Idaho LSO: “To reconsider a bill that was vetoed by the governor, a two-thirds vote in favor is required by the originating body, and if passed it is sent to the other body and a two-thirds vote in favor is required to become law, according to Section 10, Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Idaho.”
Right of referendum/initiative – Do citizens have the right of referendum and initiative? If yes, what are the requirements (are there any restrictions)?
Idaho LSO: “Yes, citizens have the right of referendum and initiative according to Section 1, Article III of the Constitution of the State of Idaho. Section 34-1801 through Section 34-1823, Idaho Code, explain the rules and process for referendum and initiative. To be on the state ballot, six percent of eligible voters from each county must sign the petition. The process to acquire and file signatures is detailed in Section 34-1801 through Section 34-1823, Idaho Code. A majority vote in favor of the referendum or initiative by the population will result in it becoming law by the designated date or July of the following year.”
Thank you to the Idaho Legislative Services Office for answering our questions.