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Voters have amended Idaho’s constitution – now what?

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

It wasn’t overwhelming approval, but voters in the Gem State gave a thumbs up to a constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature the authority to call itself into special or extraordinary session.

SJR 102 passed with more than 52% of the vote.

The results mean Idaho’s constitution will allow for the legislature to call itself into session if 60% of members agree.

Idaho was one of only 14 states where only the governor can call the legislature into special, or “extraordinary” session. Most other states allow for the legislature – as a separate and co-equal branch of government – to make that determination, subject to some level of supermajority agreement (three-fifths or two-thirds). The National Conference of State Legislatures has a good resource here to review how other states handle the process.

Idaho currently has a part-time legislature, and most citizens want to keep it that way. There has been concern that amending the constitution to allow for the legislature to call itself into session would lead a quasi-full-time legislature, and therefore a burden on taxpayers. The Idaho Statesman today warned “this is certainly not a mandate for coming back into session often.”

This is absolutely true. However, there are few examples of that happening. In Washington state, the legislature has the power to call itself into session and has never done so.

Oregon passed a constitutional amendment in 1976 allowing the legislature to convene if it so chooses.

The debate in Idaho seems to be more about the fear of the unknown versus the impact of the policy.

If the citizens believe the power is being abused, they can seek to remove those who abuse it. They may even decide to increase the threshold.

Any legislative body – and co-equal branch of government – should have a constitutional right to convene when it chooses.

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