Amidst a flurry of activity and a couple of more than ten-hour days, the Idaho Legislature has adjourned sine die, with a few interesting developments and surprises in its last few hours, as well as a whole pile of Strongly Worded Letters to send to the Federal government.
Factors speeding the Legislature on their way included it being an election year, the economy inducing them not to spend the $30,000 each legislative day costs, the urgency to get out of town before March tax revenue figures came in and possibly required yet another cut to the 2010 budget, and, perhaps, the desire to be out of session before April Fool’s Day.
Actions in the last couple of days included the following:
* Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, who told the Kuna Chamber of Commerce earlier this month that he expected his 95-year-old mother to die in the home of one of her children, allowed the health professionals “conscience” bill to become law without his signature. “Forcing healthcare professionals to provide services they find morally objectionable is unacceptable; however, negatively impacting patients’ rights — especially when it comes end-of-life decisions — is equally problematic,” Otter said in a statement. “Greater care must be taken to ensure decisions within living wills and powers of attorney concerning end-of-life treatment are honored without additional burdens on the patient or family.” The bill had been criticized by organizations such as AARP for its end-of-life provisions, as well as by organizations such as Planned Parenthood for its actions against emergency contraception.
* Continuing the anti-federal theme sounded throughout the session, both chambers not only passed HCR 64, which called for an amendment to the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the interstate commerce clause to limit the role of the federal government as it relates to the States, but also passed SJM 106, which urges Congress to amend the Constitution such that Congress shall make no law requiring citizens of the United States to enroll in, participate in or secure health care insurance or to penalize any citizen who declines to purchase or participate in any health care insurance program. Like most concurrent resolutions and memorials, these actions have no force of law but simply encourage Congress to take action — where, no doubt, they will take their place on the pile of Strongly Worded Letters from last year’s legislative session.
* A bill that had the potential of extending not only this year’s Legislative session but extending all future ones would have required the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to take public testimony, produce minutes on a meeting-by-meeting basis, consult with germane committee heads before setting budgets, and refrain from using intent language to abrogate a statute. The bill came out of the House Educatoin Committee, the chairman of which, Representative Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, had objected earlier this session to what he perceived as JFAC usurping his authority. Then, there was a debate in the Education Committee about whether to give the bill a full hearing in committee, or to move it directly to the House second reading calendar for debate on the House floor. The motion to hold hearings, which was held on request as a roll-call vote, failed 8-8; the motion to send it to the floor, which was held as a voice vote, passed. However, Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, reportedly held it at the desk, which means it is dead for the session.
* After criticism of how the Department of Administration has managed the Idaho Education Network development project, a bill passed oversight of the project to the Department of Education and the Idaho Education Network Program and Resource Advisory Council, the membership of which now includes a number of legislators, including four members of JFAC — one of whom must be from the minority party.
Full disclosure: Sharon Fisher is a candidate for the Idaho Legislature, District 21.