The Idaho Legislature held its first session in 1890. At that time the legislature was composed of 18 senators and 36 representatives. The state constitution was amended so each county had at least one Senator and one Representative. Currently reapportionment that occurs every 10 years determines the size of the Idaho Legislature.
Until 1968 the Legislature was only in session every two years. In 1968 the Legislature shifted to annual sessions to meet more frequently to pass needed legislation and to prepare budgets that more closely suited the changing needs of state agencies. According to Idaho state law, each legislative session is to begin on the Monday closest to the ninth of January, and to continue for 60 to 90 days, however much deemed necessary, until late March or early April. The Governor may call a special legislative session, but they are uncommon, and rarely exceed a few days in length.
According to tradition, Republican House members sit to the right of the podium facing the front and Democrats sit to the left. In the Senate the majority party sits to the left and the minority party members sit to the right. The most senior legislators are given first choice of seats on their party’s designated side. Another unique tradition of the Idaho Legislature is that of the black cloth crow. If the House defeats a bill by an overwhelming margin the legislative sponsor is awarded the crow as a symbol of their legislative ineptness. The crow must be tied to the microphone until it can be passed to another unsuccessful legislator.
This years session was unexpectedly delayed a week because President Pro Tem Jerry Twiggs died on the opening day, thus creating a absence of leadership. The Senate elected Robert T. Geddes, a Republican from Soda Springs, as the new President Pro Tem. The confusion because of the uncertain course of action for the legislature to follow resulted in a bill signed into law this session that would put in place a clear procedure for an interim succession if the President Pro Tem dies, resigns, or becomes incapacitated.
Governor Dirk Kempthorne kicked off the legislative session with the governor’s annual budget request, followed shortly thereafter by the State of the State address. Governor Kempthorne began his budget plans with a provision for an increase of $14.3 million over last year’s higher education budget. His budget also included $2.5 million for the Idaho Public Broadcasting System to begin the conversion from analog to digital broadcasting; to meet the new federally mandated technological requirements. Governor Kempthorne’s most daring budget move was his recommendation to set aside $54 million of Idaho’s share of the tobacco lawsuit settlement into a “rainy day fund”- now called the “millennium fund.” In his State of the State address he also called for legislation that would ban weapons on school grounds and for the death penalty for cop killers. The Governor voiced his support for exiting standards, plans to share fiscal responsibility of maintaining schools with school districts, an increase in fish and game license fees, added assistance to PERSI members, and for the parental consent law for teen abortions.
Many of the legislation introduced this session is fueled by recent current events. “Cassie’s Law” passed as an extension of the domestic abuse law to include dating relationships. This legislation was pushed after the death of a 17-year-old Soda Springs girl because the court found no legal grounds to issue a protective order against her boyfriend. New laws were passed dealing with issues facing Idaho in the area of crime and punishment of those offenses. One new law, allows crime victims one year to sue their offender after they are released from incarceration. This law supports a popular national trend to give rights back to the victim. After the recent shooting death of Idaho police officer Linda Huff, a new law ensures that anyone convicted of killing a cop faces the possibility of the death penalty. Changes in courtroom procedure allow jury trials to be waived if both sides consent. Another law allows domestic violence orders to be sent through certified mail if the party waives personal service before the court. Other laws dealing with crime issues have passed