PAYETTE COUNTY — As reported Friday by the Lewiston Tribune, week 16 of the 2021 Idaho legislative session saw some controversy in the form of the suspension and subsequent resignation of Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, following a House Ethics Committee investigation into rape allegations brought against him by a 19-year-old legislative intern. Otherwise, the session continues as the Legislature works to hammer out the state’s budgets for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
As pointed out by attorney Jeremy Pisca of Risch Pisca PLLC in a news release Friday, the Idaho Constitution requires the Legislature present a balanced budget “and the session cannot conclude until every budget is set.” College and university budgets, as well as those for K-12 schools, are back to the House of Representatives as of Friday following the defeat of their previous versions earlier in the session.
As of Friday, the Legislature has been in session for 110, the third longest as cited by Pisca. The single longest was 118 days in 2003.
Following are examples of bills that have seen significant action since April 23.
House of Representatives
• House Bill 377, which aims to “[establish] education and fiscal policy for the State of Idaho regarding dignity and nondiscrimination in public education” according to its statement of purpose, was first introduced April 21 by the Ways and Means Committee. After passing the House 57-12-1 on April 22 and the Senate 27-8-0 on April 26, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Brad Little on Thursday.
• To honor Eric Milstead, director of the Legislative Services Office, upon his retirement after 23 years of service, Ways and Means introduced House Concurrent Resolution 17 on April 6. It was adopted by the House 68-0-2 on April 9 and by voice vote in the Senate on April 26. It was delivered to the Secretary of State’s office on April 27.
• Ways and Means introduced House Concurrent Resolution 21 on April 15 to “support the efforts of the Idaho Water Resource Board and local water users to resolve issues related to the use of high flows in the Lemhi River Basin consistent with past and current practices and Idaho Code, as previously directed in Senate Concurrent Resolution 137, adopted in 2020 during the Second Regular Session of the Sixty-fifth Idaho Legislature,” according to its statement. “This concurrent resolution finds that the parties have made significant progress in developing a comprehensive solution to the Lemhi high ow issues and directs the Idaho Water Resource Board to continue its efforts with local water users to resolve the Lemhi Basin high flows issues.”
The bill will require follow-up by the board during the second session of the 66th Idaho Legislature, including what settlements and legislation, if any, will be needed to implement settlements.
• In an effort to “expand options and opportunities for the management of wolves in the State of Idaho,” the State Affairs Committee introduced Senate Bill 1211 on April 20. Having passed the Senate 26-7-2 on April 21 and the House 58-11-1 on April 27, it has been referred to enrolling in the Senate.
According to Pisca, House Bill 380 is on hold in the Senate until the House finished its work on the state budgets. This bill proposes reduction of income taxes from 6.925% to 6.5% and a refund of 2019 state income taxes.
Regarding Little’s veto of House Bill 135a, the House overrode the veto April 21 with a vote of 48-19-3. It has been transmitted to the Senate for its override vote, where it will require a two-thirds vote to pass.