Idaho lawmakers to leave ‘a lot ... in the pipeline’ this session

March 21 is still the target date for adjournment, but many loose ends remain.

LEWISTON TRIBUNEMarch 9, 2014 

Adjourning in less than two weeks may be welcome news for taxpayers but could spell trouble for any number of bills.

The House and Senate went to two-a-day floor sessions in mid-February, a week or two earlier than normal. They’re trying to keep up with the legislation coming through the committees, to prevent a backlog from developing.

The joint budget committee is doing its part as well. It’s on track to complete the budget-setting process today. It usually takes two weeks for appropriations bills to work their way through both bodies, so the target date is still in sight.

Even with all the extra floor work, though, lawmakers are still falling behind: The last week in February, the House and Senate together approved 47 bills and resolutions, yet 57 new measures were introduced.

Giving the new bills time to work through the process might push the session beyond March 21 — but a more likely scenario is that some of them may be left on the table.

“I think this year we may leave a lot of stuff in the pipeline,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.

House and Senate leadership is already trying to tie up loose ends, he said, creating “going-home” lists to track the critical pieces of legislation that must be addressed before adjournment.

The list includes all budget bills, a tax reimbursement credit being pushed by the Department of Commerce and supported by the governor, a measure that grabs some cigarette tax revenue to pay for highway and water storage projects, and a criminal justice reinvestment proposal that invests $33 million in community treatment programs and other steps designed to reduce prison recidivism.

Majority Leader Bart Davis said Thursday that he was “very confident” of hitting the March 21 adjournment date.

One of the reasons why the Senate is pushing so hard, he said, is to give all bills a chance to make it through before the Legislature adjourns. However, if something’s still hanging once the “going-home” list is cleared, it’s out of luck. “We will leave,” Davis said.

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