Liberty is the right to choose. Freedom is the result of the right choice.

– Author unknown

Whoa!!

I had never been part of a Special Session of the Legislature, but I sure have now.

High drama at a high cost to taxpayers, and with modest production, but that’s just in my opinion.

As described in Idaho’s Constitution, an “Extraordinary Session,” requires only topics approved by the Governor can be discussed. Over the summer legislative work groups agreed on five ideas that they thought were emergencies and should be taken up in a Special Session. The Governor selected three of those five.

Fundraising organizations and protestors filled the capitol, (and our email boxes)!  What we expected to last a day or two turned into three full days.

Here is a recap of the outcomes I hope you will find interesting:

  • We insured more security for mail in ballots.
    • This will cost roughly $5,000 more per county and require additional work for the Clerks office. But, in this time of mistrust, we certainly want to insure confidence in our cherished voting process.
  • We insured in-person voting be maintained.
    • This may be much more costly for large counties like Idaho County and Owhyee County because of the geographical area to be covered, but again voting in person is what my constituents want. That said, in our Legislative District 7, we had almost 2,000 more voters by absentee ballot than we ever had with in-person voting. So…you can decide what that means!
  • The Senate resolved to call for an end to the state of emergency in a manner that preserves the financial support for hospitals and nursing homes.
    • While at the same time sets aside the 150 rules and regulations that are by-passed by the emergency declaration and will cost an additional $100,000,000 in lost income.
  • Provided limited liability protection, similar to a plan used in Utah.
    • First and foremost, the Government does not get an exemption. It does protect schools including colleges and universities, businesses and individuals from being sued for COVID-19 infections. This does not affect workman’s compensation. This legislation will sunset on of July 1, 2020.

There was a lot of talk about ending the emergency that is designated by the Governor. We sought opinions of the Attorney Generals office, and a highly respected private law firm, Holland and Hart. Both said, independently, that constitutionally, we could not do that. Also important to note, even if we could lift the emergency declaration, that would not change what the cities and local governments have decided about masks or anything else. That is not a state decision, it’s a local one. Also, the closed business, etc. were from a different emergency, no longer in place. This isn’t the end of what we can do about an emergency declarations, and you can expect will be making changes during the Regular Session starting in January, when the Constitution allows.

Our next legislative session will start at the beginning of January. I look forward to connecting with many of you before then. It has been an honor and privilege to serve the good people of District 7 and I look forward to representing you again as your Senator.