Idaho Legislature wraps up 2017 session

The Idaho Legislature adjourned Wednesday after a tumultuous session that saw a far-right faction of House Republicans disrupting the political routine.

Completing business three days past its scheduled Friday adjournment, the Legislature was delayed last week largely due to the insistence by a faction of House Republicans that bills be read in full.

It was an issue that came to the forefront in early March when District 7 Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, objected to a bill updating Idaho’s notary laws. The Spokesman-Review reported that the bill had come under fire in committee by a group that included Giddings and District 1’s own Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard. They objected to its model language drafted by the Uniform Law Commission—a group of legal experts that drafts legislation language to ease the business process between states and countries. Opponents call the group a tool of centralized planning and globalization.

When the 21-page bill reached the floor for discussion, Giddings forced it to be read in full, ultimately doing the honors herself. The reading pushed the legislative session hours later than expected.

The cohort of far-right Republicans used the tactic again last week, this time objecting to the rapid movement of legislation in the race toward adjournment. House Speaker Scott Bedke urged representatives complete its work, including the passage of a major transportation bill, as a matter of responsibility. However, Scott characterized the rift as an example of improper governance.

“Legislators are elected to review, debate and make sure they understand the bills before the final vote; not act like they are in a legislative sprint to the finish,” she wrote in her newsletter.

From the beginning of the 2017 legislative session, Scott established herself as a figurehead in the tension between the populist, anti-establishment GOP contingent and the more mainstream Republicans. The session kicked off at the beginning of the year in dramatic fashion when Bedke stripped Scott of her committee assignments as punishment for commenting that female legislators only advance if “they spread their legs.”  The tension between Scott and Bedke during this suspension separated both lawmakers and citizens into two camps: those who wished in mimicry of President Donald Trump’s words to “drain the Boise swamp” and those who sought a return to the workmanlike process typical of previous legislative sessions.

Despite the drama and in-fighting, Idaho lawmakers passed some major legislation in the 2017 session. According to Kimberlee Kruesi of the Associated Press, taxes and transportation ranked chief among their accomplishments. A $320 million transportation package capped off the legislative session in a bid to fund repairs to damages dished out by a long, unforgiving winter. And session-long efforts to cut Idaho’s top income and corporate tax rates refocused as an elimination of Idaho’s 6-percent grocery sales tax. This passed both the House and Senate, but many, including Scott in her newsletter, speculate that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter will veto the bill.

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