Here We Have Idaho

What’s happening in the Idaho Legislature this week

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Wrongful conviction

More than halfway through the 2021 Idaho legislative session only two measures have made their way out of both chambers and onto the governor’s desk: a House concurrent resolution applauding the commissioning of the Navy’s newest nuclear submarine the USS Idaho, and Senate Bill 1027, which would compensate individuals who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes in Idaho.

Sponsored by Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt, the legislation creates a so-called “exoneree compensation law” providing $62,000 per year of wrongful incarceration or $75,000 per year spent on death row, along with establishing a process for compensation claims. Those wrongfully forced to serve parole on the sex offender registry would receive an additional $25,000 per year.

Lawmakers sent a similar bill to Gov. Brad Little in 2020, though he vetoed it. The 2021 version, crafted in consultation with the governor’s office, increases the amount of compensation but does not offer non-monetary services like free health insurance, college tuition or housing assistance, among other provisions in the original bill.

Photo illustration by Ben Olson.

Sponsors stated that four individuals in Idaho would be currently eligible for compensation under the bill, and if all took full advantage of its provisions, the total one-time expense to the state would be $3.7 million. Costs to the state would be offset by the damages awarded to exonerees from any civil court cases against the state or its political subdivisions related to their wrongful conviction. 

In a rare occurrence, SB 1027 passed the House unanimously, 70-0.

Emergency powers, cont’d…

The tug of war between the Legislature and the governor over the latter’s emergency powers continues, with an opinion from the Idaho attorney general’s office stating that current efforts to trim the executive’s authority during disaster events are “overly broad and could introduce legal uncertainty in the governor’s and the state’s authority to respond to disasters and emergencies.”

Written by Assistant Chief Deputy Brian Kane, and commissioned and released by Boise Democratic House Minority Ilana Rubel on Feb. 23, the opinion is in response to HB 135, which passed 49-20 in the House on Feb. 17. 

That bill would empower the governor to both declare and extend an emergency past 60 days, but any additional restrictions or requirements under the order would lapse after 60 days without the consent of the Legislature, which could then extend the emergency for 365 days. 

The intention of the bill is to preserve federal emergency funding while reigning in the governor’s authority, which enables the office to declare and indefinitely renew 30-day emergencies.

HB 135 may yet be amended by the Senate, where it has been assigned to the State Affairs Committee.

Follow the Idaho Legislature online at

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