After meeting for a near-record 116 days, the 2020 Legislature has reached the end of the road…sort of.

While they wrapped up most outstanding budgets and introduced and pushed through dozens of controversial last-minute bills, the Legislature also passed a resolution that will have them return on May 12 to (potentially) override any final vetoes from the Governor. 

We did have some good news this week when the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to reject a Federal Nullification bill, which could have resulted in excessive court costs in pursuit of unconstitutional attacks on public lands, clean water, wildlife, and much, much more.

Note: If you’re a member of ICL, you’ll receive our fancy, glossy Special Not Quite Sine Die Recess Report. I’ll give a full run-down of the session…so far. It’s a great way to say thanks to the whole team at ICL who have been working since January 11 (and since 1973) as Your Voice for Conservation in the Statehouse! Protecting the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the lands you love.

With that…let’s get on with it!

Big-ticket items, paying the bills, and leaving town

The budget setting committee considered last-minute bills, trailer bills, and corrections this week along with big-ticket budget items like universities and public schools. They also considered funding for other education, childcare, and the Offices of the Attorney General and Lt. Governor. The House Ways and Means Committee introduced over 20 new bills, including further attacks on citizen initiatives, property tax measures, limitations on the Governor’s spending and emergency authorities, and even a bill on veterinary chiropractic services….Several flew through without requisite public notice…In one word: crazy.

Among the bills they passed was one that adds an emergency clause to every bill passed by the Legislature this year. That means that they’ll take effect on July 1, the beginning of the Idaho Fiscal Year. Otherwise, bills would have to wait until 60 days after sine die (final adjournment) to take effect. The problem with many of these last-minute bills is that the Legislature didn’t even provide opportunities for testimony from the public.

Legislature weighs in on Science Standards, again…

On Monday, the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees sent a letter to the Idaho State Department of Education (SDE) asking for significant revisions to the K-12 Science Standards, which have been under scrutiny for over 6 years. 

The good news is they reversed their previous position on Supporting Content, restoring a fundamental component of the Science Standards. The letter states, “some requests from the House and Senate Education Committees were problematic [last year]…We recommend including the supporting content…” This is a major achievement and something that scientists, educators, parents, and business leaders have been prioritizing for years. The bad news is the letter calls for significant changes to the science, as well as, math and English standards, which have already been the focus of extensive revisions. If you agree that Science is Fundamental to Idaho’s future, Take Action Today!

Governor signs wolf bill

Despite calls to veto the bill, the Governor signed the wolf bill this week over the objections of thousands of wildlife enthusiasts, sportsmen and women, Native American Tribes, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, former Fish and Game Commissioners, and others. The bill was remarkable even for the 2021 Idaho Legislature, undermining the authority of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, seeking to kill more than 1,000 wolves, leading to their potential relisting under the Endangered Species Act, and conflicting with the Legislature’s own 2002 Wolf Management Plan. Even worse, House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star) indicated that next year he’d bring back his even more aggressive anti-wildlife bill.

TOTW: It’s all about the money… or is it?

At the end of the session, it’s always about getting those final budgets passed. As with any agency or business, ICL has to pay its bills as well. This week, we wrapped up our most successful Idaho Gives ever. It’s a program to encourage giving to nonprofit organizations across the great state of Idaho. With over 500 unique donors in one week, the ICL team rocked it! So this one’s for you Jenny, Joan, and Katie! And for all those who choose to support nonprofits. From the environment to arts to education and community development, thank you! You make Idaho, our nation, and our world a better place. And remember, even if Idaho Gives week is over, it’s never too late to support the organizations that represent you… every day.

Finally, don’t expect a detailed report next week, as I’m taking a much-needed break from the zaniness of the Idaho Statehouse. I wish you well, and again, encourage you to sign up as an ICL member to get the full glossy (with pictures!) almost-adjournment report! 

As always…Esto perpetua,