March 24, 2020 1:00 AM

There were a lot of grumblings at the end of the 2020 Legislative Session in Idaho. A case of COVID-19 hit on Friday, March 13 and, with only one week left, many were ready to throw in the towel and call it a day. Many bills that might have otherwise been voted on were left in the drawer in order to sine die early. Legislators wanted to get home to their families.

Those who were calling for the session to end early made a good point although Idahoans may have been better served if the session were temporarily adjourned and reconvened at a later date to finish instead of wrapping up early.

It may be the perfect time to rethink the way Idaho’s Legislature does business altogether. If the Legislature were able to conduct meetings and votes electronically, the hard work of legislating would not be at the mercy of pandemics. There would be other benefits as well.

Boise State University has transitioned to an online only presence for the rest of the spring semester. Other colleges are following suit. Coronavirus is going to force many institutions to go virtual. One that would benefit from the change is the Idaho Legislature. We needed our legislators to continue working on some important legislation through this crisis, but given advice to limit gatherings to 10 people or less, holding Committee meetings or votes on the Floor is not a responsible option; at least three members of the Legislature have been exposed to the virus during the session. So the Idaho Legislature pushed through the bills they easily could and packed up a day earlier than planned. In their haste, they left several bills on the Governor’s desk that he may veto or not sign that they cannot override.

This would be a great time for legislators to start the process of digital legislating from this point forward. This move would be a benefit to all Idahoans: legislators would be closer to the voters they represent. They would able to hold town halls while debating issues up for a vote. Also, a virtual Legislature is harder to lobby, as the lobbyists would have to conduct their operations across the state instead of just in Boise. The per diem cost of sending 105 representative to Boise for 3 months would be reduced dramatically.

COVID-19 may change our lives forever and this would be one way for Idaho to take advantage of the opportunity to change for the better.