2020 session: 341 new bills, 6 vetoes
| May 30, 2020 1:00 AM
Creating a new state law is intentionally difficult. Our founders created a legislative process that requires any idea to pass many hurdles before it can land on the governor’s desk for his or her signature.
Just to give you an idea of how difficult the path for legislation is, consider the following.
A Routing Slip (the term the Idaho Legislature uses for draft legislation) must be approved by a germane committee chairman before it can be considered for an introductory hearing. Then a full committee must vote to approve a Routing Slip during an introductory hearing.
The speaker of the House then can either assign the newly introduced bill to a committee or “hold it at the desk,” which essentially kills the bill. If it is assigned to a committee then the full committee can either approve or reject the bill. Should it pass out of committee it then must be approved by the entire House.
The process is then essentially replicated in the Senate with an equal number of opportunities for the legislation to be killed.
Finally, the legislation is sent to the governor who has five days (10 if the legislature has adjourned) to sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his or her signature.
During the 2020 legislative session, 830 pieces of legislation were drafted by Idaho’s Legislative Services Office. Of those, 559 were introduced in a committee and were assigned a bill number, and 341 of those were signed into law.
Of note in those totals, there were 136 budget-related bills that are required to be passed before the Legislature can adjourn. Interestingly, the length of the legislative session has very little to do with the number of laws passed. The 2020 legislative session was 75 days long and had 341 bills pass, whereas the 2019 session was 95 days and had 329 bills pass.
Six bills from the 2020 legislative session were vetoed by the governor, all occurring after the Legislature had adjourned for the session, denying any possibility of a legislative override, which would require a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate. The Legislature cannot call itself back into session once it has officially adjourned for the year; only the governor can call for an extraordinary session.
Overriding a governor’s veto is incredibly rare. Even bills that have passed with a supermajority on their first vote rarely receive enough support to override a veto.
The vetoed bills from the 2020 legislative session were House Bills 325aaS, aaS, 340aa, aaS, 384aaS, 487aaS, 561aaS, and Senate Bill 1295. As a decoder, all of those “aaS” acronyms that follow the House bill numbers mean “as amended in the Senate,” so as an example, House Bill 325 was amended twice in the Senate. Amendments usually indicate that a bill is facing headwinds and must be changed in some way to gain enough votes for passage.
There is not enough space here to outline the details of the six bills that were vetoed and the governor’s reasons for his vetoes, but you can find the bills and the governor’s veto letters on the Legislature’s website using the following link: https://legislature.idaho.gov/sessioninfo/2020/vetoes/
I am often asked why government moves so slowly, and the answer to that question is quite simply because it was designed to be slow. There are so many intentional hurdles through the legislative process to ensure that ideas that are not quite ready do not become law. It may not be what makes it on a campaign postcard, but legislating is just as much about ensuring bad ideas do not become law as it is ensuring good ideas become law.
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Paul Amador is a Coeur d’Alene Republican who has been representing District 4 since 2016.