Can the Idaho Legislature legally convene on June 23rd? I know some of you will read this after the 23rd, but it still applies as a past tense question.
I appreciate the opinion Senator Mark Harris articulated in his recent opinion editorial; however, I do not agree. It appears that his opinion is that Freedom Man originally called for this special session on June 23rd, subsequently some legislators are complying with this Political Action Committee. That is not accurate. Most of us legislators had never heard of Freedom Man and our idea to convene came about before Freedom Man sent requests to us to be at the June 23rd special session.
Article III, Section 8 of the Idaho Constitution provides that “[t]he sessions of the legislature shall be held annually at the capital of the state, commencing on the second Monday of January of each year, unless a different day shall have been appointed by law, and at other times when convened by the governor.” Idaho Code 46-1008(2), in turn, states that the “legislature by concurrent resolution may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time.” As exhibited, the Idaho Constitution gives authority to call a session, other than in January, using statute. Regarding the state of emergency and the authority to stop it at any time, I am quite confident that the legislature must be in session to pass a concurrent resolution, thus making a legislative session possible at anytime during a state of emergency.
Furthermore, there is no article or passage in the Idaho Constitution that specifies that the legislature cannot call itself into session, nor does it say only the governor can call the legislature into session.
In fact, the Idaho Supreme Court has held that “our Constitution is not a delegation of power, but a restriction, and, unless the Legislature is expressly prohibited by the Constitution, it has plenary power.” Therefore, according to the Idaho Supreme Court, the argument of convening on the 23rd being illegal is unfounded. Unless someone reveals a passage in the Idaho Constitution that prohibits the legislature from convening, the legality of convening will continue to stand for me.
One can argue that the action to convene on the 23rd is illegal and it undermines the Idaho Constitution and one is entitled to that opinion. Obviously, many of us have contradicting opinions and we are not willing to stand idly by while the governor violates the Idaho and U.S. Constitutions. We believe convening on the 23rd of June is constitutional. I took an oath to protect both constitutions and that is what I will be undertaking. Standing by and allowing the governor to do as he pleases, to include rewriting code and appropriating funds without legislative authority, does not protect these constitutions.
Will our actions be struck down by the court? Possibly, but it is a risk I am willing to take for the people of Idaho. It also appears the courts in Idaho have already ruled, as I have explained above. We are not restricted from carrying out legislative duties unless restricted by the Idaho Constitution. I know the majority in District 32 do not support the governor’s actions and I intend to represent them, that is my job.
Lastly, I do intend to help amend the Idaho Constitution next legislative session because it is too ambiguous on this matter. It needs to specifically read that the Idaho Legislature may call itself into session at any time for any reason. We also need to address the statutes that have given the governor this broad usurpation of power.