Gov. Brad Little will call the Legislature back to Boise for a special session during the week of Aug. 24, his office announced Wednesday.
There could be a number of issues on the table, but so far, Little isn’t saying what will be discussed during the special session, known officially as an extraordinary session.
Under the Idaho Constitution, only the governor has the power to call a special session. The governor also has the power to outline the issues that will be addressed during a special session, and legislators are not able to work on any other issues.
Little said he will issue a proclamation the week of Aug. 17 “detailing the exact issues to be considered during the special session.”
It was not immediately clear Wednesday if the special session would take place in person, remotely or via a combination of in-person and remote attendance.
While Little is keeping things under wraps, a host of issues could come up.
First, a joint House-Senate Judiciary and Rules Working Group called for a special session to address civil liability issues during an emergency. That working group approved a draft bill that it hopes the entire Legislature would consider. Liability issues are a potential obstacle to reopening schools. School administrators said insurance carriers told them they will not cover costs if someone contracts COVID-19 at a school and sues.
Also, a joint House/Senate Education Working Group requested a special session to address education issues. Rather than putting forth a specific proposal or draft bill, this group requested the Legislature work on several topics, including school funding, school transportation and the authority to close schools.
For most of the spring and summer, Little has said he is open to a special session if legislators can reach consensus. But Little’s thinking may have evolved quickly.
During an AARP Idaho telephone town hall meeting Tuesday, Little said he was open to a special session. But he said some legislators have sent him as many as 15 different proposals to tackle.
“Out of 105 legislators, there’s probably 300 issues,” Little said Tuesday. “In my mind that’s a general session.”
House Republicans, many of whom pushed for a special session, welcomed Little’s announcement Wednesday.
“We thank the governor for making this critical choice and thank our members for making it possible through their tireless efforts on the various interim working groups set in motion by Speaker of the House Scott Bedke and President Pro Tempore Brent Hill,” Rep. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, said in a written statement. “The legislation being developed by our joint working groups will help set the foundation for this special session.”
Little met with legislators multiple times this week before announcing the special session, according to a copy of his schedule and calendar that Idaho Education News obtained under Idaho’s public records law.
On Monday morning Little scheduled a call with Hill and Bedke. For Wednesday, Little scheduled his weekly hourlong call with House members at 9 a.m. and then with Senate members at 10:30 a.m. Less than an hour later, at 11:22 a.m. Little sent an email announcing he would publicly call for the special session.
In a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin said she is pleased with Little’s announcement. McGeachin, who has clashed with Little during the pandemic, said legislators can use that opportunity to review orders, mandates and spending.
“For months now, I have advocated more legislative involvement and a return to normal and constitutional government,” McGeachin wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to presiding over the Senate during this extraordinary session.”
This would be the first special session in five years. During the last 20 years, Idaho governors have called three special legislative sessions, in 2000, 2006 and 2015.