Otter calls ‘extraordinary’ legislative session for May 18

It is known, technically, as an “extraordinary session” of the Idaho Legislature.

Gov. Butch Otter meets with reporters Wednesday at the Statehouse.

In more common parlance, it’s a special session.

By either name, the Legislature will reconvene at 8 a.m. on May 18 to take another shot at passing a bill to bring Idaho’s child-support enforcement rules into compliance with a 2007 international treaty. That will be the one and only issue on the Legislature’s agenda when it reconvenes.

The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee abruptly tabled the bill on April 10, in the final hours of the 2015 regular legislative session. The move jeopardized about $50 million in federal funding and the state’s ability to enforce some 155,000 child support cases statewide.

During the 18 days since the legislative session ended, Otter said he has talked daily with House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, to address concerns voiced by the nine House Republicans who tabled the bill in committee.

Otter said a new draft of the bill is nearly ready, and he is “cautiously” confident that he has the votes to pass it.

“I wasn’t going to call a special session if we weren’t going to get anything done,” Otter said. “There is no alternative.”

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Several details were still up in the air Wednesday. Otter declined to say whether he would introduce the new bill in the House or the Senate, and said it would be up to legislative leadership and committee leaders to determine if public testimony will be accepted during the special session.

“I don’t take either this decision or the legislative action that precipitated it lightly. With our partners in the Legislature and the experts at the Department of Health and Welfare, we have explored all our options and come to the conclusion that only a special session will accomplish our goal – protecting the children and families of Idaho who rely on court-ordered child support payments,” Otter said said in a news release Wednesday.

The rewritten bill still needs “a little fine-tuning,” Otter said, but he hopes to unveil it publicly before the Legislature reconvenes. He did not discuss specific tenets of the legislation, although he said he initially had hoped to release it to reporters during Wednesday’s news conference.

Otter also declined a reporter’s request to deliver a message to the House Republicans who tabled the original bill, necessitating a special session.

“I can never criticize a person for what their belief is,” Otter said.

According to Otter’s proclamation issued Wednesday, the May 18 session “shall have no power to legislate on any subjects” aside from child support.

And since the session will have only one topic on its agenda, Otter told reporters that he hopes the issue can be resolved in “hours, not days.”

Otter was joined Wednesday by Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong. No lawmakers appeared with Otter during the 30-minute press conference, but he said Hill and Bedke wanted to pass along their apologies for being unable to attend.

Here’s a link to Otter’s proclamation announcing the special session.

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