After 75 divisive — and sometimes scary — days under the Statehouse rotunda, the 2020 legislative session quietly came to an end Friday morning.
Shortly after 9:15 a.m., a divided House voted 32-28 to adjourn the session and Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, gaveled them home.
There was no debate on the motion. But the vote count shows many Republicans wanted to continue working — or at least protect their ability to override a gubernatorial veto — amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, Gov. Brad Little issued recommendations encouraging Idahoans to avoid groups of 10 or more and to work from home when possible. Nevertheless, the Legislature continued working Wednesday and Thursday in what became a scary and surreal Statehouse scene.
On Friday, 60 of the House’s 70 members — plus secretaries and clerks — were present on the House floor. At least seven Democratic legislators left the session earlier this week amid coronavirus concerns. Some House Republicans appeared to downplay the threat, with Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, inviting her House colleagues to a party Tuesday night at the downtown Basque Center. About 48 hours later, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean ordered all bars and restaurant dining rooms to close for the next month in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
The Senate adjourned for the year Thursday night. But the House — for unstated reasons — decided to return to work Friday morning only to adjourn without taking any further action.
As the House adjourned Friday, it killed 17 bills that had been languishing on its reading calendar, including some education bills.
These bills died with the end of the session:
- Senate Bill 1293, a homeschool-light bill that would have allowed parents of students who are academically advanced to pull their children out of school regularly to learn at home, travel or spend time with families.
- Senate Bill 1279, which dealt with school superintendent evaluations and aligning local goals with state performance indicators.
- Senate Bill 1285, which would have provided training for school board members.
Little has five days from the time he received a bill to decide whether he will sign it or veto it. Little has until Tuesday night to act on House Bill 500, a bill pushed by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, to ban transgender women and girls from participating in women’s sports.
By adjourning for the year sine die, the House and Senate gave up the ability to override any veto.
Little’s website indicates he has until Wednesday to act on bills he received Thursday afternoon.
After all that went on, the Legislature managed to adjourn on the March 20 deadline set before the session opened in January.
As he dropped the gavel on the 2020 session one final time, Bedke quoted from what he described as a Chinese curse.
“May you live in interesting times,” Bedke said.