Idaho legislative leaders announced late Thursday that they have reached an agreement for how the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee conducts its votes.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, or JFAC, is the powerful committee that writes each element of the state’s budget. Unlike most committees, JFAC includes 10 members each from the Idaho House of Representatives and the Idaho Senate. For years, the committee has voted together, and it took a simple majority of 11 votes to advance a budget bill when everyone was present.
But on Jan. 13, House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, told the Idaho Capital Sun he favors splitting JFAC’s votes in two so that the members of the Idaho House and Idaho Senate would vote separately and any budget bill would need to get a simple majority in both votes to advance.
As the debate between House and Senate Republican leaders continued behind the scenes at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise, JFAC did not vote on any supplemental budget requests or deficiency warrants. That’s unusual, by the end of the fourth week of each of the previous four legislative sessions, JFAC had scheduled action on at least 15 such supplemental budget requests or deficiency warrants, which are issued when the cost of a program or service exceeds the amount available in the budget.
Meanwhile, officials from the Idaho Children Are Primary organization say a $15.5 million request to authorize emergency rental assistance has been put on hold.
Under the new agreement, JFAC will continue to vote jointly, but the votes of House and Senate committee members will be announced separately, as well. The statement was signed by JFAC’s two co-chairs, Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, and Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle.
“House and Senate Majority leadership have determined to utilize the joint voting procedure used in the past while also announcing the votes of House and Senate committees separately,” an announcement from Republican leadership states. “If a bill receives majority support from the joint committee and does not receive majority support from the House or Senate committee, the bill will be sent to the house from which the majority of members did not vote in the affirmative. This process acknowledges that the authority of the joint committee is derived from members of the Senate finance committee and members of the House appropriations committee. The joint committee will then reassess the situation in the interim.”
The GOP statement also alluded to some of the discussions behind the scenes.
JFAC is just over a week away from a key shift in its workload and the direction of the legislative session. Feb 17 is the target date for JFAC to finish its budget hearings for the year. The following week, JFAC is scheduled to move into budget setting, which would require the committee to vote in order to keep the legislative session moving and budget bills circulating.
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