Legislative working group calls for special session to address liability issues

Two legislative working groups are recommending Gov. Brad Little call a special session of the Legislature to address education issues, or adopt liability reform during emergencies.

The group of House and Senate judiciary committee members was up first Thursday. In a morning meeting, the group recommended a two-page draft bill regarding liability issues. The bill could protect schools from lawsuits if a coronavirus case or outbreak is tied to a campus.

The Legislature’s Education Working Group calls for a special session during a remote meting Thursday.

Hours later, a House-Senate Education Working Group recommended that House and Senate leadership request a special session. Possible topics could include school transportation, funding flexibility, school closure authority and funding schools using attendance or enrollment calculations.

Now the ball is in Little’s court.

Under the Idaho Constitution, only the governor has the power to call a special session, officially known as an extraordinary session. The governor also can set the parameters for the session. And the Legislature has no power to take action on any topics, other than those the governor specifies.

For weeks, Little has said he is open to a special session, particularly to address liability issues.

Administrators say the liability issue is a potential obstacle to reopening Idaho schools. They said insurance providers told them they might not cover costs if someone contracts COVD-19 at a school and sues.

It wasn’t immediately clear if or when Little would call a special session, but several legislators said timing is an issue. In some districts, the first day of school is barely two weeks away.

“Our challenge is the sense of urgency, particularly as it relates to schools, knowing we have schools that are making decisions or needing to make decisions yesterday, as to whether they reopen or not,” said Sen. Todd Lakey, a Nampa Republican who co-chaired the Judiciary and Rules Working Group.

“The sooner we can get our recommendation to the governor, the quicker the potential special session can happen,” Lakey continued.

In the past 20 years, Idaho governors have convened three special sessions, in 2000, 2006 and 2015.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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