While we usually think of the Legislature as being in session only from January until April or so, actually committees meet all year. Committees that meet outside the session are called “interim committees.” Some, like the Health Care Task Force and the Council on Indian Affairs, meet every year, while others are only around for a year or two, such as a committee to study state management of federal lands. Also, interim committees tend to include members of both the House and the Senate, while most committees during the legislative session are either House or Senate.
Interim committees are supposed to discuss issues that need more attention than just the legislative session, particularly if it isn’t clear what legislation might be needed. Interim committees can also travel around the state to meet with constituents to hear their views.
Legislative leadership recently announced the interim committee memberships. You can follow along through the Idaho Legislature website, legislature.idaho.gov, which includes committee members, links to the legislation that created the committees, dates they are scheduled to meet, agendas, and minutes.
Some committees have already announced schedules and in some cases even held meetings. For example, overachiever Criminal Justice Reinvestment Interim Committee, which is examining the adult criminal justice system, not only has a meeting scheduled for later in June to talk about its plans, but already held a meeting on April 2, before the Legislature even adjourned. The Council on Indian Affairs also scheduled a meeting later this month to discuss issues such as gaming, law enforcement, and health care.
One of the most watched interim committees is education. Interim Education Committee Chair Sen. John Goedde (R-Coeur d’Alene) said that the committee won’t meet right away – perhaps July or August, or even later. And those meetings may only be to determine what meetings the committee will have around the state.
This seems like an odd decision. Since the committee’s primary responsibility will be labor and bargaining issues, wouldn’t it make sense for the education committee to be able to hear from people in education, such as teachers and administrators? And aren’t those people more likely to be available in the summer? Or is that the idea behind the scheduling? In fact, Sen. Goedde said, the committee might not even be done with its work in time for the next legislative session.
Other interim committees include Energy, Environment & Technology, on which both Sen. Russ Fulcher (R-Meridian) and Rep. Jason Monks (R-Meridian), who represent Kuna, serve (Rep. John Vander Woude [R-Nampa], who also represents Kuna, doesn’t appear to be on any interim committees); the Millennium Fund, which also meets during the legislative session and determines how to spend the money collected from tobacco settlement payments; Natural Resources; and Public Defense Reform. Then there’s Wind Energy, the purpose of which is to study the effect that wind development is having on power rates, the ability of Idaho’s utilities to integrate more intermittent wind power into their systems, the effect wind turbines are having on wildlife and species that could be listed as endangered, the effect that wind turbines have on private property values and uses, the range of tax issues regarding wind power development and “any other issues found to be pertinent.” Sounds like it’ll have its work cut out for it.
The proof of the pudding, of course, will eventually be what the committees produce. Unfortunately, interim committees don’t necessarily have such great records there either; an interim committee a couple of years ago on tax exemptions, for example, has had very little luck repealing any of the corporate tax exemptions.
We shall see.