One of the things about writing for a weekly paper is that while this is being written before the election, it’ll be published after the election. So while it would be interesting to write about the schism between more moderate and more conservative Republicans election (and Kuna’s role in it from a few years back), or the increased interest in precinct committeemen, or the changes in the way schools are funded that led more districts to run supplemental levies, all of those issues will be settled by the time you read this.
Instead, let’s talk about summer vacation. Not ours, the Legislature’s. While the Legislature is formally in session from January through March or April, there are also committees that meet at other times of the year – in particular, during the summer. Committees that meet outside of the legislative session, or during the interim, are called interim committees.
Actually, at this point, the Legislature hasn’t officially decided which interim committees it’s going to have and who’s going to be on them. That is all decided by the Legislative Council, which meets twice a year – during the spring and the fall. Its spring meeting is scheduled for June 6, and during that meeting, Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill and Speaker of the House Scott Bedke will announce appointments for the interim committees. It will be interesting to see how the primary elections – which in some cases are the only election – will affect those appointments.
These are the interim committees. The first two are new this year.
- Endowment Asset Issues was created by the Legislature to study endowment lands and how their assets should be invested.
- Criminal Justice Reinvestment Oversight was also created by the Legislature to study, and hopefully reduce, the costs of the prison system.
- Public Defender System has been meeting to improve the public defense system, which provides legal counsel to people accused of a crime even if they can’t afford to pay for it.
- Natural Resources, which was founded last year, is supposed to study all natural resources, but in particular is intended to study water issues, such as balancing the needs of agriculture with those of conservation.
- Health Care Task Force and Energy, Environment & Technology meet every year. Exactly what they’re going to cover this interim session isn’t specified yet, but it’s likely that the Health Care Task Force will talk about Obamacare.
- Federal Lands Committee was created last year to study the notion of having the state of Idaho take over the lands currently managed by the federal government.
There’s also the Capitol Services Committee, which discusses…wait for it…services at the Capitol, such as the dining room vendor, the gift shop, and the exhibit areas. This committee will actually be meeting the day before the Legislative Council but will report to them. In a related issue, the Legislative Council will also be deciding on the new director of the Legislative Services Organization; the person who’s been doing it for a number of years, Jeff Youtz, is retiring this year.
Earlier this month, another committee, the Citizens’ Committee on Legislative Compensation, met to decide whether legislators should get a raise and, if so, how much. They decided that legislators should get a 1.5 percent raise, the same amount that legislators had given to state employees.
Agendas and minutes for these committees will all be on the Idaho Legislature website, and the meetings are all public. In addition, most if not all of them will be streamed over the Internet, and will also be archived on the Legislature website if you want to see them later.