BOISE — Idaho stands apart from most states when it comes to regulating the length of its legislative sessions.
Thirty-nine states limit how many days their legislatures can be in session. Idaho does not, and Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, wants that to change.
He plans to introduce a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit each regular session of the Legislature to 90 calendar days. His proposal comes on the heels of the 2009 session, the second longest in the state’s history at 117 days.
Last year’s session length raised eyebrows, particularly with its roughly $30,000 daily cost coming amid budget cuts.
Burgoyne noted that in other aspects of his life — from personal to professional — he has deadlines.
“There’s nothing wrong with the Legislature having a similar kind of deadline,” Burgoyne said.
Having the Legislature limited to a specific time frame would also make the job more realistic for full-time professionals who need to tell their employers how long they’ll be in Boise, Burgoyne said.
“I’m very concerned that the Legislature doesn’t have as many younger members who are working full-time jobs and raising families,” Burgoyne said.
Burgoyne readily admits that a constitutional amendment will be a challenge to pass. The House and Senate would both need to pass it with a two-thirds supermajority vote before the amendment would be presented to the public in the next general election.
The amendment would not affect special sessions of the Legislature.
Other lawmakers have mixed views on the amendment.
Rep. Fred. Wood, R-Burley, agreed that the Legislature should keep its length down. But he said the best way to do that is to not pay legislators after the session reaches 90 days, adding that this would provide an incentive for the Legislature to finish its work.
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said there’s already a “natural push” for the Legislature to get its work done in a timely fashion.
“I don’t want to be one day away from my family that I don’t have to,” he said, adding that accomplishing what’s necessary is more important than the length of the session.
Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, was open to the idea.
“I don’t see a reason we couldn’t do something like that,” she said.
Reporter Ben Botkin may be reached at bbotkin@ magicvalley.com.