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Legislative session gets under way

by REP. MARK SAUTER / Contributing Writer
| January 18, 2024 1:00 AM

The 2024 legislative session started earlier this week with the State of the State address by Governor Brad Little. This year, he was cautiously optimistic. His proposed budget includes his continued support for education, infrastructure, and public safety.

The 2024  legislative session for the House of Representatives started the day after the governor’s address. Committee meetings (State Affairs, Judiciary, Education, etc.) started a day after that.

 The pace of the session seems faster than last year. There are several themes already developing. It’s important to note that as of today, there have been no comprehensive hearings on any of the introduced bills, including the following. Most representatives, including me, are just now getting access to these bills.

State program budgets are all reviewed by the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. JFAC has both House and Senate members, with representatives from both parties included. Typically, the JFAC committee meets every morning for three hours for the first six weeks of the session (90 hours) to hear budget presentations before the committee begins to develop its budget appropriation bills for each state division/department. This year, JFAC will hear abbreviated presentations and will begin drafting their appropriation bills before they have heard all the presentations. Seasoned JFAC members believe the new procedures will streamline their time and produce effective governance.  

The House State Affairs committee heard a request to print a bill (HB381) that would change the terms used in state abortion statutes. I didn’t attend this "print hearing" and haven’t yet had the time to read this bill. I’m uncertain of the intent of the bill but will be following it closely, as women’s health is a great concern of mine and for our district.

House State Affairs also had a print hearing for a new library bill (HB384) that is similar to last year’s HB314. A print hearing is only supposed to have a five-minute presentation without testimony, so it is too early to speculate on the totality of this bill. Another library bill was introduced in the Senate (SB1221) with different approaches to library operations. A third library bill will likely be introduced next week as well.  This is another issue that will require some study and research to determine the best path forward. I believe there is a history of combining the details of similar bills in the Capitol, but there’s uncertainty about how this will play out.

The House Education Committee held a print hearing for a major re-write of charter school policy (HB386, 31 pages). “House Ed” voted to print the bill and will schedule a full hearing of the bill in 2-3 weeks to allow the committee members adequate time to read through the bill, research it, and speak with constituents.

The House Judiciary and Rules Committee held several print hearings over the last week. One bill covered artificial intelligence (AI) and how it can be used for criminal activity.

All of the above-mentioned issues signal that this session will likely be a continuation of the last one. Libraries, abortion, education, and other current issues (AI) will continue to be a priority for Representatives and a source of attention for the media.

I plan to spend considerable time reading the bills, asking questions, learning more about the subject matter,  checking in with our district, and forecasting the consequences before I make my final votes. I encourage those interested in these and the other issues for this session to do the same.

Thoughts, comments, or feedback? I can be reached at msauter@house.idaho.gov or 208-332-1035.


Mark Sauter represents Bonner and Boundary counties in the Idaho Legislature in District 1A. He can be reached at msauter@house.idaho.gov.

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