Lawmakers pass resolution to amend Idaho Constitution

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by Scott Evans

KREM.com

Posted on March 20, 2014 at 6:35 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 20 at 6:41 AM

BOISE -- The Idaho Legislature passed a joint resolution Wednesday that if approved by voters, will keep the ability to make laws with legislators.

Lawmakers feel that it's important to make sure that the branches of our government remain separate, with oversight coming from the other branches.

For decades Idaho has had a law protecting this very issue, but this resolution takes it one step further.

Right now, elected officials in the House and Senate pass a law, and then state agencies make rules surrounding those laws. Sometimes state lawmakers feel those rules don't mesh with the intent of the law. House Joint Resolution 2, referred to as the Regulatory Freedom Resolution, will continue to give legislators the ability to review, then accept or reject a rule.

It unanimously passed both the House and Senate.

After the Senate passed the measure, leadership walked it over to the House so they could sign it together.

"It's one of the most important I've worked on," said Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, who sponsored the resolution in the Senate.

He wasn't alone in his feeling on the importance of this bill.

"It is unusual to get this type of support, especially on a constitutional amendment, but what both sides of the aisle recognize that this is an important protection of legislative authority," said McKenzie.

Every legislative session agencies make rules that lawmakers feel encroach on Idahoans.

"It's a very small category, but it is important because we do reject some rules that we think go too far," said McKenzie.

Since 1990, McKenzie says they've reviewed thousands of rules, rejecting about 4.5 percent of them.

"Just today on the House floor, rejected a rule from the Tax Commission which was overbearing or not in tune with what the Legislature intended," said Rep. Tom Loertscher who sponsored the resolution in the House.

"We need to make sure that we don't have the executive or the judicial branch making law," said McKenzie.

While this oversight has been law since 1969, lawmakers fear that the Supreme Court could overturn it, if it is challenged again like it was in 1989, barely passing with a 3-2 vote.

Lawmakers are proud of this step forward, as they posed for a picture with Senate Pro-Tem Brent Hill holding the resolution high in the air.

"There are no states that I'm aware of that have a tighter rein on the rule-making process than we do," said McKenzie.

Earlier this session lawmakers reviewed rules created by the Department of Administration that they felt went too far in limiting free speech and demonstrations at the Capitol.

This now goes to the voters on the November ballot. It needs a simple majority in order to pass.

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