Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ending Legislature’s dilly-dallying

Using a state constitutional amendment to limit how many days the Legislature can remain in session is tantamount to the proverbial use of a sledgehammer to kill a fly.

Frustrated politicians and political activists always turn to amending the state or U.S. constitutions when pet gripes go ignored. And it's always a bad idea.

Democratic state Rep. Grant Burgoyne, of Boise, who proposes a constitutional time limit, would find that any such law would be modified to allow for "emergency" extensions, which legislators surely would apply willy-nilly to prolong their dilly-dallying.

Clearly, however, Idaho's lawmakers need something to prod them into more efficient, more time-constrained annual sessions.

Last year's 117-day session was the longest yet, nearly 30 percent more than the customary 90-day expectation.

A far more effective incentive to reduce long sessions would be to promptly cut off all pay at 90 days. This would not only hasten committee work and final actions, but would prod leaders of the minority and majority caucuses to put a stop to frivolous legislation that goes nowhere except to impress the folks back home.

Idaho legislators are fully aware of issues they face when convening each January. Many are involved in committee work between sessions. So there's no plausible excuse for dragging their feet for three months and then adding another month of rushed debate and voting.

If big government is a menace, slow-moving legislators can be worse.

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