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ID: The session now past

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About the 2010 Idaho Legislature more later, but a few thoughts as the sine die gavels reverberate . . .

Foremost, of course, is that if you like minimalist government, the 2010 session should be much to your taste.

It lasted just 78 days; the 2004 session was the last as short (it was just 69 days), and the last previous to adjourn in March. It broke a general pattern of longer sessions lasting reliably well in April, or beyond.

One reason it didn’t become a super-long session was that there were no line-in-the-sand battles between governor and (one house of the) legislature, which was what caused the two superlongs of the last decade. But its shortness was attributable mainly, it seems, to other factors.

One: Overwhelming control by one party and one basic philosophy (though that’s been the case since 1995). Two: The view that revenue and budget were what mattered, and anything else was secondary. Three: Common views on how to treat the real and acknowledged difficulties in that area – lots of cuts, just a smidge of no-new-tax revenue increase; nothing else would be allowed a serious place at the table. Four: Willingness to compromise rather than get into another embarrassing superlong.

And that was essentially it. The only question, worked out within the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, was where precisely the cuts would be made.

Beyond that, a few tidbits to throw the tea party (notably but not exclusively, the health care fed-jabs at session’s end), to help protect some of the incumbents. And done and out.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter called it an “efficient” session, and in some respects he’s right. But efficiency suggests getting a lot done in relation to time and effort expended. The Idaho Legislature got done what it had to do (resolving the money issues is all it ever strictly has to do) without much wastage of time. Whether that really qualifies as efficiency, though, may be a more subtle question.

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