How many legislators does it take to kill a bill?
The answer might surprise you— just one.
While typically it takes a majority of legislators in either the House or Senate to defeat or stop legislation, there is a common exception where one legislator can single-handedly kill a bill.
When a bill is first created, it goes through a committee made up of between 5-20 legislators. That committee will hear the bill sponsor’s explanation of the importance of the proposal and why it should become law, as well as opposing opinions from other legislators who disagree with the bill. After both sides of the issue have been fairly represented, the committee votes. If the measure receives majority support in the committee, it typically progresses from there to the next level, which is a vote by an entire chamber on the House or Senate floor. Then, if it passes in the originating chamber, the process typically repeats itself in the opposite legislative chamber.
Unfortunately, this is NOT how the legislative process is working lately here in Idaho.
Each committee is led by a committee chair, who acts as the presiding officer. These committee chairs decide which bills are placed on the agenda, considered for public hearings, and presented for a vote during the committee meetings. They have the ability to selectively decide the fate of most all legislation, essentially choosing which bills live or die. Even if the bill has the proven support of a majority of legislators, a single committee chair can effectively hold that bill hostage or ensure it never receives a committee hearing. And what happens to a bill that is never allowed the time of day in committee? It dies.
The statehouse is in dire need of a “systems fix.” We, as Idahoans, must demand this severe abuse of position and power ceases immediately.
The following is a sample of legislation that is currently held in committee. We encourage you to contact committee membership, especially the chairmen, to request immediate action.
- House Bill 100 (H0100) – Requires that an agency rule change must pass the full legislature. Currently, it only takes a “yes” vote from one legislative chamber to adopt new rules (laws) proposed by state agencies. Held since 02.18.2019. For Chairman contact info click here. | 1-minute legislative summary: Idaho House Seeks Balance
- House Bill 133 (H0133) – Requires that immunization exemptions are specified to parents at daycares and schools. Held since 2.26.2019; 3 weeks. For Chairman contact info click here. | 1-minute summary: Notice of Immunization Exemptions Bill
- Idaho Abortion Human Rights Act (summary) – Being denied a print hearing, as such does not have an assigned bill number. Held since early on in the session. For Chairman contact info click here.
Again, the above examples represent a larger body of bills that are being stifled at the committee level. We encourage you to look for the status on other bills and contact other chairmen as well. Here is the list of all the House committees and their corresponding chairmen, and here is the Senate list.
We encourage you to contact at least one chairman today and urge them to allow these bills, and other legislation of interest, to be granted a public hearing and vote in their committee!
Lindsey Zea is a Policy and Research Associate with the Madison Liberty Institute. Lindsey holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from BYU-Idaho and loves finding applications of history to current events and political debates. She also serves as a Policy Analyst with the Better Cities Project (BCP) and formerly interned with the Libertas Institute in Utah.