Idaho legislative leaders expect to finish their 2021 regular session this week. Today [Monday] is the 113th day. It’s one of the longest sessions in Idaho history.
Legislators were working toward adjourning last week until one event took center stage and slowed things down.
Much of the legislative business over the last half of last week was postponed due to the drama over the political future of Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger. The Lewiston Republican is accused of raping a legislative intern. On Wednesday, he faced a grilling by members of the House Ethics Committee. The intern testified as well. On Thursday, the committee voted to expel von Ehlinger from his seat. A few hours later, on the eve of a debate by the full House, he resigned.
On Friday morning, the Senate convened for a short session.
“I’d like to make a statement this morning if you’ll bear with me just a minute," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, in the unusual position of presiding over the Senate. [That's a duty usually handled by Lt. Governor Janice MeGeachin.] He thanked the House for its expulsion vote and said the legislature must do better in creating a safer workplace.
“Anyone and everyone who comes here and works here, including yourselves, should feel safe here. It needs to be a respectful place to work. No one should be attacked or exposed on social media because of bringing forth a complaint," he said.
As the young woman left the Capitol after her testimony Wednesday, she was accosted by protestors. Her identity had already been revealed through an online article that was amplified on the social media account of Republican Representative Priscilla Giddings.
Von Ehlinger’s resignation has removed one of the hurdles toward finishing the session. The legislature is still considering a tax relief bill, among other legislation, and it still has several budgets to approve before the gavel drops for the final time.