Idaho, the twelfth largest of the states, is greater in area than all the New England states. Idaho is one of the states which follow the old constitution adopted in 1889. According to this Constitution, Idaho has three branches of power: the judicial, executive and legislative. A balance of power is secured between urban and rural districts and the bicameral system. Today, Idaho is divided into 25 legislative districts governed by a senator and two representatives (Weatherby and Stapilus 88).
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The executive power of the state is represented by a governor, elected by popular vote and or four-year term. According to the constitution, the governor has a right to appoint and may remove the heads of all executive departments. The governor of the state appoints all other officers and employees in the executive service according to law. As the agent for the execution of the laws, the governor is expected to report on their work, recommending such changes as experience dictated.
The current governor is C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter. There can be no question, however, that the initiative in general lawmaking is expected to rest with other departments. The executive service is the heads of administrative organizations which function in varied activities (Weatherby and Stapilus 127, 130). They control the appointment of many officials, determine the enforcement of laws, and provide for the execution of policies initiated by the legislative branch of the government.
This work varies from the granting of steamboat licenses to the operating of the environmental controls, the supervising of road construction, the making of educational surveys, and the collecting of the income tax. The names of the departments do not indicate the scope of their activities. The third task is the drafting of legislation. The executive power has far outstripped the Legislative and the Judicial branches in the development of the constitutional system, for the governor, has not confined himself to the position which the framers of the Constitution designed for him (Idaho 2007).
As provided in the state constitution, the governor has a line-item veto dealing with appropriations bills. When the veto is used during the legislative session, the governor has five days to inform the house from which the bill originated. To override the veto, a two-thirds majority of the legislators present in each house is required. Recent Idaho governors have used the veto sparingly and with mixed success, as illustrated in the following two examples.
During the 1983 legislative session, Democratic Governor John Evans vetoed the appropriations bills for several programs, including public schools and higher education, because he believed the funding levels were inadequate (Idaho 2007). The vetoes were not overridden. In some cases, the Republican-controlled legislature approved higher amounts before adjournment, which became law with or without Evans’ signature. For others, including the education bills, the governor convened a special session.
The unfitness of Idaho’s legislative branch is that it works part-time. Idaho’s legislation is represented by “citizen legislators” who are not professional politicians or lawyers. The legislative branch and its experts are called before committees to give testimony as to the necessary provisions of the legislation, and on many occasions, they provide the committee with the bills carefully prepared and ready for action. The legislative branch may accept, reject, or amend a budget, but it cannot make one without sacrificing both efficiency and economy (Weatherby and Stapilus 131). The Senate and House of Representatives are elected for two years.
In Idaho, the legislature and its staff receive agency requests, but the governor’s executive budget still serves as the legislative working document. Nevertheless, the raw data give them the potential to make independent judgments and to challenge executive assumptions more effectively. At the same time, it is important to recognize that the governor and the legislature must work together if the state government is to operate harmoniously and successfully.
Control of county government and much of local politics rests with the state legislative delegation. The heavy focus on state spending as opposed to local spending to fund education and social services assure that a majority at the state level but not in many counties with majority black populations would have the final say over the type and level of services provided. Legislative control extends to the judicial branch through the judicial selection process (Idaho 2007).
The judicial branch is represented by a system of courts and administer justice The judicial power of Idaho is vested in the following courts: a court for the trial of impeachments, a supreme court, district courts, probate courts, courts of justices of the peace, and such other courts inferior to the Supreme Court as may be established by law for any incorporated city or town. The Supreme Court consists of five justices.
Its main functions are the interpretation of laws and administer justice. Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s lead emboldened the lower federal courts to extend their supervision of state action beyond anything previously imagined, leading to judicial oversight and even direct judicial management of prisons, mental hospitals, and state election systems (Weatherby and Stapilus 118).
The scope and impact of the Court’s many controversial decisions over the past thirty years, and the remarkably persistent and intense criticism they have produced, requires a new evaluation of the nature of and the limits to the Court’s power. “In 2001, the Idaho legislature enacted section 32-1402(5), establishing court assistance officers as part of the family services system in Idaho courts” (Thompson 1313). District courts are state courts, operating in the counties, but not properly a part of county government. Although expenses incurred by local sessions of the court are paid by each county, the judge receives his salary from the state. The law requires that district courts shall be established in each of the five judicial districts of the state, and a judge shall be chosen by the qualified electorate of each district for a four-year term (Huefner 221).
In Idaho, the county is the main unit of local government in rural areas. Special districts may be created for specific purposes or townships set up for convenience in surveying and locating property in rural areas. The State Planning Board was reorganized in 1945 to work on the Idaho Plan–a six-year program of postwar improvements to facilitate efficient development of the state. After a survey of projected public construction, the board reports to the legislature upon the most pressing needs.
Matters of urgent public policy and those which need further study are also brought to the attention of Idaho lawmakers. Education in Idaho is at present undergoing a thorough reorganization (Weatherby and Stapilus 147). The Idaho Plan calls for education to be coordinated on a state level through a state county system of district organization. The county is to act as an intermediate unit between school districts and the state.
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The State Board of Education holds approximately the same position as the fourth branch of government. Indeed, in Idaho, it is sometimes referred to as such, although all the members of the six-man board, with the exception of the state superintendent of public instruction, are appointed by the governor. In Idaho, all education from kindergarten through the university is administered by the same board.
Road maintenance in Idaho is carried on by three agencies: the state in coordination with the federal government, the county, and special highway districts. State maintenance is a function of the Bureau of Highways under the Department of Public Works. State law requires that the director of highways be a licensed engineer with at least five years’ experience in highway construction (State Government 2007).
- Huefner, S.F. The Neglected Value of the Legislative Privilege in State Legislatures. William and Mary Law Review, 45 (2003), 221.
- Idaho. 2007.
- STATE GOVERNMENT AND STATE AFFAIRS 2007. Web.
- Thompson, F. H., Urban, F. Access to Justice in Idaho. Law Journal, 29 (2002), 1313.
- Weatherby, J. B., Stapilus, R. Governing Idaho: Politics, People, and Power. Caxton Press, 2005.