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Goin' to the Statehouse

Will lawmakers go back to the Statehouse?

Here's how you're going to know whether or not state lawmakers have been effectively chatting up tax policy this summer: wait till Gov. Jim Risch calls a special session. Then, and only then, will you know that lawmakers who desperately want cheaper property taxes were successful in convincing other lawmakers that they can all get it done in a few days in Boise's Statehouse.

Otherwise, you can assume that lawmakers will do what they did during the 93 days they spent together in the statehouse last winter: talk about it, and then talk about it a little more.

"If we're just looking at a rehash, that might not be all that productive," said Sen. Hal Bunderson, a Meridian Republican who helped shut down previous convoluted tax solutions.

Certainly Risch did his best to throw down the gauntlet. During his inaugural address, he tried to make a joke by first announcing he wouldn't call a special session, and got hearty applause that almost drowned out his long-winded "unless." He then laid out an ultimatum to lawmakers.

So, watch now for the negotiations. Sen. Dean Cameron, a Rupert Republican who co-chairs the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, said it would take some doing to get everything in place for a quick huddle in the Capitol.

"You've gotta have a bill out there in draft format, and get it out so people can comment on it," Cameron said. "It is a difficult proposition."

Outgoing House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, who would have to preside over the session if it happens, said farm work was easier than trying to parse tax policy.

"In my lifetime, I've probably castrated 10,000 calves," Newcomb told reporters the other day. "It's easier than property tax legislation."