The Idaho Senate leadership and Senate parliamentarian responded to the controversy over Sen. Christy Zito’s floor debate last week.
Zito was on the Senate floor a day after attempting to add grocery tax repeal to the income tax cut bill. The move was defeated, and Senate Republican leadership put out a Press Release saying that Democrats and Zito had attempted to “derail” the bill.
The following day, during the Senate’s “15th order,” Zito gave a floor speech. As she attempted to read from the Senate leadership’s press release, Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon (R-Burley) asked for unanimous consent to go “at ease.” Zito objected to the motion, and Anthon then asked for the Senate to adjourn, and it did.
Senate leadership, along with the parliamentarian, sent out an explanation of the events from that day. Here is what it said,
In response to the events that occurred on the Senate Floor on February 2, 2022, during the 15th Order of Business, Miscellaneous Business:
Senator from District 23 arose and requested Personal Privilege and it was granted by the Presiding Officer.
Pursuant to Mason’s Manual Sec. 222, Questions of Personal Privilege, it clearly states what is considered personal privilege.
The Senator from District 23 began to read about the history ofldaho. Mason’s states, “They are not entitled to the floor on a question of personal privilege unless the subject that they propose to present relates to them in their representative capacity.” It continues in subpart 3, “Members raising questions of personal privilege must confine themselves to the remarks that concern them personally.”
The first comments that were read were made under the guise of personal privilege but did not qualify under that provision. The provision that comments were leading up to fall under
Mason’s Manual Sec. 224, Personal Explanation. Mason’s states, “A matter of personal explanation does not constitute a question of personal privilege. It may be received only by
permission of the house.”
The body did not give its consent or permission to receive the comments given by the Senator from District 23. Nor did the body give permission for the member to read from their written speech, pursuant to Mason’s Manual Sec. 112, subparts 6 and 7.
As it is precedence in the Idaho Senate to go at ease to discuss a “point of order” the Majority Leader and Senator from District 27, arose and requested from the Presiding Officer, “that the Senate go at ease.” When the Senator first arose, he was ignored by the Presiding Officer which is a violation of Mason’s Manual Sec. 91, subpart 6, which states, “To ignore a member seeking recognition to state a valid motion is unparliamentary, violates the principles of equality and violates the obligations of the presiding officer. A member who states a motion, in order when stated, cannot be denied recognition by the presiding officer on the mere grounds of the presiding officer’s opposition to the motion.”
When the Majority Leader, made the unanimous consent to go at ease, the Senator from District 23 objected. The Majority Leader then made the motion to adjourn, which was in order.
The motion to adjourn was in order and takes precedence over all other motions pursuant to Mason’s Manual Sec. 225. The Idaho Senate has documented throughout the decades of a motion to adjourn in other orders of business, including debate. Those are attached for reference.
According to Idaho Dispatch’s correspondence with Jennifer Novak, the Senate parliamentarian, we asked her if Zito’s comments were out of order from the beginning of her speech.
Here is what Novak told Idaho Dispatch,
The answer is Yes – there were rule violations prior to the start of the reading of the document.
According to Novak, Zito’s comments violated the rules from the very beginning. However, Zito had read for 2 minutes and 39 seconds before being interrupted.
It wasn’t until Zito tried to read the Senate press release from the day before that she was stopped.
Idaho Dispatch asked Anthon why she was not stopped before she attempted to read the Senate press release. Anthon has not responded to that question at this time.
Anthon did send Idaho Dispatch an email response shortly after about his version of the events from that day. This email from Anthon was sent to Idaho Dispatch before the Senate’s letter explaining the rules of the Senate:
Thank you for reaching out. You are the first to ask for an explanation. I’m sorry for the delay, but I’ve been in meetings until now.
There was an unfortunate breach of rules and protocol on the Senate floor today. Senator Zito’s remarks were violations of the Mason’s rules for ‘personal privilege’ comments. When questions of rules arise during a floor session, the Senate’s traditional protocol is to go at ease to discuss things and get back on track without further violation of Senate rules. It is my job, as the floor leader of the Senate, to help this process along and assure that rules are followed. When I asked to go at ease to resolve concerns and review the rules, Senator Zito objected to my unanimous consent request. If the Senate could have paused, we could have resolved the rule violation and allowed Senator Zito to continue in a way that didn’t break the rules. At that point, the decision was made to adjourn rather than continue with the rule violations. Since the floor session, I have confirmed with our Senate parliamentarian that the matter was handled correctly.
Thanks again for asking.
If there are any updates to this story, Idaho Dispatch will post them here.
Tags: Christy Zito, Idaho Senate, Jennifer Novak, Kelly Anthon