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House votes 44-22 to pay Idaho GOP’s costs for primary election lawsuit

The House has voted 44-22 in favor of SB 1202, the bill to pay $100,000 to the Idaho Republican Party for legal fees in its recent successful lawsuit against the state to overturn Idaho's primary election system. Nine Republicans joined all 13 of the House Democrats in opposing the move. Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, the bill's House sponsor, said, “You must realize that the civil right attorney fee award act of 1976 states that the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party reasonable attorney fees.” However, that hasn't happened in this case; the state has reached a settlement with the party, reducing the claimed fee amount from $144,000 to $100,000, but the court hasn't ordered fees to be paid. Plus, the party's attorney, Christ Troupis, filed an affidavit with the court stating that he represented the party on a “contingent fee” basis - meaning that if the party lost, he'd get no fee; but if fees were ordered paid by the other party, he would be paid.

“In other words the only fee to be paid in this case, by the arrangement of the plaintiffs and their counsel, was if the state of Idaho would pay,” said Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise. “I don't find that to be a very fair arrangement to the people of this state.”

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, “As a citizen I just am really upset by this - paying the Republican Party to sue the state of Idaho to make it more difficult for citizens to vote in the primary. Just listen to what we're doing. … The plaintiffs did not have to request money from the state coffers, the Republican Party chose to. … I think that's just unconscionable.”

Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said, “I would remind the body that we were here a few years ago to try and correct this. Yet we were not able to muster those votes. … Unfortunately, this is an example of the price that we all must pay.”

Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, said, “I am incredulous that we're even here debating this bill, and I suppose much of the Idaho public is in disbelief that we're even here considering this. … This was a problem that originated in the Idaho Republican Party, and it could've been settled by the Idaho Republican Party.”

Though no Republicans in the House spoke out against the bill in debate, nine of them voted against it, including Reps. Julie Ellsworth, R-Boise; Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens; Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries; Bob Schaefer, R-Nampa; and Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls. The bill now moves to the governor's desk.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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