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GOP commissioners want taxpayers to foot bill for their separate legal challenge

It turns out that the GOP redistricting commissioners want the state's taxpayers to pay for the outside attorney they've hired to file their own, separate legal challenge over the commission's failed deliberations, which in part asks the court to adopt their plans as superior to those proposed by Democratic commissioners. Christ Troupis, the Republicans' attorney, told the Associated Press that he expects to be paid from Republican commission members' taxpayer-funded budget. “I was told I'd be paid,” he said.

The Idaho Legislature approved $424,700 for redistricting, with $290,000 spent so far on hotel rooms, meals and commissioner travel, leaving more than $100,000, AP reporter John Miller reports. “There's been a couple of us that have covered his costs,” said Republican commissioner Lou Esposito. “If this ends up being long and protracted, probably the state will end up bearing the costs, since it is related to the commission business.”

However, since the commission disbanded at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Republican commissioners likely don't have authority to approve a payment of taxpayer money to hire an outside lawyer, Miller reports. “They would have needed an affirmative vote of a majority of the commission to hire outside counsel,” said Keith Bybee, the Legislative Services aide who has helped guide the redistricting process.

That happened in 2001, but not this time. In fact, the possibility of a third party filing a claim led Ysursa to file his brief at 8 a.m. Wednesday, to pre-empt someone else from demanding the commission be reconvened, then asking Idaho for their attorney's fees in a “slam dunk” case. “We're trying to save taxpayer dollars,” said Tim Hurst, Ysursa's deputy. “We didn't want somebody else making money on the state for something they know is going to happen.” Click below to read Miller's full AP article.


GOP, Ysursa ask for court review of redistricting
By JOHN MILLER,Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has asked the Idaho Supreme Court to intervene after the state's six-member redistricting panel failed to agree on new election maps by Tuesday's deadline.

Republican redistricting commission members Wednesday also filed a request for review, on similar grounds.

The lawsuits are likely to result in the commissioners being ordered back to Boise to finish work they couldn't get done over the past 92 days.

The commission must reset Idaho's 35 legislative districts and two congressional districts every 10 years, to reflect population changes and preserve the “one-person, one-vote” principle. Current legislative districts are unconstitutional, because they have population differences nine times the 10 percent allowed by the courts a decade ago.

Among other things, justices are being asked to clarify if the commissioners drawing the boundaries should avoid splitting up counties at all costs, as Democrats contend, or whether a 2009 law meant to avoid unwieldy districts where it's tough for lawmakers to reach constituents should also be taken into account, as Republicans favor.

“Clarification and direction will greatly assist the commission by permitting it the opportunity to focus on those factors most important to a legally defensible Legislative apportionment plan,” Ysursa wrote in his complaint.

Ysursa wants the Supreme Court to reconvene commissioners and order them to complete a plan for legislative and congressional districts within 60 days of the court order.

The Republican commissioners — Evan Frasure, of Pocatello, Lorna Finman, of northern Idaho, and Lou Esposito, of Eagle — filed their own claim because they weren't sure if Ysursa's would be adequate to resolve the issue, they said.

They also want the court to give commissioners only three days to come to an agreement.

The three argue that once justices clarify things, it won't take commissioners long to come to an agreement. Clarification is needed on whether the Idaho Constitution requires counties to remain whole where possible, or whether the commission can also weigh the 2009 provisions seeking to avoid unwieldy districts with counties not linked by state highways.

“If we get more explicit direction, we'll have a plan,” said Christ Troupis, attorney for the GOP commissioners.

Troupis' claim also asks the Idaho Supreme Court to adopt a plan for Idaho's 1st and 2nd congressional districts that Republican and Democrat commissioners appeared to be nearing agreement on but never got a final vote. That plan would separate the state's 783,000 western residents from 783,000 people living in the east, with a county split occurring in Ada County, the state's most populous.

Still, the likelihood of the justices intervening so deeply is unclear.

Ysursa points out the justices in past redistricting lawsuits declined to insert themselves into the place of the commissioners.

“They don't like to write plans,” Ysursa predicted on Tuesday, before the panel failed to meet its 5 p.m. deadline to finish. “They will kick it back to the constitutional body.”

Troupis is known for representing GOP causes, sometimes attracting controversy in the process. He represented the Idaho Republican Party in U.S. District Court in the lawsuit that forced the Legislature to close the Republican primary to all but registered party members.

In that case, Idaho taxpayers paid Troupis' $100,000 bill for the party to sue the state, prompting protests from Democrats and some Republicans that it would have been more appropriate for the Idaho GOP to use its own money to take a Republican-dominated state Legislature to federal court to close the Republican primary.

In this redistricting case, Troupis said he expects to be paid from Republican commission members' budget.

“I was told I'd be paid,” he said.

The Idaho Legislature approved $424,700 for redistricting, with $290,000 spent so far on hotel rooms, meals and commissioner travel, leaving more than $100,000.

“There's been a couple of us that have covered his costs,” said Republican commissioner Lou Esposito. “If this ends up being long and protracted, probably the state will end up bearing the costs, since it is related to the commission business.”

Even so, since the commission disbanded at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Republican commissioners likely don't have authority to approve a payment of taxpayer money to hire an outside lawyer.

“They would have needed an affirmative vote of a majority of the commission to hire outside counsel,” said Keith Bybee, the Legislative Services aide who has helped guide the redistricting process.

That happened in 2001, but not this time.

In fact, the possibility of a third party filing a claim led Ysursa to file his brief at 8 a.m. Wednesday, to pre-empt someone else from demanding the commission be reconvened, then asking Idaho for their attorney's fees in a “slam dunk” case.

“We're trying to save taxpayer dollars,” said Tim Hurst, Ysursa's deputy. “We didn't want somebody else making money on the state for something they know is going to happen.”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


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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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