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Eye On Boise

Mon., Feb. 10, 2014, 8:29 a.m.

Lawmakers push bill to let Legislature to file its own lawsuits when Attorney General won’t

Sen. Curt McKenzie and Rep. Brent Crane, both Nampa Republicans, want a new law passed to specifically give the Legislature standing to sue to or intervene in lawsuits to challenge or uphold the constitutionality of state laws. McKenzie told the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning that the only example he could think of was when Idaho citizens passed a tribal gaming initiative, and some anti-gambling legislators wanted Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to sue to try to overturn it as unconstitutional. Wasden refused, saying his duty as Attorney General was to defend the laws of the state, not to challenge them.

Now, the state is being sued over its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage; both Wasden and the governor’s office are defending the law in that suit.

“I think it’s definitely a weighty issue that I don’t think we should take lightly, but I think it is something that supports our branch of government, it’s an appropriate function for us to have,” McKenzie told the committee. Sen. Elliot Werk questioned why the McKenzie/Crane bill would lay out a process whereby just the House speaker and Senate president pro-tem – both members of the majority party – would make the decision to mount such a lawsuit with public funds. “I would certainly like to see some role for minority party members,” he said. “We are looking at a potentially sizeable expenditure, depending on the nature of what we’re doing.” McKenzie called that “a valid concern,” but the bill was introduced as-is.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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