Special coverage

Idaho Politics

Political and legislative news out of Idaho.

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Idaho’s history of religious fear goes back decades

Fear and discrimination against different religious groups has a long history in Idaho, reports Ryan Struyk of the Associated Press, from hostility toward Mormon settlers dating back to the first days of Idaho Territory in the late 1800s, to resistance to Catholic immigrants, including Basques, in the 1920s. Most recently, three Idaho senators boycotted a Hindu prayer that was offered to open a Senate session this year, and Republicans in various parts of the state are fanning fears of the state’s Muslim population. You can read Struyk’s full report here.

Two different views of Islam in Idaho…

More than 100 people gathered at the Sandpoint Community Hall this morning to hear anti-Islam speaker Shahram Hadian speak, reports Melissa Davlin of Idaho Public Television; Hadian, a Christian pastor from Chattaroy, Wash. and former Muslim, downplayed his role in helping kill child support enforcement legislation in Idaho and instead focused on his criticisms of Islam, which he claimed is a “a culture of death” that, among other things, he said requires submission and teaches its followers that martyrdom is the only way to salvation. He also had plenty of scorn to heap on the news media.

Outside, a group of protesters held signs with slogans including “Stand up for Tolerance and Child Welfare,” “I choose children over fear” and “Idaho’s kids need food, not ideology.” You can read Davlin’s full post here.

Meanwhile, more than 400 miles to the south, I attended a much different event this evening: A “peace feast” at a Boise restaurant at which an equal number of Idaho Muslims and non-Muslims shared dinner and a low-key presentation about Islam. Laura Armstrong, a member of the pastoral staff at a local Christian church, Cole Community Church, praised the “building of bridges and understanding.” At this gathering, too, concerns were raised about the news media and its coverage of Islam.

John Landis, a financial executive who converted to Islam three years ago, shared some information about Boise’s Islamic community. “It’s very ethnically diverse, it’s culturally diverse,” he said. “We are the melting pot of the melting pot.” The community includes people from India, Bosnia, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Syria, the United States and elsewhere.

Zawar Qazi, president of the Islamic Center of Boise, said the center is Sunni in practice but welcomes all Muslims to pray together. The area also has a couple of Shia mosques, he said. An engineer at Micron who’s originally from Pakistan, Qazi said he’s never been harassed over his religion in Idaho. Others at the dinner were business owners, students, IT people, marketers, homemakers. They were Muslim, Christian, Jewish and otherwise.

Landis presented a brief slide show about Islam, stressing its reverence for the sanctity of life, and prohibitions on violence other than in self defense. A diner in the restaurant, who wasn’t part of the gathering, asked the first question when Landis opened it up for Q-and-A, vociferously citing ISIS and its atrocities. “They are not Muslims – they are criminals,” responded a member of the group. “They call themselves Muslims.”

Later, as the dinner wrapped up, Nick Armstrong, who had collected everyone’s individual payments for dinner at the start, had an announcement: Three Saudi Arabian students who had been quietly dining in the back of the restaurant during the presentation had pulled him aside as they left, and told him how impressed they were that the group, Muslims and non-Muslims, was learning together. One of the young men insisted on paying for everyone’s meal – 20 people. So Armstrong passed back out everyone’s payments.    

Crapo, Risch join 92-8 vote in Senate to pass same Secure Rural Schools bill that divided Simpson and Labrador

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both joined the majority in a 92-8 vote in the Senate last night to pass H.R. 2, legislation to permanently take care of the “doc fix” Congress has annually been passing on Medicare reimbursement rates, and also provide a two-year extension to the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides millions in payments to rural, timber-dependent Idaho counties for roads and schools. It’s the same bill that earlier overwhelmingly passed the House, but kicked off an open war of words between Idaho 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson, who proudly supported the bill and joined the majority, and Idaho 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador, who voted “no” and blasted Simpson not only for supporting the bill, but also for everything from his integrity to his personal habits.

Labrador maintained he supported the SRS extension and it would have passed as a stand-alone bill, but opposed the “doc fix” legislation as too costly.

Here’s what Crapo and Risch said about the bill in a joint statement:

“For decades, Congress has struggled over two competing issues that are part of this legislation: repealing the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, and meaningfully and fully addressing our national debt.  The bill contains needed entitlement reforms and protections of our rural communities.  Conservatives have long lobbied for this much-needed entitlement reform.  But there is legitimate concern that the bill is not fully offset.    


“One of our overriding concerns has been that the bill was not fully paid for.  In the ensuing weeks since the House passed the legislation, commitments have been made regarding reductions in the upcoming Senate-House budget conference to reduce the budgeted spending to account for the need to fully offset this bill.  Although this does not adopt the necessary offsets immediately, it does establish in our federal budget the recognition that our work on this legislation is not done.  We must assure that this legislation does not add to our mounting national debt. 


“This bill contained needed adjustments and reforms to our Medicare system and protections for our rural communities in states with high federal property ownership.  We voted in favor of this bill tonight and give our commitment to work until the necessary spending offsets to be incorporated into our federal budget are realized so that Congress follows through on both:  entitlement reform and federal spending reduction.”

You can read their full news release here.

Brouhaha over killed child-support bill divides House Republicans

A brouhaha over the child support enforcement bill killed on the final day of the legislative session is dividing the House GOP. First, former Rep. Cindy Agidius sent out an article by Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, with the message: “Explanation of SB 1067 by Rep Lynn Luker. Please find attached an editorial by Representative Lynn Luker regarding the concerns surrounding SB1067.” Her email was signed, “Cindy Agidius, Communications Director, House Majority Caucus.” You can read Luker’s piece here.

Agidius’ email went to all members of the press covering this year’s legislative session, plus all 56 Republicans in the House, on Saturday evening. It didn’t take long for the reply-alls to start hitting from lawmakers.

At 1:26 p.m. on Sunday, Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, wrote, “Representative Luker does not speak for Idaho or me. Scuttling 1067 without debate was heavy-handed opportunistic theatrics at the expense of single-parents and children…the most vulnerable in our society. I do not support the erratic behavior that will lead to the dismantling of our child support system, nor the implication that this mockery of a legal analysis in any way represents our Republican caucus.”

Rep. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa, responded at 2:22 p.m. “I for one don't know the specifics of this legislation. I can’t speak to the merits of these arguments however I will not allow Mr. Luker to be perceived as speaking for me or the caucus. Because this was distributed to the press as a response to the action of holding this bill it is imperative that the press know that this is a limb that Rep. Luker is out on by himself at this time. Rep. Luker may be right, he may be wrong but on an issue that affects so many and so drastically he does not speak for me especially at this time.”

Luker was one of nine members of the House Judiciary Committee who voted, in a 9-8 vote, to table SB 1067, the child support enforcement bill that had earlier passed the Senate unanimously, after Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll and members of the John Birch Society raised fears that it would subject Idahoans to Sharia and foreign laws, by acceding to a 2007 international treaty. The bill was killed despite warnings from the state Department of Health & Welfare that it’s a requirement to conform with federal regulations, and without it, Idaho will lose access to the federal child support enforcement system, endangering its system for enforcing $200 million a year in child-support payments to Idaho children, plus lose up to $46 million in federal funds and have to lay off 100 state employees.

At 3:03 p.m. Sunday, Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, weighed in with this: “I certainly hope this was not represented as a Majority Caucus response. If it was, it should be immediately withdrawn. Rep Luker is entitled to his opinion, legal and personal. It is not my opinion, and I do not want to be associated in any way with it. By the way, can anyone explain why we still have a caucus media director? The caucus has no way of meeting. There should be no information being presented to the public representing anything about the caucus.”

The next response, from Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, came at 3:11 p.m. With a winking smiley-face, he wrote, “Well if there is a conference committee please don't put me on it.”


Dems say they made a difference in this year’s session

House and Senate Democrats, in a news conference on Saturday, said they made big strides in this year’s legislative session, from pushing for investments in education to stopping moves to raises taxes for the middle-income, from passing an anti-bullying law to stopping an interstate compact on transfer of federal lands to states.

“Idaho Democratic lawmakers leave this Legislature energized and optimistic,” the Dems said in a statement. You can read their full statement here. They said they heard from Idahoans this year, including a note saying, “Thanks to the Mighty Minority.”

“Something powerful happened this year. The voice of Idahoans became stronger and Idaho Democrats listened and took their words to heart,” the lawmakers said. “As a result, we have been able to move the discussion and the majority party toward improving the lives of Idaho citizens.”

Idaho joins 15-state anti-gay marriage brief to U.S. Supreme Court

Idaho has signed on to a brief with 14 other states urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold bans on gay marriage and leave the matter to voters and lawmakers, the AP reports. The brief, filed today, argues that the court will do "incalculable damage to our civic life" if it decides that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry everywhere in the United States.

Plaintiffs from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are asking the court to declare that the Constitution forbids states from denying same-sex couples the right to marry. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments on April 28; you can read a full report here from the Associated Press in Washington, D.C.

Labrador, Simpson clash, criticize each other

Idaho GOP Congressman Raul Labrador is sharply criticizing fellow Idaho GOP Congressman Mike Simpson, after Simpson said a congressman would “have to look long and hard to find a reason to vote no” on legislation that passed the House late last week to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools program, which was tucked into a larger bill on Medicare payments. Simpson voted for the measure; timber-dependent Idaho counties receive millions under the SRS program. Labrador voted no.

“Mike Simpson has been part of the establishment in Washington D.C. for 12 years,” Labrador told Boise State Public Radio in an interview. “He loves to go out drinking and smoking with the Speaker [John Boehner]. He loves to have these relationships where it’s all about making false promises to his constituents and then going back there to Washington D.C. to compromise.”

You can read an Associated Press account of the clash between the two Idaho Republicans online here; and find the full Boise State Public Radio report online here, including audio from the interview. Labrador told the radio station SRS reauthorization would have passed on its own later. “There was never any danger of this legislation not passing,” he said.

"We're different kinds of politicians," Labrador said. "I will not lie to my constituents.” Simpson’s communications director, Nikki Wallace, told the radio station in a statement, “This isn't the first time Congressman Labrador has uttered this nonsense and I'm sure it won't be the last."

Minority leader asks for removal of GOP caucus staffer, says she’s been ‘hounding’ former opponent

House Minority Leader John Rusche of Lewiston has asked that Cindy Agidius be removed as communications director for the House Republican Caucus, reporter Bill Spence of the Lewiston Tribune reports, saying she's using the position to “hound” and “spy” on a Democratic caucus member. Rusche said Agidius has been taking photos and posting inappropriate online comments about Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, who defeated her in the general election last November; you can read Spence’s full report here at his “Political Theater” blog.

“I've spoken with (House Speaker Scott Bedke) twice about this,” Rusche told the Tribune. “I'm concerned that one of my caucus members is feeling harassed. I'm also concerned the majority caucus office is being used for political purposes.”

Bedke said he spoke with Agidius after Rusche contacted him and considers the issue closed, Spence reports. “I think (Agidius's online comment) was a one-time lapse,” he said. “She took it down immediately. She and I have talked; I've let her know there are certain lines I don't want crossed. She has a good feel for that now.”

Labrador votes against Secure Rural Schools funding

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador cast one of just 37 “no” votes in the House this week on a measure that included funding for reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides millions to rural, timber-dependent Idaho counties for schools and roads. The bill passed, 392-37; Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson was among its backers. “This kind of bill represents exactly what the American people want to see out of their elected representatives,” Simpson said in a statement. “They want us to fix problems, not shout across the aisle and point fingers.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Amid email scandal, IACI re-evaluates its political hardball tactics

The Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry, a big-bucks lobbying group that touts itself as the “voice of business” in Idaho, is re-evaluating, the Idaho Statesman reports, after a scandal over a profanity-laced email from its president bashing a Senate committee chair and threatening political retaliation against him - for backing teacher pay increases over IACI-backed business tax cuts - went public and prompted the IACI board to place President Alex LaBeau on leave. Statesman reporter Bill Dentzer writes that “IACI is the 800-pound gorilla of state special interests and its members are heavyweights themselves,” with its board a who’s-who of the state’s biggest corporate names: Simplot, Micron, Idaho Power, Melalueca, and more.

Since LaBeau took over in 2007, Dentzer writes, IACI has refocused on political hardball, leading to a 2011 Statesman headline, "Going for the throat: Alex LaBeau has honed the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry into a sharp-edged political knife." Since LaBeau took over, IACI has formed PACs aimed at defeating Democratic candidates for governor and even incumbent GOP lawmakers, drawing on far-off political consultants from Florida and New York. Dentzer’s full report is online here.

Internal divisions within Idaho GOP on display, as Senate panel endorses bill for costly new presidential primary

Internal divisions within the Idaho Republican Party were on display at a Senate committee hearing this morning, as Republican Party officials spoke both for and against legislation to allow for an early presidential primary in the state, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $2 million. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said primaries are intended to “kind of take it out of the smoky back rooms of the political bosses” and “allow more participation.” He sponsored SB 1066, to allow the new presidential primary on the second Tuesday in March, and said it matches an Idaho Republican Party resolution.

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said he was speaking not as a state representative but as a Republican Party official, a current Idaho GOP central committee member and the past rules committee chairman. “Nominating presidential candidates is a party function,” Nate told the Senate State Affairs Committee. “The Idaho taxpayer should not be forced to pay for Democratic, Republican or other party’s nominations. … With current budget priorities like education and transportation in question in Idaho, we should not be spending another nickel and certainly not another $2 million to help political parties do their work.”

Nate said the Idaho GOP in January approved an absentee voting process for its presidential selection caucuses that he said would address concerns about some members, from military members to the elderly, not being able to participate.

Tyler Hurst, chairman of the Idaho Young Republicans, spoke in favor of the bill, saying it would bring more participation. “This is a bill that needs to take place so that all people have a right to vote … and so that we bring more notoriety to the Idaho Republican elections,” he told the committee.

Winder said the resolutions committee of the Idaho GOP unanimously supported the call for the early primary. Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said, “The discussion we had today mostly spoke about one party. And I really think that $2 million from the general fund for a political practice is inappropriate, and I won’t be supporting this bill.”

Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, also spoke out against the bill, saying, “It just seems totally inconsistent to me that this party has gone from allowing a lot of people to participate in the process to reducing that number.” He said 80 percent fewer people participated in the Idaho GOP’s presidential caucus in 2012 than did in previous open party primaries, and he said he opposed spending the money the bill would require. Addressing Boise High School students in the audience, Siddoway said, “We could get you better teachers if we had $2 million more a year to put in that budget than what we’re about to do here. Think about that.”

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, spoke out in favor of the bill. He said he disagreed with the Idaho GOP’s decision to close its primary elections to anyone other than registered Republicans. He also said he was uncomfortable with the 2012 caucus, because many couldn’t attend, or had to leave early. “I respect the party’s right to make that decision no matter whether I agree with it or not,” he said. “But in this moment, I want to … provide an opportunity for every party to accept the invitation to make their process, even in a closed political voting process, as open to all who are willing to live by those rules as possible. I think SB 1066 is the closest I’ve seen so far.”

The State Affairs Committee than approved the bill on a divided voice vote, sending it to the full Senate with a recommendation that it pass.

Kootenai GOP rejects resolution declaring Idaho a ‘Christian state’

The Kootenai County Republican County Republican Central Committee last night rejected a resolution to declare Idaho a "Christian state" – a proposed resolution that had drawn national ridicule, including comparisons to ISIS. The S-R’s D.F. Oliveria reports in his “Huckleberries Online” blog that the resolution offered by Precinct Committeeman Hans Neumann was opposed by more than two-thirds of the Central Committee. Precinct Committeeman Bjorn Handeen offered a motion not to consider the resolution at all, and it carried overwhelmingly. The meeting attracted a standing-room-only crowd.

Dems invite immediate applications for Werk’s vacated Senate seat

The Idaho Democratic Party’s Legislative District 17 central committee is inviting immediate applications for the Idaho Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, who was appointed to the Idaho State Tax Commission today by Gov. Butch Otter, and resigned his Senate seat to take the new full-time position. “Applicants must reside in Legislative District 17, be a member of the Idaho Democratic Party, and have a demonstrated interest in and strong commitment to public service,” the party said in an announcement. There’s more information here.

A committee consisting of party precinct captains from the legislative district will review applications and forward three nominees to Otter.

Meanwhile, Werk’s colleagues in the Senate minority caucus lauded his service today as he departs. "Elliot's experience and passion will leave a void in our caucus but we wish him all the happiness in the world and applaud his ongoing service to the citizens of Idaho," said Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum.

Senate Minority Caucus Chair Cherie Buckner-Webb said, "Working with Elliot has been a remarkable experience. He is a driven legislator and public servant who navigates the political landscape at warp speed with an acerbic wit and a wealth of knowledge.  He possesses a laser-like ability to cut to the core of the issue while taking into consideration a diversity of stakeholder views and desired outcomes. While Elliot will be sorely missed, we will work to provide a seamless transition as we await the appointment of a senator to join the minority caucus."

Risch gets energy subcommittee chairmanship

 Idaho Sen. Jim Risch announced today that he’s been named chairman of the energy subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Risch previously was the ranking Republican on the subcommittee. Risch said he’s “honored.”

“My appointment to this subcommittee is important to Idaho as the home of the Idaho National Laboratory,” Risch said in a statement. “With INL's research in the areas of energy, security and the environment, it is well positioned to continue its important role in our nation's energy security. Additionally, a strong economy and quality of life are directly linked to energy, and our obligation is to see that the American people get the best of both.” 

The subcommittee has oversight of national laboratories; energy research and development; federal energy conservation programs; climate change; petroleum reserves; oil, gas and coal production and distribution; and more.

Gay marriage case could cost Idaho another $300,000

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The legal team that successfully fought to overturn Idaho's ban on gay marriage has filed paperwork seeking an additional $300,000 in court costs. Boise attorney and lead counsel Deborah Ferguson filed the three-page motion Thursday in federal court to cover legal expenses since late May. A federal judge late last year awarded Ferguson and her team $400,000 for work through May. Gay marriage became legal in Idaho on Oct. 15 after the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge's ruling made in May declaring Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's in December filed separate petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court to continue fighting against gay marriage.

Labrador statement welcomes Obama to state, says he ‘could benefit from listening to Idahoans’

Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador has issued a statement welcoming President Obama to Boise, saying he thinks the president “could benefit from listening to Idahoans.” Here’s his full statement:

“I welcome President Obama to our great state today. I wish him well as he speaks this afternoon at Boise State University, where his 2008 campaign rally was a memorable event for Idaho Democrats. After last night’s State of the Union, I think the president could benefit from listening to Idahoans. He would do well to reflect on how the venue where he speaks today, the Caven-Williams Sports Complex, was built.  He could reflect on the journey of two Idaho families, and many others, who worked hard, played by the rules, became successful and generously shared their success with our community. Idaho families work hard and value individual responsibility. Idaho businesses are built on innovation and self-reliance. Idaho governments balance their budgets. During his short visit, I hope the president absorbs some Idaho common sense.”

Labrador sent out a tweet at 11:54 a.m. today saying, “Welcome to Idaho @BarackObama, home of hard work, self-reliance and balanced budgets”

While Idaho’s case waits in line, U.S. Supreme Court agrees to take up 6th Circuit gay marriage case

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to take up the same-sex marriage issue in a series of cases from the 6th Circuit, opening the door to possible settlement of the issue for all 50 states. You can read the high court’s order here. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are appealing Idaho’s gay marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court as well, but they just filed their petitions two weeks ago; that means the Idaho case isn’t yet up for consideration by the high court, which still needs additional briefing before it could consider Idaho’s petition.

Otter filed a "friend of the court" brief in the 6th Circuit case asking the court wait to take that case up until it can consider Idaho’s case along with it. On Thursday, his office attorney, Tom Perry, said if the high court just takes up the 6th Circuit case, Idaho likely will be filing friend-of-the-court arguments in that case. And the high court could decide the matter for all circuits after hearing the 6th Circuit case.

Todd Dvorak, spokesman for Wasden, said, “They haven’t taken up our case yet, and there’s no guarantee that they will.” But Wasden said today’s high court ruling is the beginning of the court making a final decision on the marriage question.

Deborah Ferguson, attorney for the four Idaho couples who successfully sued to overturn Idaho’s ban on gay marriage, said her side “will urge the court to decline review” and let their win become final. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals already has rejected the state’s appeal.  “Our case will go forward and will be considered by the Court at a later conference, probably in February,” Ferguson said.

The high court, when it considers Idaho’s petition, will have the option of taking the case and hearing arguments; declining the case and letting the 9th Circuit’s decision stand; or holding the case until the other cases are decided. You can read a full report here at spokesman.com.

Wasden: ‘My office is equipped to handle these cases’

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has issued this statement on his vote against paying $55,000 of Gov. Butch Otter's legal fees for private attorneys he brought in to help with same-sex marriage appeals:

"My view on the use of outside counsel is no secret. I've maintained a long, consistent and principled position that hiring outside attorneys and paying the high price for that work is unnecessary. I took an oath to defend the Idaho Constitution. That's my job and exactly what I've been doing on this case from the beginning. My office is equipped to handle these cases, and even now I have two staff attorneys in Washington, D.C., preparing to argue an important Department of Health and Welfare case before the U.S. Supreme Court next week."

Council approves $457K in taxpayer funds for gay marriage case legal fees, costs

The Constitutional Defense Council has voted unanimously to pay the court-ordered $401,663 in attorney fees and costs to the winning side in Idaho’s same-sex marriage case, and 3-1 to pay $55,000 for costs for outside counsel hired by Gov. Butch Otter in his appeals of that case to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who joined in the appeals, voted no, but hired no outside counsel, using state attorneys. Asked why he voted against paying the governor’s outside legal bills, Wasden said, “I didn’t think it was appropriate.”

Otter had said earlier that those costs were being covered from within his office; today’s vote means $55,000 of those costs, for fees to outside attorneys and for court-required printing fees, will come from the state’s Constitutional Defense Fund instead. Otter’s in-office counsel, Tom Perry, said total costs for the governor’s office are now up to around $150,000.

After the meeting, Otter said, “My understanding is the attorney general didn’t think we needed outside counsel, but we need outside counsel all the time. If it’s needed, it’s needed.”

House Speaker Scott Bedke, who voted in favor of both motions, said, “I think it’s appropriate at times.”

Perry said more costs are anticipated as the case continues; Otter is pressing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and also has filed an “amicus” or friend-of-the-court brief, in the 6th Circuit’s U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage appeal.

Constitutional Defense Council special meeting set for Thursday morning

Idaho’s Constitutional Defense Council, which consists of the governor, the attorney general, the speaker of the House and the president pro-tem of the Senate, will hold a special meeting Thursday at 8:30 a.m. in the Borah Post Office building’s 2nd floor courtroom, to consider payment of a $401,663 court order to cover attorney fees and costs for the winning side in Idaho’s same-sex marriage case, which the state lost in U.S. District Court last May. Idaho has since appealed unsuccessfully to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and is currently pressing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho on Oct. 15.

The council oversees the Constitutional Defense Fund, which currently has a balance of nearly $1.7 million after lawmakers agreed to transfer another $1 million into it last year from the state’s general fund. The defense fund, by law, can be spent  “to examine and challenge, by legal action or legislation, federal mandates, court rulings, and authority of the federal government, or any activity that threatens the sovereignty and authority of the state and the well-being of its citizens.” The fund has “historically been used to pay legal settlements, primarily attorney fees, that have been awarded through the courts,” according to state budget documents. 

According to state law, any one of the four members of the council can call a meeting, and its decisions are by majority vote. Interest on the $401,663 judgment started accruing on Dec. 19, so the longer the state waits, the more it’ll cost. Yesterday, the state Board of Examiners approved the claim and referred it to the council for consideration of payment.