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Nuke Waste Issue To Stay On Ballot Supreme Court Turns Down Petition To Rule Initiative Unconstitutional

The Idaho Supreme Court has put a quick end to a business coalition’s effort to block a vote on the nuclear waste initiative, but the battle of words is far from over.

The court on Friday rejected a petition filed by the Coalition for Ballot Integrity, seeking to keep voters from deciding an initiative attempting to void the nuclear waste agreement signed by Gov. Phil Batt last October.

In a brief order signed by Chief Justice Charles McDevitt, the court turned down the petition questioning the legality of the initiative, but it was without prejudice, which means it could be filed again later.

Legal sources said the court in essence told the coalition to come back after the Nov. 5 general election. After the election is held, a new petition could be filed challenging the initiative.

The Supreme Court adopted a similar stance four years ago, when the Nez Perce Indian Tribe attempted to stop a vote on a casino gambling issue. The court declined to hear a challenge until after the vote was held.

A petition was filed by attorneys Robert Huntley of Boise, a former Supreme Court justice, and Tim Hopkins of Idaho Falls. The coalition includes contractors at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and other groups.

“The reason we brought this lawsuit was we wanted to focus attention on the unconstitutionality of this measure,” said Chris Meyer, who is with Huntley’s Boise law firm.

“We would have preferred that the Supreme Court address the issue before the election so that the people would know that the thing they were being asked to vote for is unconstitutional,” Meyer said.

“The fact that the Supreme Court has chosen not to rule on it before the election means it will be the task of organizations such as the coalition to take that message directly to the people,” he said.

Former state Sen. John Peavey, who was active in the Stop the Shipments effort to put the initiative on the ballot, called it arrogance on the part of big corporations that hope to profit from nuclear waste operations at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory.

“A group of multimillion dollar corporations tried to force themselves between the voters and the voting booth, and they failed,” Peavey said.


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