BOISE, Idaho – Proponents of a lawsuit challenging Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s veto of a contentious grocery tax repeal bill will present arguments in front of the Idaho Supreme Court on Thursday.
State GOP Reps. Ron Nate and Bryan Zollinger, both from eastern Idaho, spearheaded a lawsuit in April arguing that the Idaho Constitution states a governor has 10 days to veto a bill immediately after the Legislature adjourns.
In 1978, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled a governor has 10 days to veto or approve a bill starting when it lands on his desk.
However, 30 lawmakers have signed on with Nate and Zollinger urging the court to overturn its previous decision – a request rarely granted by courts due to a preference to follow prior judicial precedent. The lawsuit has attracted the support of House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane and House Majority Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude and House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee Chairman Lynn Luker in the lawsuit.
Also named in the petition is GOP Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard, who helped lead an organized movement to disrupt progress inside the Statehouse this year to protest legislative leadership. Other legislators include Sen. Cliff Bayer of Meridian, who was the original sponsor of the grocery tax repeal bill this year.
Idaho’s top lawmakers are countering that the lawsuit is unnecessary because the court has already ruled that the deadline kicks in when the governor receives the bill. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has also warned that if the court overturned the nearly 40-year-old ruling, it is unknown how many other post-legislative adjournment vetoes would be affected.
The lawsuit was filed after Otter vetoed legislation that would have repealed the state’s 6 percent sales tax on groceries. The bill was a defining accomplishment during the 2017 session, but supporters have agreed the proposal largely passed because many lawmakers voted in favor of it while correctly assumed it would be vetoed.
Lawmakers went home for the year on March 29. Otter received the grocery tax repeal bill on March 31. Otter then issued his veto on April 11 – 11 days after adjournment.
Last month, the justices decided a section of Otter’s original arguments disputing the constitutionality of the repeal bill – was “not ripe” and forbid the Republican governor’s office from making that point in court on Thursday.