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Eye On Boise

Otter wants to add his arguments in instant racing repeal court case

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wants to add his arguments to the instant racing case that’s pending before the Idaho Supreme Court, in which the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is suing to force Secretary of State Lawerence Denney to certify SB 1011 as law, repealing authorization for slot machine-like instant racing terminals in Idaho.

“The governor has an interest in continuing the implementation of sound public policy to fulfill the promise of the law allowing historic horse racing and refocus our attention on limiting and more effectively regulating rather than eliminating historic horse racing,” Otter’s in-house attorneys, David Hensley and Cally Younger, wrote in a petition filed today. If the court were to side with the tribe, they wrote, it “will not only supplant the decision of the Senate sustaining the veto, it will undo the policies and protections the governor has put in place to ensure historic racing is conducted legally and supports live racing.”

The Idaho Legislature in 2013 authorized betting on “historical” horse racing, or re-broadcasts of randomly selected past horse races. As a result, the “instant racing” machines began being installed at three locations in the state last year; lawmakers who said they didn’t anticipate that type of gaming as a result of the law voted by more than two-thirds this year to repeal it. Otter issued a veto dated April 3, but didn’t deliver it to the Senate until April 6, the Monday after Easter, which was two days after the deadline; if he doesn’t take action within five days, bills become law without his signature. The Senate, while inserting three letters into its official record noting that it didn’t receive the veti in time, nevertheless quickly took a vote on a possible override, which failed, receiving a majority but not the required two-thirds supermajority.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe filed a lawsuit against Denney, asking the state Supreme Court to order him to certify SB 1011 as law because it became law without the governor’s signature; he refused, saying he would do so only if the Senate or the court directed him to. Yesterday, Denney filed his response to the lawsuit; he argued that the tribe is suing the wrong party, and the decision on whether the veto was valid or not is up to the Senate, not the Secretary of State.

Otter’s petition asks only that the governor be allowed to file a “friend of the court” brief in the case, supporting Denney’s position. Two other parties, Coeur d’Alene Racing, operator of the Greyhound Park Event Center in Post Falls, and Treasure Valley Racing, operator of Les Bois Park near Boise, have asked to be allowed both to file briefs and offer arguments when the justices hear the case.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has objected to Coeur d’Alene Racing's petition to offer "friend of the court" arguments in the case; today, Coeur d’Alene Racing filed its response to the tribe’s objections. “The Coeur d’Alene Tribe should not be allowed to dictate and truncate the extent of opposing points of view before this Court,” wrote attorney David Leroy, who noted that he is a former Idaho lieutenant governor who has served both as president of the Senate and as acting governor. With him representing the firm, “Coeur d’Alene Racing believes that it can substantially sharpen the perspective of this Court by briefing and arguing as to the balancing of legislative and executive needs and duties in the veto process,” Leroy wrote.

Also today, the tribe filed its opposition here to Treasure Valley Racing's petition to intervene as a party in the case, which noted the company's financial risk if the law is repealed. “Whether TVR will be harmed financially is not germane or helpful to the Court in resolving the questions raised in this action,” wrote attorney Deborah Ferguson, “as TVR surely cannot claim that the validity of the veto or the Secretary's duties turn on the magnitude of harm that a repeal of Idaho Code 54-25l2 would have on it or others.”

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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