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Eye On Boise

CdA Tribe delivers legal demand letter to Denney, says instant racing repeal is law

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe yesterday afternoon delivered a six-page legal demand letter to Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, asking him to certify SB 1011, the instant racing repeal bill, as the law of the state. Gov. Butch Otter vetoed the bill, but waited three days before delivering the vetoed bill back to the Idaho Senate, going past the five-day time limit set by the Idaho Constitution – which says if the governor doesn’t sign the bill within five days, excluding Sundays, it becomes law without his signature.

“The controlling Idaho law on this matter is clear,” wrote Bill Roden, attorney and lobbyist for the  tribe, in his letter to Denney. “The merits of S 1011 are not the subject of this letter, although I agree with the over two-thirds of the legislators who originally voted for the bill,” Roden wrote. “But, the constitutional provisions surrounding the manner by which legislation becomes law are significant and substantive, and should be of concern to all Idaho citizens.”

In a news release, tribal Chairman Chief Allan said, “The law doesn’t give Secretary Denney a choice in the matter. It is not a matter of personal discretion. As a constitutional officer of the state of Idaho, it’s his official duty to follow Idaho law and certify S 1011.”

The bill repeals a law passed two years ago to allow wagering on “historical” horse races, or previously run races; racing advocates told lawmakers that would bring in extra money to boost purses for live racing at Idaho tracks. But lawmakers weren’t prepared for the slot machine-like “instant racing” machines that were installed earlier this year, and suggested they’d been deceived about the tracks’ intent two years earlier. The tribe, which operates its own reservation casino under a negotiated gaming compact with the state and a voter-approved initiative, proposed the repeal bill, and it passed both houses with veto-proof majorities.

After Gov. Butch Otter missed the veto deadline but delivered the vetoed bill belatedly to the Senate, senators quickly voted on a veto override but it failed with a 19-16 majority, short of the required two-thirds. The bill had earlier passed the Senate on a 25-9 vote, and the House on a 49-21 vote. You can read Roden’s letter here, and the tribe’s news release here. There’s been no response yet from Denney. UPDATE: Denney's office says he's out of the office until Monday, and won't have any comment before then.

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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