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Eye On Boise

Lawmakers mull pros, cons of changing laws on veto returns after Idaho SupCourt case…

After the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Butch Otter’s attempted veto of the instant racing repeal bill wasn’t valid because it was delivered back to the Senate after the Idaho Constitution’s five-day deadline, lawmakers are debating whether they should change state laws or legislative rules that specify when a vetoed bill has officially been returned.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, proposed draft legislation to the Legislative Council today, but said it was “for discussion purposes only,” and he didn’t expect any recommendation from the council.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said he didn’t like the idea of a bill – which the governor would have to sign – dictating procedures in the Legislature. He noted that the draft would specify that the House or Senate journal would note the time of return and to whom a vetoed bill was returned, and that would be official. “The journal is not an executive branch function, it’s ours,” Davis said. “So just from a philosophy of preserving our independent, separate right to decide our own rules, why would I write a bill and let the governor decide what our rules should be? And this is a proposed statute. That means the governor gets to decide what my Senate and House rules are. We have tried to stay away from that practice.” He said he’d prefer that the matter be addressed in legislative rules, rather than a law change, if it were to be addressed.

“We went around and around on whether or not or how we would present this,” Bedke said. “I appreciate the separation of powers and will be a staunch defender of those, always. But it would also seem that there is a void, that there is a problem.” If so, he said, “I think we should start mulling over how we’d fix it.”

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, noted that the Idaho Supreme Court decided the case on the basis of the statutes and Constitution as they are now. “They stood up – these statutes as written stood up, and because they stood up, I would be very reluctant to change them," he said. "Who knows what we’ll get into in changing them. That’s always a lawyer’s worry. … I just kind of take a conservative view of messing with what’s worked. That’s my reluctance to go here.”

Bedke said, “We need to address it, in my opinion, some way, whatever it ends up being. I frankly am more comfortable with a rule for the reasons Sen. Davis said, but that’s why we brought this up today, was to draw on all of your collective wisdom.”

Davis said he’d like to visit with the Attorney General’s office in detail about whether any changes are needed or not.

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said, “Thank you. And I appreciate the speaker bringing this for the council’s attention so we have a heads-up.”

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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