Was Otter veto illegal?

Cd'A Tribe plans to challenge governor's action

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COEUR d'ALENE - After SB 1011 passed through both chambers of the Legislature, the governor vetoed it - a veto some now believe may be void.

"This will certainly be challenged," said Helo Hancock, legislative director for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. "We are in the process of figuring out our next course of action."

At issue is whether Gov. Butch Otter acted within the correct time frame to veto the bill. Otter claims he vetoed the bill four days after the Legislature passed it and informed the Senate Pro Tem of his action by telephone that afternoon.

Then, Otter held the bill until the Senate reconvened after a three-day Easter weekend, which is seven days after the Legislature passed the bill.

The law gives the governor five days to veto a bill and transmit that back to the chamber that originated the bill.

Hancock said the laws are pretty clear, and he believes the governor would have to physically transmit the bill within the five-day window.

"It appears the governor didn't follow the law," he said. "At least he's consistent. He ignored the constitution when he vetoed the bill, and he ignored it again when he transmitted it."

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe introduced SB 1011 at the beginning of the legislative session in an attempt to repeal a law that allows horse racing tracks to have "historic racing machines."

The machines are supposed to be pari-mutuel, which means bettors are wagering against other bettors, and the payouts and odds are determined by the number of bettors.

Pari-mutuel wagering is legal under Idaho's constitution, but the Tribe questions whether the machines are pari-mutuel and says they resemble video slot machines, which are specifically prohibited in the Idaho Constitution.

After a series of hearings and votes, both chambers of the Legislature agreed with the Tribe and voted overwhelmingly to repeal a law that authorized historic racing in 2013.

Otter disagreed and called on the Legislature to help him appoint an investigator with the expertise to determine the legality of the machines.

Doug Okuniewicz, manager of the Greyhound Park and Event Center, said he isn't sure how a court would rule on the veto.

"I am not a lawyer, but it appears to me, in my layman's view, that the five-day limit is there to ensure the Legislature has time to override a veto before they adjourn for the year," he said. "And in this case, the Legislature did have an opportunity to override the veto."

Okuniewicz said he doesn't blame the Tribe for challenging the veto because that is the only move they have left, but he is not certain the issue is cut and dried.

He pointed to a paragraph in the constitution that states: "... unless the Legislature shall, by adjournment, prevent its return, in which case it shall be filed, with his objections, in the office of the secretary of state within 10 days after such adjournment (Sundays excepted) or become law."

Okuniewicz said technically the Senate had adjourned the Thursday before Easter and returned the following Monday, and when Otter vetoed the bill on Friday, there was nobody in the Senate to whom he could give it.

"The constitution doesn't define adjournment as sine die (end of the session)," he said. I think it will be interesting to see what the courts do with this."

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