Official recalls veto details

Timing of Otter's decision is key in horse racing machine issue

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COEUR d'ALENE - Idaho Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said he saw the controversial SB 1011 veto on April 3, but did not take possession of the bill.

Sen. Hill, R-Rexburg, said the governor had called to inform him that he intended to veto the bill on April 3, but he wasn't going to release that information until April 6.

Technically the legal deadline to physically deliver the bill to the Senate was April 4. If the veto was in fact invalid because of the delay in delivery, SB 1011 would automatically become law.

If SB 1011 becomes law, it would ban historic horse racing machines as a form of legal gaming in Idaho on July 1.

Hill said after the phone call, he went to the governor's office later that afternoon to make sure that the press wouldn't have access to the veto over the Easter weekend.

"It was about 3:30 (p.m.) on Friday, and I went down to his office to determine if the veto was a public record or not," he said, adding he was assured by Gov. Butch Otter's chief of staff that the Senate would not read it in the papers over the weekend. "He pulled it out of a file in his office and showed me that it had been vetoed."

But, Hill said, he didn't take possession of the document.

"Actually, I didn't know the governor had to deliver that to the Senate at that time either," Hill said. "Neither one of us did."

Hill later learned that while language in the constitution was somewhat vague about what constitutes adjournment, state law clarifies that vetoes are only affected by adjournment in the case of sine die, or the final adjournment of the legislative session.

Therefore, he said, the veto could be invalid, but not everyone is convinced of that.

Coeur d'Alene Tribe Legislative Director Helo Hancock, who helped push SB 1011 through the legislative process, believes the delay invalidated Otter's veto.

The Tribe called on Secretary of State Lawrence Denney this week to certify the bill into law, citing the law and pointing out the delay.

"It is very clear the act of returning the bill, is the veto itself," he said. "The way we see it, Secretary Denney doesn't have a choice. He has to certify the law."

While Denney's office has yet to respond to the Tribe's request, others feel the way the bill was handled after the governor stamped his veto constitutes a valid transmittal.

Douglas Okuniewicz, manager of the Greyhound Park and Event Center, believes the veto was valid. His simulcast racing venue stands to lose 35 instant horse racing machines if the bill becomes law.

Okuniewicz said the fact is Hill went to the governor's office and saw the bill had been vetoed before the legal deadline should be enough to meet the spirit of the law.

"I believe even if the Pro Tem didn't actually go to the governor's office, it was a valid transmittal," Okuniewicz said, adding the law is in place to give the Senate a chance to override the veto before the close of the legislative session.

He said the Senate had an opportunity to overturn the veto on April 6, which the same day they would have acted on it even if the bill was returned to the Senate on Friday, because the Senate was adjourned for the holiday weekend anyway.

John Hanian, Otter's press secretary, said the details that Hill laid out are correct, and as of Friday the governor had not met with Denney's office to discuss the Tribe's request.

He said the governor's position on the matter has been made clear.

"The governor vetoed the legislation and he felt it was a valid veto," Hanian said. "And obviously the senate felt it was a valid veto because they took it up and tried to override it."

Hancock said if Denney refuses to certify the legislation, the Tribe may be forced to seek a legal ruling.

"We hope it doesn't come to that," he said. "But if he decides not to certify the law, it will certainly end up in court."

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