Zealots costing Idaho taxpayers

Author: Barrett Rainey

Zealots costing Idaho taxpayers

In eight states, governors and legislatures are putting new laws on the books that are – no other words for it – damned scary! People’s guaranteed rights being abridged – especially women and ethnic minorities – specific religious tenets being written into law, minority voters being hamstrung with new state-sponsored roadblocks to keep them from the polls and political oversight is being injected into matters of pregnancy . All of this by majority Republicans as minority Democrats watch.

North Carolina is at the front of current right wing purging. Poor ol’ GOP has been in the swamps there so long this new flush of absolute power – controlling both statehouse and governor’s office – has created a tidal wave of guaranteed court cases. Long, drawn-out court cases. Expensive, taxpayer-paid-for court cases.

Here, in our Northwest neighborhood, we have a state that’s cost taxpayers millions doing similar dumb things. It started doing so long before North Carolina’s legislature wandered off into nutcase lawmaking. As it says in the old state song “Here We Have Idaho.”

This is brought to mind by the latest – and yet another – legal slap in the face for those insisting on making bad law when told by competent legal authority not to do so. It’s happened so often in the Gem State most of us watching from the sidelines have lost count.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill has now ordered Idaho taxpayers to pony up for yet another – excuse the term – abortive Republican lawmaking foray. Against the advice of a very competent attorney general, the ol’ Republican legislature – assisted by the ol’ Republican governor – put a new anti-abortion law on the books. With the judge’s rejection of the ill-conceived effort (sorry, just couldn’t help myself) came an order to pay $376 thousand in attorney’s fees to the plaintiff. Just this time around.

What’ s notable here is it’s the fourth attempt by the Idaho Legislature to legislate matters of abortion and the fourth time they’ve been blown out in court. The fourth time the narrow-minded handiwork has been thrown into the legal garbage dump. Total bill to the taxpayer: just over $1 million.

Idaho has been blessed with a long, unbroken string of very good attorneys general. Both parties. Several went on to become supreme court justices. The current occupant – Republican Lawrence Wasden – is no newcomer and has superb credentials up to here! He’s no hack. It was he who advised fellow Republicans on the third floor of the Statehouse not to do what they went ahead and did.

Since 2000, Idaho has run up about $365 thousand for its own in-house legal bills defending bad abortion laws the legislature was warned against. Add to that, $446 thousand for plaintiffs in three other cases. Throw this new court-ordered payment on top and you’ve got more than the million.

This is just for abortion cases. There are others. Ignoring competent in-house legal advice, previous Republican-dominated Idaho legislatures have tried to challenge Indian supremacy in various cases – tried to levy special taxes on non-resident commercial user’s of the state’s highways – tampered with various water issues and just generally run amok. The tab – all of it coming from Idaho taxpayers – has to be in the millions. Loss after loss.

Oh, yes. One other note about this latest fetal pain law. Even before first hearings on the bill, the A.G.’s office told fellow Republicans it was not consistent with national, legally-accepted viability standards and what they were trying to do would likely be unconstitutional. That didn’t stop ‘em.

So, when the promised court challenge came, the A.G. didn’t even try to defend what the legislature had done against competent legal advice. He simply tried to attack whether the plaintiff had legal standing to fight the law. The judge said she did. Pay up. The unconstitutionality of the law in question was so obvious it wasn’t even discussed.

One can only hope some of the equally bogus law making in North Carolina will suffer the same fate. Fact is, Attorney General Holder tackled a Texas voting rights case last week and made it quite clear there would be more in the pipeline. I’d bet on it. Especially in North Carolina.

If ignorance of the law is no excuse for we who must live by them, it would seem obvious ignorance of the law by those who create them would be equally unjustifiable. In Idaho – and probably North Carolina – zealots are costing taxpayers millions. With more to come.

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