- Associated Press - Monday, July 13, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho officials are preparing legal defenses in the court case over legislation banning instant horse racing terminals throughout the state.

The case will focus on determining whether the state constitution trumps the actions of the Idaho Senate, the Spokesman-Review (https://bit.ly/1O7FRQi) reported.

In June, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe filed a petition with the state’s highest court protesting Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s veto of the legislation. The tribe contends the governor didn’t complete the veto within the constitutionally required five-day deadline.

The Idaho Senate failed to override the governor’s decision. However, three statements entered into the Senate journal that day -submitted by the Senate’s President Pro Tem Brent Hill, Minority Leader Michelle Stennett and Secretary Jennifer Novak- stated that the Senate failed to receive the governor’s veto by the required deadline.

“The Idaho State Senate, collectively and on the record, was best situated to judge the validity, timeliness and relevance of Gov. Otter’s veto,” wrote David Leroy, attorney for Greyhound Park and Event Center -which operates instant racing terminals- and a former Idaho attorney general. “It did so.”

Known as instant horse racing, the machines allow bettors to place wages on prior horse races with no identifiable information. Idaho lawmakers approved legalizing the machines in 2013.

But by the beginning of this legislative session, lawmakers passed legislation banning the machines. Many claimed they had been duped into approving cleverly disguised slot machines -which are illegal in Idaho.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe disagrees that Otter’s veto can pass legal scrutiny. Regardless of the Senate’s actions, the tribe argues that Otter missed the window to veto the legislation and that the state constitution only allows the Idaho Legislature to vote on overturning vetoed bills, not laws.

“The Tribe asks the Court for nothing more than for it to say what the law is, which is squarely the province of the judiciary,” wrote the tribe’s attorney, Deborah Ferguson.

Proponents of instant racing also argue that the court would violate the separation of powers by ruling the Senate was wrong. It’s an argument that has come up before in significant Idaho court cases. In 2005, the Idaho Supreme Court ordered the state Legislature to change the state’s school funding system after ruling it unconstitutional. However, the court refused to say whether lawmakers had done so adequately, explaining it was the responsibility of the Legislature.

“The Senate of the state of Idaho cannot waive constitutional requirements, any more than the governor can, any more than the Idaho courts can, any more than anyone in the state can,” said state Sen. Grant Burgoyne, a Democrat from Boise who works as an attorney. “Constitutional requirements govern.”

Currently, roughly 250 machines are installed in three locations across the state.


Information from: The Spokesman-Review, https://www.spokesman.com

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