Idaho Senate Backs $4 Million Cash Infusion To Legal Defense Fund
Idaho Senate Republicans are defending their decision to divert $4 million into the legislature’s legal defense fund. Two court cases are pending that demand the legislature impose more protections against the spread of COVID 19.
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) said $8.5 million has been spent on legal defense during the last four years; House and Senate Republican leadership controls the fund.
“And yet we don’t really have a say because of the statute or an ability to even look at what the speaker or the pro tem choose to spend this on,” Stennett said.
Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Boise) defended the proposed cash infusion. He says the legislative defense fund is subject to audits, and goes through the legislative budget process.
Legal fees are piling up, Winder admitted, but the legislature is successfully defending itself.
“By having outside counsel, just in the most three recent cases, we have prevailed and I think that’s worth something,” he said.
Two Democratic representatives have sued the legislature because they want to vote remotely. Both have underlying health conditions that puts them more at risk of dying from COVID-19.
Disability rights advocates also are suing; they don’t feel safe in the Capitol building. The legislature has no mask mandate, testing requirements or physical distancing rules.
Republican leaders have limited seating in committee rooms and installed air purifiers. In responses to the lawsuits, they say they continue to work to provide a safe environment at the Idaho Capitol for everyone.
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