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Lawmakers rework AG's budget and create their own legal office

Office of Rep. Raul Labrador
Office of Rep. Raul Labrador

State lawmakers want to hire their own lawyers who would be responsible for giving them timely legal opinions on pending legislation.

Multiple lawmakers in recent weeks have complained about Attorney General Raul Labrador’s policy of only giving oral legal opinions – not written ones – so they can’t be “weaponized” against the state in a potential lawsuit. Labrador's supporters called those complaints a "false narrative" and that they haven't had trouble getting legal advice from his office.

Several Republicans unsuccessfully tried last week to impose new time limits on receiving those opinions.

But Rep. Colin Nash (D-Boise) proposed a different solution as the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee reworked Labrador’s budget.

“It transfers two positions out of the attorney general’s office into legislative services so that we could get our own internal legal opinions,” Nash said Monday morning.

In a statement, Labrador said he’s “pleased” with the move. “I have long advocated for the legislature to have their own legal staff.”

Nash’s proposal also cuts potential raises for the AG’s staff from 11% to 7.5%.

House lawmakers last week raised concerns about the pay increases while debating the original version of the budget, questioning why they were significantly higher than those of most state employees.

Despite these raises being less than he had requested, Labrador said, “It’s one step closer in ensuring that our staff salaries are competitive with other public sector employers in the area.”

Nash’s proposal barely passed on the first vote taken, with several lawmakers who originally opposed it swapping their votes to yeses.

If approved, the AG’s budget for fiscal year 2024 would total $33.1 million – an 8.2% increase from the current year’s spending plan.

The spending plan still needs sign off from both chambers and the governor.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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