Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Wednesday asked the Idaho Supreme Court for permission to get involved in a lawsuit challenging how much time a governor has to veto legislation.
According to the petition, Otter's attorneys argue that the Republican governor should be allowed to intervene because it was Otter's veto that sparked the lawsuit and he wants to defend that decision in court. Currently, the lawsuit only names Secretary of State Lawerence Denney as a respondent.
"The potential implications of this decision if a writ is granted could change tax policy in Idaho for the foreseeable future and reshape executive authority in relation to the legislative process," Otter's attorneys wrote. "Otter should be allowed to participate given the magnitude of this case and the impact the decision will have on the chief executive's authority."
In 1978, the state's highest court ruled a governor has 10 days to veto or approve a bill starting when it lands on his desk. However, some of the Statehouse's most conservative members disagree.
Idaho Falls GOP Reps. Ron Nate and Bryan Zollinger, who launched the case earlier this year, argue that the Idaho Constitution explicitly says a governor has 10 days to veto a bill immediately after the Legislature adjourns.
The lawsuit was filed after Otter vetoed legislation that would have repealed the state's 6 percent sales tax on groceries — the bill was a defining accomplishment during the session. While the veto was expected, it still caused a stir through the Legislature and tax reform supporters.
Otter, Denney and Wasden have all countered that the deadline kicks in when the governor receives the bill.
"Petitioners relief will not only supplant the decision of the governor, it will impact Idaho school children, upset nearly 40 years of precedent and ultimately unnecessarily alter the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches in favor of the legislature," Otter's attorneys wrote.
Lawmakers went home for the year on March 29. Otter received the grocery tax repeal bill on March 31. Otter then issued his veto on April 11 — 11 days after adjournment.
Meanwhile, 30 lawmakers have since joined the case in support. The goal is to have the Supreme Court reverse its original 1978 ruling, which would then force Denney to certify the grocery tax repeal bill into law and void Otter's veto.