Gov. Butch Otter had his veto gun locked and loaded.
The post-blast carnage left more than a few reams of paper blown to smithereens.
Among the good legislation our governor banished to bill hell was a civil asset forfeiture measure that had received strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, as well as a powerful endorsement from the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. How often do Idaho Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly agree on a bill targeting the constitutionality of certain activities and earn an ACLU hug along the way? So rarely, apparently, that Gov. Otter panicked and blew this one up.
While we think he made one of the worst decisions of his gubernatorial tenure, that’s not really the point of this editorial. The point is, what can Idahoans do to prevent a governor, any governor, from shooting down popular legislation — grocery tax repeal, anyone? — that receives staunch support from their citizen legislators?
Last Friday and Saturday in The Press, a proposal by Sen. Steve Vick was outlined. But another Steve — Press reporter and columnist Steve Cameron — might have come up with something even better.
Vick wants to amend the Idaho Constitution to give lawmakers a way to reassemble and override a governor’s veto or vetoes. Now, only the governor can call the Legislature back into special sessions, which is a pretty neat trick if you want to kill legislation after the session is already over.
Cameron’s suggestion, which came from his column one week ago:
Perhaps a law could be passed stating no governor can veto a bill that has passed with a two-thirds majority or better in both chambers — unless the Legislature is in session.
Such a statute would eliminate, say, a veto of the asset forfeiture bill that passed unanimously — which was ridiculous on the face of it.
“I really like that idea,” (State Sen. Mary) Souza said. “The best part is that it would be automatic. No governor could take political revenge for an override, and taxpayers would be saved the money of calling the Legislature back into session.”
We now have eight months to give this some thought and fashion a rational bill for consideration during the 2018 session.
Here’s hoping Kootenai County legislators will lead the way.