BOISE, Idaho -- A measure to stop what was called "an explosion of tribal
gaming" has been defeated before reaching the floor of the Idaho state
Ten Republicans and three Democrats in the House State Affairs Committee
voted down House Concurrent Resolution 35 after hearing testimony on the
proposed resolution that asked the state attorney general to determine the
constitutionality of Idaho's gaming statutes.
The measure was defeated by a 13 -- 4 vote after representatives from four
tribes testified that Indian gaming brings economic development to
reservations and independence to tribal families, and that casino
operations pump millions into local, regional and state coffers for
education and other public services.
"The Coeur d'Alene Tribe strongly opposed House Concurrent Resolution
Number 35," Tribal Chairman Chief Allan wrote in a news release. "Fellow
Idahoans supported Tribal economic self-sufficiency through gaming when
they passed Proposition 1 with an overwhelming approval rating. We believe
a vote against this legislation was right in that it averts a situation
where taxpayer dollars are used to litigate against the will of the
Former Idaho Sen. Laird Noh and other gaming opponents contend laws enacted
pursuant to the 2002 citizen's initiative that allows video gaming machines
at casinos are at odds with a slot machine ban in the Idaho Constitution.
A citizen's group that previously attempted to test that assertion in court
ran out of money, according to testimony by retired state Supreme Court
Chief Justice Robert Bakes, who spoke in support of the measure. The
constitutionality of the initiative and the legality of video gaming
devices remain undecided, he said.
The attorney general previously declined to initiate a constitutional test,
said Bill Roden, who spoke on behalf of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. Idaho's
constitution supports the state lottery, which utilizes electronic gaming
machines. Federal law allows tribes to negotiate for any type of gaming
allowed by the state, and the attorney general is bound by oath to uphold
both Idaho's statutes and constitution.
The majority voting against the bill agreed with Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, a
Democrat whose district includes part of the Coeur d'Alene Indian
Reservation. She remarked on dramatic improvements on the reservation since
the casino was built, citing a new technology center, wellness center and
low-cost senior housing complex.
Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Dist. 3, called the measure disappointing and
destructive. He used the occasion to emphasize the importance of reviewing
legislation critical to tribes in the Idaho Indian Affairs Committee, which
he chairs, rather than "going on the warpath."