Tribe Challenges Idaho Governor’s Veto of Instant Horse Racing Machines in State Supreme Court

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court over Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s veto of a gaming bill, and the subsequent refusal of Idaho's Sec. of State Lawerence Denney to certify it as law.

Senate Bill 1011 was introduced in the Idaho state Senate earlier this year with the intent to repeal a two-year-old law allowing instant horse racing machines, which are slot-like machines, that had been installed at three Idaho locations. The tribe argued that the machines were glorified slot machines because their only connection to horse racing is a small one-inch-by-two-inch window on the bottom of the screen that briefly shows a horse race. Slot machines are illegal according to Idaho law.

The bill passed both the Idaho House and Senate by a supermajority vote, and was sent to Gov. Otter for his signature/veto. Idaho law requires that if the governor vetoes a bill, he must deliver the bill, with his objections, to the house where it originated within five days. The governor failed to do that within the five day period and instead waited seven days, according to Idaho’s Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, the Associated Press reported (Hill, and Lt. Gov. Brad Little, treated the veto as valid, and called for a vote, but the Senate did not muster the two-thirds majority required for an override).

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe argued that the override had no effect because under the Idaho Constitution, the bill had already become law. A few weeks later, the tribe asked Denney to certify the bill as law, but he refused, the tribe said. The tribe has petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court to exercise its jurisdiction and order Denney to certify the law.

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In their brief to the court, Deborah Ferguson, the tribe’s lawyer, argued that “the Constitution was not created for the benefit of the governor or the legislature. Instead, it was created by our founders to protect the citizens of Idaho and their right to have duly enacted laws enforced.”

Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman, Chief Allan told ICTMN, “The record clearly shows that the governor did not follow the constitutional requirements for a legal and valid veto. It’s a shame the secretary of state has chosen to waste taxpayer dollars by refusing to do his job. Unfortunately, we have no choice but to pursue this matter in court.”