BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Two bills have died in the Senate, clearing the Idaho house with overwhelming Republican support to severely disappoint the office of Republican Attorney General Lawrence Wasden over insufficient partisans.
The powerful Republican chairman and chairman of the Senate committees in control of the bills said Monday they will not be heard and are dead. They said the legislation could unnecessarily cost Idaho taxpayers millions of dollars if turned into law.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden declined to join 17 other GOP attorneys general in legal action against the presidential election in December, viewed by many as a test of loyalty to former President Donald Trump and supported by almost every senior Republican from Idaho. Wasden cited his respect for states’ rights and said he would not appreciate it if others interfered in the Idaho elections.
Wasden, named Idaho’s Best Attorney in 2003, has ruled some laws unconstitutional by conservative lawmakers. The state has paid over $ 3 million in legal fees since 1995 – some, after ignoring its advice on the bills it warned, were unconstitutional, governed by law, and invalidated by legal challenge.
Wasden also angered Republicans by defending state-owned land and a constitutional mandate to maximize the state’s profits through logging, grazing, and leasing that land to help school children. This can mean higher prices for these sectors in mostly rural Idaho.
The legislation that the House passed would have prevented Wasden from advancing Idaho’s interests in state lands. Another bill would have allowed state agencies to hire private lawyers instead of hiring lawyers from Wasden’s office.
Republican Senator Patti Anne Lodge, chair of the Senate State Affairs Committee, said she had received many emails and calls from reputable lawyers saying the move had increased costs for taxpayers.
“Idaho lawyers believe the bill would cost the state so much more money,” she said.
Wasden has 127 assistant attorneys general, which on average cost the state less than $ 60 an hour. According to some laws, the cost of private attorneys is $ 250 an hour.
Opponents of the two bills said they essentially created a slush fund for political allies and Republican attorneys that cost the state millions of dollars in legal fees and potentially more if it loses in court.
Vick said his committee rejected a similar bill earlier this year that came from the Senate and also involved Wasden’s office, which represents the Idaho Department of Lands, and whose administration of 10,000 square kilometers of state-owned land.
Vick said he decided there was no need to hold another hearing on the matter.
“I think we need to look into how deputy attorneys-general affect politics and drive politics in some agencies,” he said. “My personal opinion is that I don’t know this is the best approach, but I think the problem needs further investigation.”
Scott Graf, Wasden’s spokesman, said the attorney general had no comment.
Lawmakers have not yet approved Wasden’s budget. The House previously rejected its office’s budget but was able to vote on a revised version this week.