Not Backing Down–Grocery Tax Repeal

On Wednesday Reps. Nate and Zollinger came forward with a plan to challenge Gov. Otter’s veto of the grocery tax repeal bill. There is a strong argument to be made that the grocery tax repeal became law the day BEFORE Otter vetoed the bill.

I’m proud to stand with them, and intend to join as a party in any legal action taken against the executive branch to compel a review of the veto.

In a nutshell, here’s the argument:

The Art. IV Sec. 10 of the Idaho Constitution defines the Governor’s veto powers.  The relevant part of Sec. 10 is quoted verbatim below:

“Any bill which shall not be returned by the governor to the legislature within five days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, shall become a law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the legislature shall, by adjournment, prevent its return, in which case it shall be filed, with his objections, in the office of the secretary of state within ten days after such adjournment (Sundays excepted) or become a law.” (emphasis added)

In other words, this section lays out two time-frames in which a governor may veto a bill.  Without a veto within that time-frame a bill becomes law even without the governor’s signature. Those two parameters are:

  1. A bill must be returned to the legislature within five days of the bill being presented to the governor.
  2. If the legislature has adjourned by the fifth day and the bill can’t be returned to it, then the governor has ten days from the day of adjournment to file his veto with the Secretary of State.

Sundays aren’t counted toward days in either scenario.

That seems pretty clear, so what’s the problem?  In 1978 in the case of Cenarrusa v. Andrus the Idaho Supreme Court interpreted “within ten days after such adjournment” to mean “within ten days after the bill is presented to the governor” in upholding a Cecil Andrus veto.

This is important because the legislature adjourned on March 29th of this year but the Governor’s office didn’t officially receive it until March 31st (another topic for another update).  There’s a two day difference between what the words mean and what the 1978 Idaho Supreme Court said they mean.  If we read the Idaho Constitution as written, the bill became law on Monday April 10, 2017; if we read it the way the Idaho Supreme Court defined it then Otter’s April 11th veto came a day before the April 12th deadline.

We intend to ask the Idaho Supreme Court to review the grocery tax veto and overturn Cenarrusa v. Andrus in favor of the language actually contained in the Constitution.



One thought on “Not Backing Down–Grocery Tax Repeal

  1. The language of the Constitution is clear to anyone who is not an attorney. The legislature’s adjournment starts the clock not delivery to the governor’s hand.


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