Clash of the Idaho Titans
The Legislature – The Governor – The Supreme Court Face Off
By: Kathy Rose
On June 15, 2017, the Idaho Supreme Court will hear arguments to decide whether to uphold the State Constitution or ignore it.
Idaho implemented a 3% sales tax in 1965 and never granted an exemption for groceries. Most states including Massachusetts, New York, and even California have a grocery exemption. Many people who move to Idaho, a “red state” are surprised to find an additional 6% tacked on to their grocery purchases. Some, cross the border to Washington, Oregon or Montana to avoid the tax.
In an attempt to provide tax relief, the State Legislature finally passed HB67aa, aka the Grocery Tax Repeal Bill, on March 27, 2017. You can read the bill here:
Two days later, the legislature adjourned for the year, and HB67aa was sent on to the Governor’s desk. According to the Idaho State Constitution, Article IV Section 10 the Governor has 10 days from the adjournment (excepting Sundays) to file any objections in the office of the Secretary of State. Taken literally, on April 10, 2017 HB67aa should have become law, as the Governor’s veto was filed on April 11th; one day too late.
The Idaho Supreme Court addressed this same issue in the 1978 case of Cenarrusa v. Andrus. A late veto by then-Governor Andrus was challenged by the Secretary of State. The Court ruled 3-2, that the 10 day timeframe starts when the Governor receives the bill. Again In 2015, a veto came a day too late and was denied concerning pari-mutuel horseracing; the court upheld the petition in this case and the bill became law.
Secretary of State Lawrence Denney stated: “I suspect that this will go to the Court again and they will have another look at it because it was a 3-2 decision. They (meaning us petitioners) could very well be successful in the Supreme Court.”
A Petition has been filed with the Idaho Supreme Court to compel the Secretary of State to certify HB67aa as law on April 18, 2017. Twenty-Four House Representatives and six State Senators have signed on as petitioners, including both Representatives Sage Dixon and Heather Scott from District 1.
May 3, 2017, the Governor filed a Petition for Intervention, to allow him to participate in this process. The hearing is scheduled for June 15, 2017 at 11:10am. The final decision may take weeks or months.