It should come as no surprise that the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Butch Otter’s veto of the Legislature’s instant racing repeal was invalid.
It is too bad that what was so obvious to many last spring had to be jettisoned to the courts to confirm.
Attempting to rationalize this misstep is but another in a series of instances recently in which our state has elected to defend the indefensible before reasonable scrutiny in the courts points out the folly. The ruling earlier this summer that Idaho’s unfortunate Ag-gag law was “unconstitutional” immediately comes to mind. This leads us to wonder whether there might be a template for news releases that begins, “We are disappointed in the court’s ruling ...”
Days before Otter’s veto, the Legislature had passed SB 1011 by large majorities in both chambers, effectively unplugging the slot-like gambling machines called historical horse racing by some.
Otter, a supporter of Idaho horsemen who made it clear that Les Bois Park might not survive without the revenue generated by the machines, vetoed the bill in early April — too late to process, as the high court ruled.
Furthermore, the court contended that the bill to end the use of the instant racing machines should have been certified by Secretary of State Lawerence Denney.
Indecisive lawmakers, a governor and a secretary of state all played roles in allowing the controversial machines to operate against the will of a Legislature that clearly voted to abolish them, just a couple of years after clearly voting to allow them. This resulted in a lawsuit that will come with a price tag yet to be determined. We will pay.
We could dwell on the technicalities surrounding the botched veto, but there are larger issues. Why, for instance, do any of our elected officials desire to go to such extremes as allowing these machines at a racetrack in an effort to prop up the struggling horse racing industry?
Though part of the mission of the Legislature is to facilitate economic growth in the state, doing so at the expense of those who might struggle with gambling addictions is far off the mark.
The political codependency exhibited in this instance will end in this case now. We empathize with employees at Les Bois Park and the horse racing industry at large because this ruling has put their jobs in peril, but we have to say that businesses must find a way to survive in a marketplace that is not propped up by expanded gambling.
It is time to stop pretending and making accommodation for laws that can’t pass constitutional muster and industries that can’t survive on the basis of their product in the marketplace. Going forward, we can no longer afford to subsidize either.
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