Thursday vetoes: Invasive species position, cosmetology, asset forfeiture

On Thursday, Gov. Butch Otter vetoed four bills, all of which had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

Read the veto letters here.

According to veto letters provided to Idaho Reports, Otter vetoed a bill to establish an administrator for invasive species policy, as well as a bill to provide funding for that position; civil asset forfeiture reform; and a bill on cosmetology licensing.

House Speaker Scott Bedke confirmed the four vetoes in a phone interview with Idaho Reports.

In his veto letter, Otter called civil asset forfeiture “a classic case of a solution in search of a problem.”

“There have been no allegations that Idaho law enforcement officers or agencies are illegally or inappropriately seizing property from alleged drug traffickers,” Otter wrote. “Its sponsors contend that the measure is aimed at preventing improper forfeiture of assets in the future, but there is no evidence to suggest that such a problem is imminent.”

Critics of civil asset forfeiture disagree. A June 2016 story by Times-News reporter Alex Riggins  cites an example of a couple who lost more than $9,000 in cash through civil asset forfeiture after police found two small bags of marijuana in their home. Neither person was charged with a crime, and there was no evidence that either person was involved in large-scale drug trafficking.

Bedke, who voted against the bill on the House floor, said he was OK with the veto after hearing from Idaho State Police.

“When these guys dedicate their careers to law enforcement, and they have concerns, I take them seriously,” Bedke said.

Bedke said he’s optimistic the veto of the invasive species policy administrator won’t hurt efforts to keep quagga mussels and other invasive species out of Idaho waterways, pointing to bills that provided more funding for check stations and extended the station hours. 

In his veto letter, Otter said he’s also concerned about protecting Idaho waters from invasive species, but said the new administrative position “does little to improve our defenses and preparedness for the potentially devastating impact of a mussel infestation.”

With the veto, Otter issued an executive order to formally continue the work of Idaho’s Invasive Species Counsel, which is overseen by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

Sen. Mark Harris, who co-sponsored the invasive species bill with Rep. Terry Gestrin, said he was disappointed. “We worked hard on that bill,” he said, adding he’d received news of the vetoes via phone call on Thursday.

Jesse Taylor, pro bono lobbyist for Bear Lake Watch, had also heard about the vetoes.

I’m very disappointed that the governor has decided to allow politics to direct policy for Idaho’s most important natural resource, which is our water,” Taylor said. 

Both civil asset forfeiture reform and the cosmetology bill had strong support from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, and passed both chambers of the Legislature with both Republican and Democratic votes.

We’ll update this post with more information as we get it, and we’ll have more on the April 7 episode of Idaho Reports.

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