Idaho leaders OK paying legal fees in ballot initiative case

Gov. Brad Little
Gov. Brad Little

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Gov. Brad Little, the attorney general and top leaders in the House and on Monday approved paying $152,000 in legal fees to the winning side after Idaho lost a court challenge to a new law making it harder for voters to get initiatives on the ballot.

The four Republicans who comprise the Constitutional Defense Council voted 4-0 to pay the court-ordered legal fees to attorneys for Reclaim Idaho and the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution.

Republican lawmakers earlier this year approved the initiative measure with no Democratic support. Little then signed into law the measure requiring signature-gatherers to get 6% of registered voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts in 18 months.

The Idaho Supreme Court in August rejected the law, saying it violated the state’s constitution. It also ordered the state to pay the winning side’s attorney fees.

That ruling caused the ballot initiative process to revert to requiring signatures from 6% of registered voters in each of 18 legislative districts in 18 months.

The Constitutional Defense Fund, created in 1995 to defend Idaho’s sovereignty, has paid out more than $3 million in lost court battles over the years and has a balance of just under $1.3 million.