Despite mounting legal bills, Republicans in the State Legislature voted Thursday, January 19, 2012, to ignore attorney and court costs that may be associated with controversial bills.
Democratic House members proposed that Litigation Exposure Assessments be prepared by the Legislative Research Council and the Attorney General for bills that seem likely to be tested for constitutionality.
The governor’s 2013 budget contains $1.2 million for litigation expenses with numerous cases still ongoing. The challenges to state laws involve issues related to smoking, abortion, school busing, school funding, zoning and redistricting.
Rep. Peggy Gibson of Huron proposed the fiscal rule, arguing that it would give lawmakers and the public better information as they weigh the pros and cons of bills. “This legislature has enacted a number of pieces of legislation that have exposed the state’s taxpayers to millions of dollars of litigation expenses,” she said “Many legislators have earnestly tried to procure reasonably accurate estimates about potential litigation.”
Gibson said any business or private citizen would ask about legal costs before picking a legal fight. “This rule is simply about open government, having good information so we can make good decsions.”
Democrats all voted in favor of the rule, but most Republicans voted against having the information.
“This vote is just one more example of one-party government operating with blinders and wasting the taxpayers’ dollars,” declared Ben Nesselhuf, the Democrats’ state party chairman. “Democrats are fighting for making smart decisions based on the best information available. Republicans in Pierre just don’t want to know the costs of some of their ridiculous and unconstitutional bills.”