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House Bill 271 — Office of the Attorney General Appropriation

House Bill 271 — Office of the Attorney General Appropriation

Fred Birnbaum
March 4, 2021

The Idaho Spending Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add some important context to lawmakers’ discussions as the spending bills are considered on the House and Senate floors. As we look at the budget, we consider the following issues:

Does the agency requesting these funds serve a proper role of government? Has wasteful or duplicative spending been identified within the agency, and if so, has that spending been eliminated or corrected? Have budget-writers reviewed existing outlays to look for opportunities to contain spending, e.g., through a base reduction? If there is a maintenance budget, is that maintenance budget appropriate? Are the line items appropriate in type and size, and are they absolutely necessary for serving the public? Does the budget contemplate adding new employees or programs? Does the appropriation increase dependency on the federal government?

Our analysis is intended to provide lawmakers and their constituents with a frame of reference for conservative budgeting, by summarizing whether appropriation measures contain items that are truly  objectionable or legitimate and worthy of support.

Bill Description: FY22 Appropriation for the Office of the Attorney General

Rating: -1

As a constitutional office, the AG’s Office should be funded by the Legislature. However, this particular appropriation is in conflict with the expressed desire of one body of the Legislature. The fiscal note of House Bill 101 reads as follows: “This bill will provide flexibility for state agencies to employ attorneys other than the Attorney General’s Office. Currently, only certain state agencies may choose their own attorneys to represent the State of Idaho on their behalf before courts, administrative tribunals and federal agencies. This bill will extend the right to choose legal counsel to all state offices, boards, commissions and entities. These entities may still choose to obtain legal services from the Attorney General.” 

HB101 passed the House with a supermajority vote, 54-15-1.

While it is not clear that HB101 will ultimately become law, the idea that all state agencies may be able to use legal services from attorneys other than the Attorney General’s Office does beg the question as to whether three discretionary line items for the AG’s Office are ill-timed: $483,000 for litigation funds, $94,000 for a paralegal position, and $150,000 for litigation costs. 

Whether or not HB101 becomes law, these discretionary costs in HB217 should be put on hold, and the agency should stick with its $27 million maintenance budget request.

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