Idaho has already doled out $5,000 to cover the early costs of its share of a lawsuit against the federal government over recent health care laws approved by Congress.
That expense is the result of the Idaho Health Freedom Act, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation to be approved by the Idaho Legislature this year. The legislation gave the state's attorney general the power to sue the federal government if health care reforms requiring individuals purchase private insurance as a requirement of citizenship be given the OK by Congress. Shortly after Gov. Butch Otter signed the law, Congress passed the reforms and Idaho's attorney general, Lawrence Wasden, joined with 13 other states sued the federal government, contending the mandate is unconstitutional.
Idaho has spent $5,000 so far on the legal challenge and one official with Wasden’s office is unsure of how much the suit will cost the state.
Kriss Bivens-Cloyd, temporary spokesperson for Wasden's office told IdahoReporter.com Friday that Idaho paid $5,000 into a cost-sharing agreement with the other states to cover the initial expenses of the legal challenge. She also said that is unsure if all the states were required to pay the same amount to participate in the lawsuit. The money, she said, went to Washington, D.C.-based attorney David Rivkin, who will be arguing the side of the states in their case against the Obama administration. Bivens-Cloyd said that there may be additional expenses as the state continues the lawsuit, but that the attorney general’s office has no way of anticipating those costs.
The Idaho Health Freedom Act, sponsored by Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden, Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, passed the Idaho House on party lines and cleared the Senate on a 24-10 vote. The act allows the state to pay up $100,000 to sue the federal government.
Most Republicans in the Legislature were satisfied with the potential cost of the bill, but Democrats and some Senate Republicans argued against it, saying it was a waste of money during times of fiscal hardship for taxpayers and the state. “It’s not going to cost us $100,000, because [state lawyers] are going to be forced to defend the state of Idaho to the tune of many hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Sen. Charles Coiner, R-Twin Falls, during the final hearing on the bill. Coiner was one of three Senate Republicans who opposed the measure.
Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, said during House debate on the measure she couldn't support it because it would "deplete state resources." Higgins advocated using the money instead to hire teachers.
For Republican supporting the measure, the potential price tag is an acceptable cost. "Our rights are worth more than $100,000 per year," said Clark during a committee hearing on the bill.
“I guess I would ask you as Americans, what is our freedom worth?” asked Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth. “At $100,000, I guess it’s a pretty cheap buy.”