If you are an Idaho taxpayer, the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature is putting your money where its mouth is.

The Legislature is so intent upon depriving Idahoans of the ability to put voter initiatives on the ballot that it has paid a private law firm to defend a new law that would make initiatives effectively impossible.

The Idaho Supreme Court heard a challenge to the law on June 29.

The Idaho Attorney General’s office took the lead that day, but the Boise law firm of Holland and Hart also intervened on behalf of the Legislature.

The private law firm subsequently issued bills totaling more than $110,000 to the Legislature for its defense.

It wasn’t enough for the Legislature that the Attorney General employs an office full of lawyers that work on the state’s behalf. The Republican majority wanted the Legislature to have its “own” attorneys. So, it created the Legislative Legal Defense fund, split between the House and Senate, and put $4 million of taxpayer money in it.

According to reporting by the Associated Press, the state pays 127 deputy attorneys general at an average rate of less than $60 an hour. This compares to attorneys in private practice that cost an estimated $250 an hour or more.

The idea that the Legislature is using taxpayers’ money to deprive Idahoans of their constitutional right to “propose laws, and enact the same at the polls independent of the legislature” is more than galling. It is ethically corrupt.

Citizens shouldn’t be forced to pay for their own hanging let alone the undoing of the very state constitution that was designed to protect the power of the people.

“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to editorialboard@mtexpress.com.

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