Today's edition of the Post Register offers an editorial by Marty Trillhaase calling Governor Otter's action a "curious veto." Trillhaase gives an explanation for Otter's motivation--Otter's overriding libertarianism:
In vetoing $16.8 million worth of substance abuse treatment for people caught up in the criminal justice system, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter ignored unanimous legislative support for that endeavor. He also seemed more inclined to fight the feds than Idaho's drug problems.
Otter's torqued because the feds gave Idaho money to launch these programs. Now the federal cash is gone and limited state tax dollars are needing to sustain it.
But what's the alternative? Left unchecked, Idaho's swelling prison population will require $1 billion worth of new buildings during the next 10 years.
At least drug rehab offers the prospect of change. If you put a dollar into rehab, you avoid $9.57 in prison costs--and victims of crime save another $8.84.
Evidently, the numbers Trillhaase cites are average results and Idaho is far below average and "Idaho's drug rehab programs are only 25% as effective as the national average."
Today, the Idaho Senate voted 30-5 to override Otter's line item veto on the drug treatment funding legislation (SB 1458) passed on March 11, 2008.
Quoted in the Idaho Statesman, Senator Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) stated: "The alternative [to overriding Governor Otter's line item veto] is spending millions on new prisons and shipping inmates out of state."
Who voted against the override? Senators Little, Heinrich, Jorgensen, McGee, and Pearce. Contrary to their votes today, these senators and every one of their colleagues voted back in January for a new facility for drug treatment.
Once again, legislators seem to keep bringing up this idea that there is a "paradigm shift" regarding drug treatment and incarceration in Idaho. Citing the votes of Senators Darrington, McKague, and Fulcher, many, including the New West Boise editor, Jill Kuraitis, seem to be on board with the notion.
So, if there is a so-called shift in approach to drug treament in Idaho--treatment over incarceration--what is holding up House Bill 516? On the surface, we are to believe that chairman of the senate judiciary committee, Senator Denton Darrington (R-Declo) is throwing his weight around and for whatever reasons (pride, stubbornness, or politics) is refusing to hear this legislation. He believes wholeheartedly in the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences and will not under any circumstances hear a piece of legislation that will allow judges to sentence non-violent drug offenders to treatment rather than incarceration.
Now the most puzzling of questions shifts from why Otter would use his line item veto to reduce drug treatment funding when overall sentiment in the state is pro-treatment and less supportive of more funding for prisons, back to why Senator Darrington would oppose House Bill 516 yet support a new treatment facility and overriding the Governor's veto of funding for treatment. Is he with his colleague and neighbor across the river, Senator Dean Cameron, or not? Judging by Senator Cameron's comments today and Senator Darrington's comments in the past, he can't be.