House Passes Bill to Hinder Mega-Load Lawsuits

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The Idaho House passed a bill this morning that would make it more difficult for an individual to challenge mega-loads on state highways.

House Bill 193 would require anyone suing over transportation proposals, much like the controversial mega-loads, to post a bond equal to 5 percent of the insured value of the load. That could easily top thousands of dollars, which would be forfeited if the plaintiff loses the lawsuit.

"This has been brought because of the mega-loads," Republican Rep. Dick Harwood, the bill's sponsor, told the House State Affairs Committee. "Any time an individual group can stop our commerce from flowing, it's not a good thing, and that's what happened."

The first two mega-loads have already crawled across U.S. Highway 12 in north central Idaho. Two more ConocoPhillips shipments are expected to roll from the Port of Lewiston sometime in April. Exxon/Mobil has proposed to move more than 200 loads across the same route. The first shipments were delayed by months of legal arguments against the massive loads, with residents living along U.S. 12 saying the loads would do harm to the scenic byway. Conoco claimed it lost $4 million due to the delays.

Today's House vote was 53-16 in favor of the measure, with Republicans Lynn Luker, Leon Smith and Tom Trail joining 13 Democrats in opposition.

"This puts in place a sort-of David and Goliath situation," said Democratic Rep. Wendy Jaquet. "How are these individuals going to come up with the amount of money that is going to be necessary, which could be considerable amounts of money?"

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