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Playing Against the House: Idaho Lawmakers Nix Anti-Tribal Gaming Bill

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PATRICK SWEENEY
  • Patrick Sweeney
Following three days of testimony and debate, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee decided in a razor-thin vote to hold House Bill 127 in committee, in effect killing the measure that many saw as anti-tribal gaming.

Native American tribal members, faith leaders and a seemingly endless stream of attorneys stood before the committee Tuesday and Wednesday arguing for and against the measure, which would have upended a voter-approved 2002 initiative permitting tribal casinos. For his part, bill sponsor and Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Loertscher (R-Iona) insisted his measure was "not about banning tribal gaming."

"The only thing this bill does is reconcile Idaho Code with the Idaho Constitution," Loertscher said, referring to the constitution's ban on slot machines.

Opponents pushed back, saying the bill would override long-standing compacts between Idaho and Native American tribes.

"I think this does threaten the tribes," said Rep. Dustin Manwaring (R-Pocatello), who urged his colleagues to hold the bill rather than forward it to the full House for consideration.

Rep. Paulette Jordan (D-Plummer) declared a so-called "Rule 38," reminding the committee that she was a beneficiary of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, and added that the panel had "heard some good words, but also heard some words aimed maliciously at the tribes."

That triggered Loertscher's ire, as he interrupted Jordan with a "point of order."

"I think Representative Jordan is questioning the motives of this bill," he said.

Jordan countered that she wasn't questioning the motives, rather, she was reflecting on the three-day marathon of opinion on the controversial topic.

The committee sided with Manwaring and Jordan, voting 8-7 to hold the bill in committee, in effect ending the debate. At least for 2017.

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