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HB 101: Undermining the Attorney General – 2021

Summary: HB 101 would strip the Attorney General of his role as chief legal advisor to the state.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Senate Committee (but likely Dead)

Issue Areas: Attorney General

Official Legislative Site

Reps. John Vander Woude (R- Nampa) and Bruce D. Skaug (R- Nampa) introduced House Bill 101 that seeks to strip the Idaho Attorney General (AG) of his role as chief legal advisor to the state. In particular, HB 101 would allow all state departments and agencies to contract for legal services outside of the AG’s office.

The bill is also related to two other measures (HB 118 and SB 1090) that seek to strip the AG of his role as legal counsel to the Land Board. In a legal opinion, the AG found that “a court would likely determine that the bills violate the Idaho Constitution.”

Deputy Attorney Generals currently serve as counsel to most state agencies, and the AG reviews qualifications and brings in outside counsel if needed. The hourly rate for these deputies is $58/hour. It’s an efficient system to provide legal advice and, while ICL does not always agree with the State of Idaho’s legal interpretations, many attorneys have served their agencies well for decades.

In contrast, the Idaho Legislature regularly contracts with private lawyers, oftentimes in cases related to natural resources. In the past year, the Legislature has spent over $1.1 million on legal fees to just one lawyer, who charges $470/hour, a far cry from the $250/hour that Reps. Skaug and Vander Woude estimate. From 2013 to 2014, Idaho taxpayers spent over $90,000 for legal services (to that same lawyer) to “advise” the Legislature on their ill-fated Federal Lands Interim Committee.