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Idaho Governor Flips Off Libertarians With Both Hands, Vetoes Asset Forfeiture AND Licensing Reforms

Is he trying to make libertarians angry, or is he just a puppet of special interests?

Nathanael Jones/Sam Sharma, PacificCoastNews/NewscomNathanael Jones/Sam Sharma, PacificCoastNews/NewscomIdaho Gov. Butch Otter gave the double bird salute on Thursday, vetoing a pair of bills that would have reformed civil asset forfeiture laws in his state and made it easier for Idahoans to practice cosmetology without a state-issued license.

You get the feeling he's just trying to make libertarians angry.

Both bills reached his desk after sailing through the state legislature with bipartisan support. The asset forfeiture bill would have required law enforcement to convict a suspect before seizing property and cash (it's a reform that has been adopted in several other states), while the licensing bill would have freed makeup artists and cosmetology students from having to obtain expensive, unnecessary state licenses before practicing their chosen trade (a small blow to state licensing regimes similar to reforms passed in several other states).

Otter blocked both, deferring to the special interests that opposed the bills.

In a veto message, Otter said he blocked the asset forfeiture reforms because "it is my view that it is right and proper for drug dealers to have a healthy fear of losing their personal assets if they are caught breaking the law." Overwhelming support in the state legislature is canceled out, Otter wrote, by "compelling opposition from law enforcement."

If the cops don't like it, he's not gonna sign it.

And the cops don't like limitations on asset forfeiture laws, which allow police to seize property suspected of being used in a crime and require the original owner to prove otherwise. It's a fundamental violation of the basic premise underpinning the American criminal justice system, and there's no shortage of examples of how police departments and prosecutors have abused asset forfeiture laws.

Don't bring those facts to Otter's office, though. In fact, don't even ask Idaho's police departments to tally-up how often they use asset forfeiture laws to rob innocent people of their property—something that the bill would have required departments to do on an annual basis.

Reasonable request, right? Nope. Otter called that reporting requirement "a misplaced effort to hold those responsible for protecting us from crime more accountable."

Who needs accountability from the police? Certainly not Otter, who seems willing to believe anything the law enforcement special interests' lobbyists tell him.

Last year, Reason uncovered the close relationship between law enforcement lobbyists and Otter's inner circle, a relationship that seemingly convinced Otter to veto another libertarian-friendly bill in 2015. That bill would have allowed Idahoans suffering from intractable seizures from using a form of cannabis to treat the condition. To date, Otter is the only governor in the country to veto a bill like that.

In doing so, he used the same reasoning that he employed on Thursday to block the civil asset forfeiture reforms, cowing to the wishes of law enforcement special interests.

(Update: Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, emails to point out the cognitive dissonance in Otter's decision to veto the bill: "Law enforcement cannot have it both ways. Police and prosecutors cannot oppose reforms by claiming there is no evidence of a problem while, at the same time, block bills that would require agencies to report what they seized, how much they gained from forfeiting property and if they even filed any criminal charges.")

When he's not putting the interest of Idaho police ahead of the interests of Idaho residents, Otter is bending to the wishes of other special interests. In vetoing the licensing reform bill—a bill that would have done little more than reduce the number of hours of training before someone could be licensed to cut hair or apply makeup from 800 to 600—Otter said objections voiced by the state Board of Cosmetology and the State Board of Barber Examiners should overrule the majority of the state legislature.

Republican governors in Arizona, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin have supported licensing reforms that went much further than the limited changes passed by the Idaho legislature. There's a growing bipartisan consensus that licensing laws for many professions do little to protect public health and safety, while driving up the cost of services, limiting competition, and making it harder for people to pursue work.

Like his opposition to asset forfeiture reform and his opposition to loosening Idaho's ban on marijuana, Otter's veto of this licensing bill puts him well outside the mainstream of both major political parties.

"For years, Butch Otter has given great speeches about the need for a free economy and limited, constitutionally-based government," said Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a free market think tank, in a statement about the two vetoes. "Yet once again, Gov. Otter has rejected sensible, conservative, bipartisan liberty-based legislation that would have put Idaho entrepreneurs back to work and would have protected constitutional rights of Idahoans."

Believe it or not, Otter used to claim an interest in libertarian policies. Reason profiled him in 1978 when he was an upstart gubernatorial candidate and again in 2006 when he returned from a stint in Congress to seek (and win) his first of three terms as governor. In the decade since, it would appear that he's lost any libertarian leanings he ever had—or maybe he's just given up pretending.

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    Christ, what an asshole.

  • Free Society||

    No, that's Turk from Scrubs.

  • wingnutx||

    Turk Turkleton

  • ace_m82||

    Woodchipper

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Is he trying to make libertarians angry, or is he just a puppet of special interests?

    The latter lines pockets while the former isn't on anyone's radar.

  • Libertarian||

    And the myth of rugged Western individualism takes another hit.

  • Juice||

    The majority voted for it and one guy vetoed it. If that's not individualism, I don't know what is.

  • American Memer||

    That gaze looks suspicious. Have you been using this website to sell drugs? I'm gonna have to seize your account until we sort this out.

  • Curt||

    Otter said he blocked the asset forfeiture reforms because "it is my view that it is right and proper for drug dealers to have a health fear of losing their personal assets if they are caught breaking the law."

    Very well then. Prove they broke the law. If you can't prove that, then don't take their fucking stuff.

  • Spartacus||

    and by "breaking the law", he means "DWB or driving around with too much cash, or doing anything we don't like, really."

  • Lord_at_War||

    Do they have blacks in Idaho- except ones who say "I da ho"?

    /sarc

  • Bra Ket||

    Ok so he only "flipped off" Libertarians in a figurative sense. I knew there was something fishy since the picture appeared to be a black guy. As gov of Idaho? Not likely. So I googled and it turns out the governor is indeed an old white guy.

    Too bad. If he really walked out the door of city hall and flipped off the crowd like that I would have forgiven him for any stupid political decisions.

  • buybuydandavis||

    They don't allow atheists in Idaho

  • wingnutx||

    Don't blame me, I voted for Femme Otter.

  • LarryWilson||

    Thank you Your Majesty for protecting me from the danger of an unlicensed hair cutter....who ironically in your state will be required to attend over twice as much training than anyone who wishes to work in law enforcement in your puddle.

  • LarryWilson||

    Thank you Your Majesty for protecting me from the dangers of an unlicensed hair cutter...who will ironically be required to attend more than twice as much training for certification than is required to become state certified as one of King's Dogs...I mean police officers.

  • oldtimer||

    Once upon a time, there was some libertarian hope for him. There were three R votes against original passage of the Patriot Act, and as I recall, one of them was Otter.

  • ||

    Hmmm.... Given Idaho's fame for growing potatoes wouldn't a better name for Butch Otter be Dick Tater?

  • Al Ex||

    So, I just read the summary of proceedings - it passed the Idaho House 58-10 (2 absent) and it passed in the Idaho Senate 63-0 (7 absent). Those votes are greater than 2/3 majorities, so I suspect that the asset forfeiture reforms will become law once the House and Senate vote on overriding the veto.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    "Law enforcement cannot have it both ways. Police and prosecutors cannot oppose reforms by claiming there is no evidence of a problem while, at the same time, block bills that would require agencies to report what they seized, how much they gained from forfeiting property and if they even filed any criminal charges."

    Certainly they shouldn't, but they obviously CAN have it both ways in Idaho.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Face so punchable

  • trig||

    Yup he's the worst, we're nearly surrounded by legal weed.

  • Diane Merriam||

    Statist authoritarians -- America's preferred rulers.

  • 2whlrider||

    Otter is expected to veto the grocery tax bill, repealing Idaho's sales tax on groceries, that passed the house and senate by wide margins. So it's actually 3 birds he's flipping to Idahoans, if that's possible.

  • Johnimo||

    Well, I can hardly wait to see the picture of him with his third middle finger. Will it be the same black guy pictured above? Should be an "interesting" photo.

  • Galane||

    Idaho's 6% sales tax is why the Wal Mart in Ontario, Oregon is one of the busiest in the country.

  • Galane||

    How do you find a Democrat politician in Idaho? Scratch the thin coat of elephant hide off a "Republican".

  • wrytersview||

    Gad, I'm so sick of hearing Otter's bullshit over the last ten or so years. I hope the fact that he's going to kill the grocery tax repeal bill will finally piss off enough people that we can be free of him come next election.

  • Bgoptmst||

    "You get the feeling he's just trying to make libertarians angry."

    Maybe we need to make a red line?

  • Hank Phillips||

    The guy is your mystical ku-klux konservative, eager to ban abortion, birth-control pills, condoms and whatnot. Where's the surprise?

  • BarryC||

    Well, people follow those who pay them. Another wonderful example of term limits, the only way to minimize the control lobbyists have over our political system.

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