Senate OKs modified megaload suit bill

Measure goes back to House

By William L. Spence of the Tribune
April 5, 2011

BOISE – A modified version of the megaload lawsuit bill made it through the Senate on a 27-8 vote Monday.

It now heads back to the House, where lawmakers must accept the amendments or kill the measure.

The bill initially called for a mandatory 5 percent bond if someone tried to block an oversized load permit by suing the Idaho Transportation Department. If they lost the lawsuit, the court was required to award damages for any delays caused to the shipper.

The Senate changed the bill to give the court discretion about requiring the bond and about awarding damages. It also capped the size of the bond at 10 percent of the insured value of the load.

Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, said bumping the potential cost of the bond from 5 percent to a maximum of 10 percent actually benefits the public.

“By taking it from a 5 percent floor to a 10 percent cap, we made it easier for the average person to be involved,” he said. “The problem we’ve had is that people’s jobs were being held up by (the ConocoPhillips megaload) lawsuit. Frankly, I don’t think that’s acceptable. Passing this bill sends a message that Idaho isn’t going to let itself be held hostage by activist groups. It sends the message that Idaho is open for business.”

Former Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, started his testimony by reading President Thomas Jefferson’s instructions to Lewis and Clark, saying the purpose of their mission was to find a direct and practicable route for commerce.

“I think it’s ironic in the case of U.S. 12 that some people are objecting (to the megaloads) because this is a historic and scenic route, yet the original purpose was for commerce,” he said.

Sen. Les Bock, a Boise attorney, said he’s unaware of similar situations where the loser of a lawsuit has to pay damages to a third party not involved in the case.

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood and Sen. Joe Stegner of Lewiston voted in favor of the bill; Sen. Dan Schmidt of Moscow opposed the measure.

Spence may be contacted at
[email protected] or (208) 848-2274.