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This idea Gov. Otter can like and still veto

Marty Trillhaase
March 31, 2013
Lewiston Tribune

A governor vetoes a bill for different reasons.

Usually it's because he disagrees with the bill's intent.

But not always.

Sometimes he may support the concept while concluding the measure is sure to be found unconstitutional after costing state taxpayers a sizeable sum of money to defend it in court.

Occasionally, a governor may plant the veto stamp on bills he otherwise supports - or knows will eventually pass - simply to gain political leverage. For Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, the tactic worked. For Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter, it didn't.

Or a governor may confront a constitutional obligation to act as a check and balance on a Legislature that has failed to act responsibly.

Which brings us to the Legislature's decision to open northern Idaho's highway and bridge network to 129,000-pound trucks - 12 tons heavier than now allowed.

That bill is headed to Otter's desk.

There are too many unknowns. Lawmakers didn't ask enough questions. They didn't ask the right people. They focused on the wrong agenda.

The debate pitted local officials against the region's big industries - Clearwater Paper and Idaho Forest Products Group - and it focused largely on whether these heavier trucks would damage the region's transportation system.

Where were the Idaho State Police commercial vehicle safety inspectors? These are the people who investigate truck accidents and make random truck safety inspections.

Otter should ask this group:

What are the patterns of truck accidents along northern Idaho's routes? How would the addition of 23,500 pounds and a second, 24-foot pup trailer change things.

How about the history of passenger motorist/commercial truck interactions along the two-lane highways stitching northern Idaho together? How many accidents are pegged to impatient motorists passing slow-moving truck traffic? How much slower would a 129,000-pound truck with two trailers travel up a hill?

What happens to a heavier truck when it's traveling down an ice-covered hill? What are the odds of that rig jackknifing?

What's the risk of an empty 53-foot-trailer connected to a 24-foot pup trailer by a 5-foot tongue getting blown over by wind sheer?

What about two U.S Highway 95 bottlenecks just in north central Idaho alone - Moscow's Reisenauer Hill and the Winchester Grade? The former is bad enough Idaho's transportation department is trying to fix it; the latter is shaded much of the winter, so it's icy. Twisting through narrow canyons, the grade leaves truckers with a limited field of vision and virtually no time to respond to an obstacle ahead. And it's busy.

What's the history of extra-heavy truck traffic already allowed by special permit? Where have problems emerged?

Next, the governor should pick up the phone and ask truckers what they think.

How nervous are they about taking one of these longer, heavier trucks across northern Idaho's highways?

What's the cost-benefit analysis of hauling an extra eight to 12 tons per truck? Does it warrant the additional risk to the truck driver and the motoring public?

What are some of the key differences between driving a truck along southern Idaho's flatter routes and the highways scattered along northern Idaho's terrain?

Before opening southern Idaho to heavier truck traffic, legislators authorized a pilot study. What was learned? What would such a pilot study for the north tell us that we don't know?

Truck weight limits didn't come out of thin air. The marketplace and transportation experts established them. What do they know that Idaho does not?

Why the rush to judgment? Why make northern Idaho truckers and passenger car drivers the state's guinea pigs?

When lawmakers fail to do their due diligence, you have to depend on a governor to do his.

Veto this bill, Gov. Otter. Get the answers first. Start the process anew.

Originally posted at

The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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