Rep. Doug Ricks, left, and Christopher Tapp. | Courtesy Idaho Innocence Project
BOISE — Despite massive support in both the House and Senate, Gov. Brad Little has vetoed a bill that would have provided compensation to those who have been wrongfully convicted.
The Wrongful Conviction Act, sponsored by Rep. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, was passed with an unanimous vote in the House. In the Senate, only one person voted against it. It also had the support of the Idaho Innocence Project and Christopher Tapp, who was exonerated in 2019 for the 1998 rape and murder of Angie Dodge in Idaho Falls.
Little vetoed the bill Monday evening.
“This bill has an admirable objective but establishes a flawed process to recompense the wrongfully convicted,” Little wrote in his veto letter.
Ricks said he is shocked by the veto.
“I’m struggling with the decision because it seems he didn’t understand the bill,” Ricks said.
Gov. Brad Little. | File photo
The bill would have compensated a wrongfully convicted individual with $60,000 for every year spent in prison and $75,000 per year on death row. The exoneree would have been given that money in yearly $85,000 installments, though a judge could have decided to give it all in one lump sum.
RELATED | New bill would offer relief to the wrongfully convicted
“This bill immediately forces the state into an adversarial legal proceeding in court with the claimant,” Little said in his letter.
He said he believed a board or commission such as the Commission of Pardons and Parole or the Board of Examiners should decide to grant or deny an exoneree compensation.
Little also expressed displeasure with the provisions in the bill that granted exonerees up to eight years of state-funded medical insurance and up to 120 credit hours at state colleges and universities.
“Neither the governor nor his staff expressed these concerns to me in the months we worked on this bill,” Ricks said.
He said he feels blindsided by the Little’s decision.
“I admire the intent of this bill, and my office will work with the sponsors to hopefully rectify these issues to produce a bill that creates an acceptable process for quickly compensating the wrongfully convicted,” Little said.
Ricks said the support the bill received in the Legislature makes it clear how he and the other lawmakers feel about the bill.
“If the governor is sincere in working together next year, I look forward to working with him,” Ricks said.
RELATED | Good Question: How many innocent people go to prison?