|Otter Support for HR 4717|
As the Governor of Idaho I have had to make incredibly tough decisions with regards to budgets in the last two years. Many important projects and structures have fallen under the chopping block as we have to ensure fiscal responsibility to our constituency while attempting to maintain critical services for all. In Idaho we strive to continually improve and streamline our accountability and transparency to our citizenry, while this may be difficult to institute it is critical to involve the people who's money we are spending. In these tough economic times our citizens must be assured that their hard earned dollars are being administered not only responsibly but with the oversight necessary to ensure abuses of taxpayer dollars are not allowed.
The Equal Access to Justice Act was enacted in 1980 to allow small entities, individuals, private property owners, businesses etc. an avenue for redress should the Federal government become Goliath and overuse or abuse it’s powers against a citizen. If said individuals sue the Government and prove that the government did not substantially justify their position then the individuals would be allowed recompense of their attorney’s fees. Small individuals and entities were defined as not having more than a 7 million dollar net worth. Over the years though it appears that the intent of the EAJA has been corrupted and is now being used as a cudgel to enforce a radical political agenda and use tax-payer dollars to fund it. The EAJA funds are now being siphoned by groups who state their mission is to "overload the system" with ESA petitions to list. (Center for Biodiversity March 2010), or promoting an “ambitious litigation stratgegy to end public lands grazing”(WWP homepage WWP website).
In 1995 due to the Paper Reduction Act, another well-intended law, the annual reporting mechanism of EAJA fund allocations was removed. For over 15 years no one in government has been looking at how much, where or to who these funds are going. With over 42 million dollars in payments from Fee-shifting statues, such as EAJA documented, as going to environmental activist groups it is indeed time to get the accounting done and get it done with great haste.
With these concerns in mind I would like to add my support to HR 4717 the Open EAJA Act of 2010 and encourage my peers to do the same. H.R.4717, introduced this past week by Reps. Lummis R- Wy and Herseth-Sandlin of South Dakota, is simply a good government piece of Legislation. It will ensure that the taxpayers of American indeed get a true accounting of where their dollars are going. It will ensure that we find out where these dollars have gone in the last 15 years, since accounting for EAJA was discontinued, and we will provide a searchable database for the future to ensure that transparency and accountability is indeed adhered to.