The Idaho Legislature is going from bad to worse. With COVID-19 precautions keeping the marbled halls of the Statehouse mostly vacant, legislators are advancing controversial measures like never before. From efforts to limit the authority of the Governor, neuter the office of the Attorney General, strip The People of their rights to advance initiatives, allow unlimited open season on wolves, eliminate groundwater testing at toxic sites, and attempts to eliminate emissions testing in Idaho’s second-largest county (Canyon).
With regards to Revenge on Voters version 2.0, there are attempts from Rep. Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton), Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star), and Sen. Steve Vick (R-Dalton Gardens) to eliminate early and absentee voting, criminalize Grandma’s delivery of your family’s ballots, and effective elimination of the Citizen Initiative Process.
In one word: Terrifying.
So what does it mean? It means NOW is the time for YOU to reach out to your legislators and let them know that you oppose measures that threaten public health, public waters, and public interests. Take Action Today! There’s never been a more important time.
Wolves in the crosshairs
Former Sen. Jeff Siddoway was back as a substitute, filling in for Sen. Van Burtenshaw (R-Terreton) who was out sick with COVID-19 (thankfully he’s out of the hospital). Siddoway wasted no time in proposing a bill in House Resources attempting to eliminate any limits on wolf hunting in the state. It would allow shooting from snowmobiles, ATVs, eliminate bag limits, and provide for year-round hunting. Unfortunately, the bill is contrary to the Idaho Wolf Management Plan adopted in 2002, which promised that wolves would be managed under Big Game provisions, which provide for seasons, bag limits, reporting, and population monitoring.
To boot, several years ago, when Wyoming state officials applied similar open-hunting provisions across 80% of the state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service moved to relist the species under the Endangered Species Act. Is this really what Siddoway’s gunning for?
The bill likely will be heard in the House Resources Committee next Wednesday.
Mining Bill threatens groundwater
A new bill from the phosphate mining industry of SE Idaho would set a dangerous precedent. It would eliminate the requirement for groundwater monitoring plans to be developed before giant toxic piles (known as phosphogypsum stacks) are constructed to store phosphate processing waste.
The bill from Sen. Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs), Rep. Marc Gibbs (R-Grace), and the Idaho Mining Association addresses design and construction standards for these phosphogypsum stacks — standards that should be developed through negotiated rulemaking involving public stakeholders. Instead, this highly prescriptive bill supersedes an ongoing rulemaking effort and represents yet another end-run by industry to get their way.
Emissions and attacks on DEQ
The House Environment Committee has been a hot mess this session. Two weeks ago the committee got hung up on DEQ rules that govern wastewater, air quality, industrial permits, and much more. The thing is, without these rules, EPA would have to take over this permitting. Apparently, these legislators forget that former EPA head Scott Pruitt, former Gov. Butch Otter, and Idaho’s industry leaders held an event back in 2018 to celebrate Idaho gaining primacy over Clean Water Act permitting.
Again this week, the Committee became quickly confused as to what they were reviewing, thought they could make changes they couldn’t, and the Chair halted the committee meeting mid-vote, was forced to “go at ease” while they figured out what they were voting on, and, in the end, deferred consideration of the rules until next week. In the Senate Committee, it took them about 15 minutes to approve these same rules.
DEQ also was tested on the House floor, when $311,300 in funding for that same water permitting program came up. It passed the Senate 35-0, but only squeaked by the House 36-34. We expect to see several budgets rejected, meaning we could be here into April, (GASP)…or even May.
In addition this week, a bill to eliminate emissions testing in Canyon County advanced out of Committee. Like I said, it’s scary.
Anti-public Lands Bill advances
On the public lands front, House Concurrent Resolution #8 passed out of the House Resources Committee on a party-line vote. The resolution would allocate $250,000 for a “pilot program” to investigate the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. The proposal, from Rep. Wendy Horman’s (R-Idaho Falls) proposal is the brainchild of Ken Ivory, a former Utah Rep. and avowed public lands opponent.
We encourage you to reach out to your legislators, tune in, and have your voice heard! We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again, “Keep Public Lands in Public Hands.”
AG Wasden punches back
Last week, we reported on three bills that seek to limit the role of the Attorney General. A small glimmer of hope appeared as the AG took the unusual position of opposing all three bills. And the Senate Resources Committee rejected one of them. A rare bit of good news during a challenging week!
Senate Bill 1090 attempted to strip the AG of his role serving as counsel to the Idaho Department of Lands. It’s an attempt by miners and cattlemen to punish the AG for requiring compliance with the Idaho Constitution. The nerve!
On the other side of the rotunda in the House, it was a different story as HB 101 and HB 118 advanced. Both bills face tough sledding in the Senate though, and we are hopeful that these House Bills will face a similar fate as SB 1090.
Payette water quality bill dies
Sadly, the Big Payette and Cascade Lakes Water Quality Act is dead for the year. Based on concerns that the Cascade Lake Council might suggest drawing down Lake Cascade, the sponsors of the bill pulled it. We hope to see it return next year.
Finally, I give you the Tie of the Week!
This week’s Tie of the Week is dedicated to you! Our members and supporters who we know will reach out to their legislators and let them know that we oppose these misguided efforts to strip protections for clean air, water, and public lands. We don’t want citizen and environmental rights floating away like a hot air balloon. Our collective future depends upon you!