The Legislature is moving at warp speed as fears mount over the spread of coronavirus. Legislative leaders are pushing for an early exit, and that could be a good thing, as the end of the session is typically when the most odorous bills are rolled out.
This week the House rejected the Treasurer’s budget, based on a long-running dispute over office space. They also nearly rejected the budget for Idaho Public TV, based on concerns over how the Legislature is portrayed on the weekly Idaho Reports program. Others decried children’s programming like Clifford, the Big Red Dog.
Fears of the boogeyman also shot down a non-binding bird resolution, as apparently unstated fears are scarier than the loss of 3 billion birds from our skies. It wasn’t all bad though, the Senate honored our Native American heritage by hosting dancers from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in their recognition of Idaho Day, the anniversary of the creation of Idaho Territory on March 4, 1863. Remember, you can track all the bills we’re watching on our bill tracker!
Pesticide bill hits turbulence
Last year, a dozen farm workers were admitted to the Emergency Room after they were sprayed with a toxic fungicide while working in a Parma hops field. Some are still experiencing health problems today. Instead of coming to their aid to strengthen pesticide rules, the Legislature is considering a bill that would weaken protections and strip oversight from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
According to changes proposed by the Idaho Agriculture Aviation Association, “careless or faulty” application would be allowed, and instead only those who apply pesticides in a negligent manner would be liable. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House, but has run into turbulence in the Senate.
The Food Producers of Idaho, a powerful consortium of some of the state’s leading agricultural interests came out against the measure. Their opposition adds some muscle behind efforts from the Idaho Conservation League and its partners to stall the bill.
A hearing is scheduled in the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee on Thursday at 8 a.m.(MDT) in Room WW53. Join us!
There’s still time to ask your Senator to reject this dangerous measure!
Bird resolution shot down
Calling attention to a 30% decline of birds across North America was a step too far for at least one member of the Senate, who convinced House Resource Chairman Marc Gibbs (R-Grace) to put the brakes on the non-binding resolution (even after they’d voted for it!). Despite having passed the Senate in a unanimous vote on February 12, a Senator read between the lines and saw a bid to end all hunting (the resolution recognizes Idaho’s hunting heritage), an attack on agriculture (the resolution recognized birds’ contributions in support of agriculture) and a call for a $1 million study (no such study was encouraged).
Instead, the resolution was Sen. Dan Johnson’s (R-Lewiston) attempt to spotlight the importance of birds to Idaho’s economy and our ecosystems. The resolution called on the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (which has a duty to conserve all species) to work with other agencies and partners to better understand the causes of decline, implications and restoration needs for our feathered friends.
At the end of the day, there is more funding needed to support non-game species. We plan to be back next year and hope to build support for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, currently pending in Congress, which could bring millions of federal dollars to address the decline of our native wildlife.
Of wolves, roadless and NEPA
Speaking of boogeymen, the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee this morning committed $392,000 for the Wolf Depredation Control fund, which provides money to a federal agency to kill wolves across the state. Despite the fact that they had over $500,000 in the bank at the end of FY2019, JFAC saw a need to again boost funding. Especially disappointing is that none of these funds can be used on effective, non-lethal control methods.
Another bill advanced that would make some small changes to the Idaho Roadless Commission, which coordinates with and advises the Governor on issues related to the management of 9.3 million acres of pristine national forests accessed only by trail. The changes include a reduction in the number of commissioners from 15 to 12, and attempts to bestow responsibilities on the state commission which are reserved to the Forest Service. As long as the Supremacy Clause is still in the U.S. Constitution, the bill won’t have much effect though.
Finally, a proposal from Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) endorses the Trump administration’s rollback of regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA ensures public involvement and participation regardless of whether you’re talking about a plan that will guide national forest management for 20-30 years or a recreation plan for your favorite trail system. It’s a GREAT reminder that there’s still time to comment on the proposed rollback, so get your comments in Today!
In other news
The HOV lane bill and the bill closing the poacher’s loophole should pass the Senate today. The House-passed proposal to inject politics into the IDFG Commission has reportedly stalled in the Senate and will not receive further consideration this session.
Idahoans value our public lands, clean water and wildlife, and time and again, we’ve demonstrated what we can accomplish when we come together to solve problems. Collaborative problem-solving has shown us that we can overcome disputes on environmental issues, and find solutions that last. Paranoia is not an Idaho value. So, in honor of Idaho Day, I bring you the Tie of the Week!