So. Here we are on the cusp of March and if you feel like the Legislature still has a lot of work to do…You’re right! 

430 bills have been introduced, with only three signed by the Governor.

Efforts by House Speaker Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star) to assert his authority have changed the way budgets are developed and considered, and a change in Joint Rules could be another flashpoint in the ever-present tension between the House and Senate.

On environmental issues, it was an action-packed week!

There were bills galore, with at least 7 related to fish and wildlife, several related to public lands, and a handful related to water.

One of the more notable events occurred in the House Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, one that has hardly met this year. That may be a good thing, because last week they invited an unknown “Geophysicit” (that’s what the agenda said) to testify on “Idaho’s Energy Future.” We’re not sure how (or if?) she was vetted, but she seemed poorly-informed, as her presentation quickly veered away from the facts. In the end, her big pitch was that Idaho should build coal-fired power plants. Yes. For real.

From left to right: Nez Perce Tribe Chairman Shannon Wheeler, ICL Executive Director Justin Hayes, and Kayeloni Scott with the Nez Perce Tribe Communications Team gathered at the White House on Friday, February 23, 2024 for a ceremonial signing of last year’s Columbia River Basin agreement.

Back in D.C. on Friday, the historic Columbia River Agreement was signed at the White House. The agreement seeks to replace the current services of the lower Snake River dams, and provides a pathway to breaching. ICL’s Executive Director Justin Hayes was there, along with Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Shannon Wheeler, other Tribal leaders, and the Governors of Oregon and Washington. At the same moment, in Boise, the Idaho Senate was poised to consider a resolution seeking to undermine the very same Columbia River Agreement. In the end, the Senate delayed consideration of the Pro-Dam Memorial. And the agreement in D.C. was signed. Learn more and take action!

To boot, this morning the House Ways & Means Committee introduced a new Pesticide Immunity Bill, and another pro-dam resolution from Rep. Charlie Shepherd (R-Riggins) that is under review.


Keep an eye on the ICL bill tracker for our positions and make your voice heard!

Bighorn ram. Ed Cannady photo.

Wildlife bills, a mixed bag

Several bills stumbled last week, including a bill seeking to change rules for Muzzleloaders (a type of historic weapon). It would have circumvented the Idaho Fish & Game Commission who already have the authority they need to set special rules for muzzleloaders, archery, or other hunting methods. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ron Mendive (R-Coeur d’Alene) who serves as the Chairman of the House Resources Committee, who graciously accepted the reality that the bill lacked support.

Another bill would hand out bighorn sheep, mountain goat, and moose tags to outfitters who fill a wolf tag with their clients. Given the fact that these tags can only be drawn through a competitive lottery and are “once-in-a-lifetime” hunts, it’s inappropriate to be handing them out like candy. This is especially true for bighorns, who are suffering from yet another outbreak of pneumonia in Hells Canyon, as well as moose, whose populations have been declining for years.

In the bad news category, a bill advanced out of the House Agriculture Committee that would weaken existing quarantine rules for elk farms. The existing rules were put in place at the request of elk ranchers, to allow them to continue elk imports from Alberta, where CWD is a known problem. Now, after two Idaho farms sourced elk from CWD-infected elk farms in Alberta, the elk farmers want to weaken the rules because it would be inconvenient for them to implement the quarantines. Talk about having your cake and eating it too…As ICL pointed out in committee, there are hundreds of thousands of elk and deer hunters in the state, and only about 40 elk farms. The bill is now awaiting a vote on the House Floor.


Ed Cannady photo.

Competing predator bills raise eyebrows

One bill that ICL supports would provide state funding to reimburse livestock losses from grizzly bears and wolves. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jerald Raymond (R-Menan), enjoys broad support from ranching and wildlife interests alike, and could help attract additional federal funding. In addition it would allow for funding for conflict prevention. The catch is that it only authorizes the spending, and additional funds would have to be provided via a “trailer” appropriations bill.

On the same day that bill was considered in the House Resources Committee, Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) introduced another that would allow existing funds from the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board (IWDCB) to be used to reimburse livestock owners for wolf-related losses. Currently IWDCB $$ is only allowed to be used for “lethal control.” ICL fears that Rep. Boyle’s bill may be intended to take the wind out of the sails of the first bill. A Hearing on HB 612 is scheduled for this afternoon, so don’t touch that dial!


A smorgasbord of bills

As reported last week, the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act is a bill that ICL supports. It would ensure that citizens can express themselves without fear of reprisal from the rich and powerful. It’s got a hearing this afternoon in the Senate Judiciary & Rules Committee.

Last year, the legislature passed a bill to restrict foreign governments from buying agricultural lands, mining claims, and water rights. The bill was written too broadly, and also restricted Native American Tribes as well, because they meet the definition of a “Sovereign Nation.” We appreciate that the sponsor of last year’s bill, Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale), is trying to make things right, by cleaning up the statute to ensure that Tribal interests are protected.

Speaking of lands, there’s another bill proposing to remove the Attorney General (AG) as lawyer to the Idaho Land Board. Last week, Idaho AG Raúl Labrador testified before the Senate Resources Committee and raised a number of constitutional and other concerns with the bill, while simultaneously noting that he wasn’t for or against it. ICL opposes the bill, as we don’t feel that a strong case has been made for why we should upend 130 years of precedent, especially if it’s not constitutional. We did appreciate that the hearing exposed some of the points of tension, including a law passed in 2020 that the Idaho Department of Lands can’t implement because it’s not constitutional.

Finally, Sen. Rick Just (D-Boise) introduced a bill to limit the authority of Homeowners Associations to mandate lush, green lawns. Some HOAs have blocked residents from installing water-smart landscaping. Apparently the bill was drafted a little too broadly and it was mowed down by the Senate Commerce Committee last week.

Tie of the week!

When something fishy was going on in the legislature over the last 40+ years, there was always one person you could count on to sniff it out. He was well known as a guest on Idaho PTV’s Idaho Reports, was a regular commentator on Idaho election coverage, served as the Director of the Public Policy Center at Boise State University, was a prof at University of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene University, and spent decades as the director of the Idaho Association of Cities. Last week, we lost Dr. Jim Weatherby. And the TOTW is dedicated to his memory.


Until next week…Esto Perpetua,