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We’ve faced our share of challenges this session, and I thought the worst of it was over.  How wrong I was! The target date for adjournment, Mar 17, came and went. But the Legislature still has a pile of bills, resolutions and spending measures to consider before heading home.

This week, committees heard and approved bills that should never have seen the light of day, including  several seeking to undermine our treasured public lands. The Senate also approved the bill to prohibit local counties or cities from restricting, taxing or banning plastic bags and containers.

We did see some victories though, including House approval of a resolution supporting state access on public lands.

Rewriting History

For all the talk of our commitment to the Constitution and  founding documents of our nation and state, the reality is that strict adherence to these historic texts is as  flexible as a rubber band. Case in point-HB 582  sponsored by Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale).

The bill enshrines in law that “the transfer of certain federally held lands… would fulfill the promise made in the U.S. constitution, the Idaho constitution, the Idaho admissions act and congressional acts…”  The problem is that these founding documents said nothing of the sort!

To the contrary, the Idaho Constitution “forever disclaim[s]” these lands” and the Idaho Admission  Act asserts that we are not “entitled to any further or other grants of land…” Finally, the U.S. Constitution reserves all power to the U.S. Congress to manage these lands, without exception. The Attorney General’s Opinion stated that the underlying premise of the bill “has no support in the law.”

Was this enough to put the brakes on? NO!  The bill passed out of committee and sailed through the House on a  53-14  vote. The saving grace is the lack of time to hear the bill on the Senate side. We hope that it is dead for the year.

Wait, There’s More!

The assault on public lands continued with approval of yet another bill (SB 1338).  The bill would allow counties to declare public lands a public nuisance  and demand a plan to address the nuisance. Sen. Sherry Nuxoll (R-Cottonwood) easily advanced her bill through the House Resources and Conservation Committee. Today, the bill  passed in the House  and is on its way to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk.

Some Good News for Public Lands

Yet another bill from Rep. Boyle about public lands was heard this week.  HB 586  would have restricted the ability for the U.S. government to acquire additional lands through purchase, exchange, gift or easement. Because of the potential impact on private property rights,  the House Resources and Conservation Committee killed the bill on a 9-7 vote.

In addition, the House unanimously approved  HCR 53  that encourages the Idaho Land Board to  reject exclusive hunting or fishing leases on state endowment lands. The resolution, sponsored by Mat Erpelding (D-Boise), is a direct response to  an elite private hunting club that proposed an exclusive lease for European-style “driven hunting.”  Matching tweed suits required!

Clagstone Easement Stalls Budgets

A conservation easement ensuring  public access across thousands of acres  of important wetlands and wildlife habitat ran into opposition in the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee.  Based on concerns from North Idaho legislators that a permanent easement would somehow limit choices for future generations, the  House sent the budgets for the  Department of Lands and Department of Fish and Game budgets back to committee for further consideration next week-despite the fact that  not a penny of state funds is being used to purchase the easement.

Honorable Mention

It goes without saying that we don’t always agree with every member of the  Legislature. But  when it comes to fashion, sometimes we find common ground. On St. Patrick’s Day, I took a moment to chat with Rep. Ken Andrus (R-Lava Hot Springs) who wore a one-of-a-kind tie, earning it an honorable mention. With eye-catching neckwear like this,there’s plenty to agree on.

Tie of the Week

The TOTW honors America’s Constitution, Idaho’s Constitution and the Idaho Admission Act of 1890.  These documents remain the law of the land and represent the fabric that holds our republic and our state together.

Until next week,  Esto perpetua