It’s that time of year. We are at the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. That means politicians from all over the state will converge on Boise to craft public policy they believe will benefit Idahoans. Some of it will be admirable. Some of it will be admonishable.
Here’s what Conservation Voters for Idaho will be looking for in the 2017 Legislative Session.
During last year’s session, Idaho lawmakers passed a bill encouraging county commissioners to declare public land a “catastrophic nuisance” in an attempt to gain control of our lands. In 2015, lawmakers attempted to pass a bill that would seize public lands through an interstate compact. Unfortunately, we expect more of these bad bills this year, putting the places Idahoans love to camp, fish, hunt, and hike at risk.
Last session, Rep. Boyle introduced a bill that said the state should gain ownership of our public lands and manage those lands for “multiple use.” Boyle has vowed to bring the bill back this year, along with others. We don’t expect anti-public lands extremists to gain any better grip on the law, the West or the reality this year and we will work with Idahoans across the state to oppose any efforts to seize our public lands. We are frustrated that politicians continue to politicize and push for state seizure of our treasured lands, special places that give us the unique quality of life in Idaho that we should protect for future generations.
Clean Air and Water:
For the last three legislative sessions, Rep. Paul Shepherd (R-Riggins) has introduced bills that would make dredge miners exempt from rules designed to protect our clean water. In other words, the recreational small dredge miners would be allowed to dredge wherever and whenever they pleased- year round in 80,000 miles of Idaho’s iconic rivers. The Idaho Attorney General’s Office warned the bill conflicted with the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. We will once again fight back against any attempts that threaten our clean air and water in the upcoming session.
Oil and gas exploration:
Last year, a controversial bill passed the legislature that speeds up leasing for oil and gas wells. Essentially written by the oil and gas industry for the oil and gas industry, ignoring the rights of home and property owners in areas where the energy industry wished to drill. With gas and oil production expected to increase in the next couple years, we fully expect to see more bills that will make it easier for the oil and gas industry to develop, while making it harder for average Idahoans to protect their property rights.
In 2015, communities across Idaho requested $13.4 million for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to ensure young people made it to their local schools safely; they received only $3.5 million- all of it from the federal government. Idaho has no dedicated funding stream for safe biking and walking projects. Through the broad coalition of Safe Routes to School, Healthy Kids- CVI will be working to get a dedicated funding stream for these types of projects to ensure our children get to and from school safely.
Legislative sessions are like a box of chocolate — you never know what you’re going to get. We are well aware of that reality. Even innocuous bills can have intended and/or unintended consequences that harm the average Idahoan. We are also well aware that not all lawmakers are concerned with protecting and promoting healthy, thriving communities and vibrant landscapes. The Legislative Session is more than three months of lawmaking. It’s an opportunity to make Idaho a better place to live, work and raise a family. Sadly, it’ s also an opportunity for a few politicians to jeopardize our unique quality of life in Idaho. We understand this and we will remain vigilant from the State of the State on the first day of the session until the gavel rings in Sine Die. That’s our commitment to the special place we call home.
However, we can’t do this alone– we are going to need you in the weeks and months ahead to call your legislators, write letters to the local paper, and join us in the marble halls to stand up for our natural heritage, to stand up for Idaho.
We look forward to working with you. You can sign up for weekly legislative updates here to stay connect to what’s happening at the capitol.