Nothing much good happens after midnight, and it sure looks as if that hour has arrived for the 2015 Legislature.
We should separate the fact the Legislature got its incremental work done on the five-year plan to breathe life back into a gasping K-12 education system. Kudos. But what about finding $262 million to shore up our transportation needs? Why fritter away the remaining session time on issues that seem to be building bridges to nowhere?
House Bill 265/265a would involve Idaho in a compact commission with other Western states, such as Utah, in efforts to gain state control of some federal lands. There is an undying belief among take-back-our-public-lands faithful that we can do better than the feds at managing them. That is a gamble for which we already have wagered the time of the Federal Lands Interim Committee and over $60,000 to learn this is not so easy after all.
This bill passed in the House without a Democratic vote and a number of dissenting Republicans. Its sponsor, Rep. Terry Gestrin, R-Donnelly, was questioned Monday about it during a Senate hearing. Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert and chair of the finance committee, asked Gestrin whether participating was like “writing a blank check” to the compact because Idaho could face unknown costs and assessments to pay for the commission’s work. The Senate would be wise to follow up on Cameron’s question and then vote this one down. It would not cost a dime to monitor the efforts of Utah and other states in the public lands sweepstakes from afar — especially since these initiatives are ill-fated.
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We are thankful the Senate killed the multiheaded transportation/tax bill, HB 311, at the midnight hour. That was more a marriage of agendas than transportation funding. But why even go there?
In other ill-advised after-midnight fright, the House and Senate have sent a bill to Gov. Butch Otter that would allow a presidential primary in March 2016, at a possible cost of $2 million. Unless Idaho Democrats, who normally caucus, decided to participate, this is a gift to the GOP to pay for the private party in a closed Republican primary. We hope Gov. Butch Otter realizes the money for Idaho’s participation in this partisan sideshow could be better spent. The Spokesman-Review reported that Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg (an Idaho GOP official), said the parties should pay, not the state. We agree.