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House panel OKs amended version of federalism committee

March 28, 2019

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A House committee on Thursday approved an amended version of legislation creating an interim panel of 10 lawmakers to monitor how federal laws affect Idaho’s sovereignty.

The House State Affairs Committee voted to send to the full House the legislation creating the Committee on Federalism.

A previous version passed the House but was amended in the Senate. The amended legislation combines ideas from another bill introduced in February creating an Idaho Council on Federal Lands, a bill that now appears dead this session.

“What the Senate decided to do was combine a couple of committees into one,” said Republican Rep. Jason Monks.

About 62 percent, or 51,000 square miles (132,000 square kilometers), of the state is managed by the federal government. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service approve grazing permits, logging contracts and mining operations. Some contend that federal agencies place too many restrictions on those lands.

A provision allowing the Idaho Council on Federal Lands to negotiate contracts was eliminated.

The two bills also initially allowed the lands council and the federalism committee to hire attorneys and consultants. Opponents of both bills said estimates that the committees would cost only $10,000 to $15,000 annually wasn’t accurate.

There were “concerns that the expenses could become exorbitant,” Monks said.

However, the committee could still hire attorneys if it received approval from Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke and Republican Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill.

The Senate also amended the bill to increase from eight to 10 the number of lawmakers on the committee.

“These committees can only provide recommendations,” Monks said. “They can’t do anything beyond that. That’s the limit of their authority — to report back to the Legislature.”