Idaho legislative committee eyes federal lands, education
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A panel of lawmakers formed to monitor how federal laws affect Idaho’s sovereignty and report back to the Legislature has created three subcommittees to examine federal lands, education, and health and welfare.
Republican Rep. Jason Monks, co-chair of the Committee on Federalism, said Thursday the federal lands subcommittee is not a repeat of an interim committee from several years ago that ran up big attorney fees while trying to find a way for the state to take control of federal lands.
He said the purpose of the Committee on Federalism is to find ways for the state to work more effectively with the federal government, and the breadth of that challenge is better met by forming subcommittees.
“It’s just to make sure that we as Idaho are maintaining our balance of federalism, which is a shared power, and we’re not abrogating some of our power to the federal government when we don’t need to,” he said.
During the last legislative session, lawmakers proposed a plan to create a Council on Federal Lands that initially had a provision allowing it to negotiate contracts. It ultimately died, but components were folded into another bill that created the Committee on Federalism.
A previous Idaho committee involving federal lands cost about $50,000 annually with the hiring of attorneys.
Because of that expense, the Committee on Federalism has some hurdles to hiring attorneys but can do so if it receives approval from House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, both Republicans.
Monks said that no attorneys have been hired and, though he didn’t want to place limits on the subcommittees, he didn’t see them being hired in the future.
About 62%, or 51,000 square miles (132,000 square kilometers), of Idaho is managed by the federal government. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service approve grazing permits, logging contracts and mining operations.
Members of the subcommittees haven’t been named, but co-chairs were announced at the Federalism Committee’s first meeting late last month.
Subcommittees on education and health and welfare, Monks said, will look at ways to improve how the state works with the federal government in those areas.