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They’re getting closer

Things are changing minute by minute, but at this point, though they’re getting closer, there doesn’t yet appear to be a deal between the governor and the House Transportation Committee on the governor’s highway legislation.

“I think we’re at 7-7 as far as a committee,” said Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, a member of the House Transportation Committee. He said the five supporters of the governor’s bill picked up two more – Reps. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, and Mike Mitchell, D-Lewiston – with the governor’s latest compromise offer. The governor has offered to cap the amount of Idaho’s federal highway allocation that can be spent for the statewide bonding program at 20 percent for the first four years, and 30 percent in the fifth year, with legislative approval required to raise that after that point. But the holdouts want to stick with a 25 percent cap in the fifth year.

House Transportation Chairwoman JoAn Wood said, “It’s the silly stuff now, change this word or that word.” But she made no commitment to call her committee back into session this afternoon. “We’ll see,” she said. “Some people are down there talking to the governor’s office.” Wood said she thought if no deal was reached today, the House should just give up and adjourn for the session.

Meanwhile in the Senate, plans are moving forward to re-run five of the eight bills Gov. Dirk Kempthorne vetoed last week as part of the standoff over the highway bill. One, an income tax measure sponsored by prominent lobbyist Ken McClure, already has been revived as HB 400 and won final Senate passage this morning. Two others, HB 188a on child protection and HB 280, regarding irrigation ditches, will be revived as new Senate bills. Another two, HB 38 on seeds and HB 54 on commercial driving privileges, will become new House bills. The remaining three were “agency bills,” according to Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, and will just be left for next year.

Major water legislation is still waiting on the Senate calendar without action. “If the speaker walked over and said we’ve just passed GARVEE (the road bill) with some moderate amendments, then we’ll probably run the water bills,” Davis said, “as soon as we got the green light.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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