House and Senate Democrats are calling on Senate Republican leaders to allow a hearing on legislation by Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, calling on Congress not to sell off public lands to raise money. “Idaho’s public lands are not for sale. The public won’t stand for it and the Legislature should be leading the way,” Stennett said at a press conference Friday attended by every House and Senate Democrat, along with former longtime Idaho Fish and Game Director Jerry Connelly.
Stennett originally wrote SJM 116 to address a bill Rep. Butch Otter had co-sponsored in Congress calling for the sale of millions of acres of federal lands to raise money to pay for damages from Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. After an outcry, Otter, who is running for governor, withdrew his sponsorship and said it was a mistake. But Stennett said the measure has new urgency now that President Bush has proposed the sale of public lands to raise funds as part of his budget plan.
Stennett filed SJM 116 as a personal bill, but he said the chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee told him Republican leaders are holding it, and he won’t get a hearing unless they give the go-ahead.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said GOP leaders haven’t made a decision yet on whether to allow a hearing on Stennett’s measure, another similar measure sponsored by Rep. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, or a different bill.
“I was a little taken aback when President Bush made that announcement, and frankly I’m very concerned about that proposal,” Davis said. “I certainly find value in the concerns that Sen. Stennett is expressing.”