Here’s how House Speaker Bruce Newcomb responded right after the Senate voted 14-21 against his water recharge bill, HB 800: “I don’t know where you go from here. … I hope it keeps the discussion alive. … The good part of this is there’s an institutional memory now – it’s been passed on.”
He has a point. Senators sat through a six-hour committee hearing that went through, in great detail, many issues relating to the 1984 Swan Falls Agreement and related water rights matters. They also had a detailed, heartfelt, three-hour debate on the bill in the full Senate.
Newcomb, surrounded by reporters and TV cameras after the vote, is retiring this year after being the state’s longest-serving House speaker. “Now that I’m leaving, I feel good about the fact that the institutional memory’s been passed on and people now understand, to some degree, what the Swan Falls agreement’s really all about,” he said.
The speaker mused, “Issues are changing, that’s bound to happen over time – especially when you have scarce resources.” He expressed hope that negotiations still will lead to using at least some water to recharge the diminishing eastern Snake Plain aquifer this year. “It’s in everyone’s best interest that you stabilize the aquifer,” Newcomb said.
Now, he said, the focus shifts to property taxes, the biggest remaining issue pending in the Legislature, along with remaining bills like GARVEE bonding, community college funding, and an economic-development and parks funding bill.