Gov. Jim Risch stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Sen. David Langhorst, D-Boise; Nampa Mayor Tom Dale; and Sen. Brad Little, R-Emmett, today to speak out against Proposition 2 on Tuesday’s ballot, the anti-takings initiative. The room was packed with Prop 2 opponents, including representatives of chambers of commerce, conservation groups, cities, counties, developers, Realtors, big business, the League of Women Voters, the Ada County Highway District, GOP legislators, and more. “As you can see from the cross section of people that are here today, there is broad opposition to Proposition 2,” Risch declared.
Becky McKnight, spokeswoman for “This House is My Home,” the group sponsoring the initiative, attended and handed out fliers calling Prop 2 opponents “nothing but a front group for environmental extremist groups like Greenpeace and left-wing billionaire George Soros.” When a reporter asked Risch about that charge, he responded amid laughter, “Well, y’know, I’ve been accused of a lot of stuff, and now the list is complete.” He added, “In this particular instance, I think what you have to do is look around this room, and you see some people here that are very conservative, you see people here who own a considerable amount of property, you see people who are strong environmental groups, and they’ve all come together to say that this is a bad idea for Idaho.”
The measure has been billed as a way to limit the government power of eminent domain, but it actually doesn’t change Idaho’s eminent domain laws, other than adding some definitions, because it mirrors legislation that already passed this year. Instead, the operative part of the initiative is a sweeping new regulatory takings law, which would require local governments to pay landowners if new land-use restrictions prevent them from developing their property to its “highest and best use.” Similar initiatives, funded by New York real estate investor Howard Rich, were proposed in seven states this year and are on the ballot in four, including both Idaho and Washington.
Risch said, “We’re all Idahoans here – we really know what’s good for Idaho and what isn’t.”
McKnight said afterward, “I felt very intimidated as a homeowner … being in there with a bunch of politicians who will say anything and do anything.” But she added parenthetically that she did want to praise Risch for his efforts to help get needed supplies to troops serving in Afghanistan, where her husband is deployed.
Former Congressman Larry LaRocco, whom Risch faces in Tuesday’s election in the race to be Idaho’s lieutenant governor for the next four years, said both he and Risch agree on Prop 2 – both oppose it – and Risch already had made that view public. “I simply think he’s using the governor’s office in the last-minute closing days of the campaign to wring out every ounce of publicity he can get as governor,” LaRocco said.
Risch said the many groups that have come together to fight Prop 2 have formed the broadest coalition on a political issue he’s seen in his career. “I’ve seen strong coalitions put together before,” he said, “but I’ve never seen one, I don’t think, that is quite as diverse as this group is. I think that probably tells you something about this.”