The Senate has just voted 30-4 in favor of SB 1056, legislation to remove the current one-mile residency limit on who can testify at a public hearing on siting of a confined animal feeding operation. The current law says only those whose primary residence is within a mile of the proposed operation are allowed to testify. “This is not just a little bit wrong – this is way wrong,” Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, the bill’s sponsor, told the Senate. The measure would allow any “affected person,” meaning anyone with an interest in real property that could be adversely affected by the approval or denial of the permit, to testify, regardless of the distance to their property.
Several senators said that didn’t go far enough, and 1st Amendment free speech rights should allow anyone to testify at a hearing. But a bill simply opening up it up to anyone died in the Senate in 2005 on a tied, 17-17 vote. Stennett said he’d like to go further, but the bill was a compromise. “That’s where we cut the baby in half,” he said.
Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said, “Certainly tying it to real estate may not meet all of the requirements of the 1st Amendment, but we get a heck of a lot closer than we did before.” Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said, “This is probably one of the most important issues we’ve voted on this year.” The bill now moves to the House.