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Lawmakers Seek Solution For Kootenais

There must be some way the Kootenai Tribe can become financially self-sufficient without angering its neighbors in Boundary County, lawmakers said Wednesday.

A Senate committee voted unanimously to send legislation to the full Senate to have a committee of tribal members, local officials and lawmakers study the issue over the summer.

The panel will “try to get their act together up there and see if we can alleviate a little strife,” Sen. Jerry Thorne, R-Nampa, told the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Thorne heads the Local Government and Taxation Committee, which earlier in the session was scheduled to consider a bill granting the Kootenais a sales tax exemption for a grocery store. “When it came time to have the hearing, we got word that the whole town of Bonners Ferry was on their way down here” to oppose the bill, Thorne said.

Thorne canceled the hearing in favor of finding a plan all sides could live with.

Former state Sen. Skip Smyser, who is representing the tribe on the matter, said the committee’s discussions will be broad ranging, “not limited to the sales tax exemption.”

“We’ll determine if there’s another, more agreeable way for the tribe reaching self-sufficiency with the blessing of the community,” Smyser said.

The committee would include three members from Boundary County - the county commissioners, the Bonners Ferry mayor and the City Council would each appoint a member. There also would be three representatives from the tribe, two members of the House and two state senators.

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