Rare consensus was on display in Gov. Phil Batt’s office Friday, as Batt signed legislation on unemployment taxes and mining reform.
Business groups were joined by labor representatives to applaud the new unemployment tax law. Environmentalists and mining groups together praised the new mining law.
Batt said he’s always tried to bring different groups together - although the results might not have been as striking as Friday’s.
“I try that every day,” the governor said. “I think that’s very much in the interest of the people of Idaho, if we can accomplish that.”
The unemployment bill lowers Idaho’s unemployment tax and restores some benefits that were cut in the 1980s. Batt said the tax change will make Idaho more attractive to businesses thinking about relocating.
“This bill, in my opinion, is probably the most important bill we passed all session,” he said.
Dave Wahley, head of the Idaho AFL-CIO, said, “This bill shows a definite compromise. I think this is the way we’ve got to work in the future.”
Mark Briggs, the AFL-CIO’s political director, said, “It’s very nice to be invited to the table.”
The bill also was praised by representatives of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, Idaho’s largest business lobby, and state agency officials.
The mining bill reforms Idaho’s surface mining laws by allowing the state to require higher reclamation bonds if needed to cover the cost of cleanup; allowing the state to require operating plans from mine operators; and increasing measures designed to prevent acid-rock drainage, a type of pollution that can occur in surface mining.
“Idaho has long been a leader among western states in requiring that mines clean up after themselves,” said Jack Lyman, head of the Idaho Mining Association. “It’s going to make it more expensive for us, but we think that’s the environment we’re going to see in the future. We think these are reasonable changes.”
Mike Medberry of the Idaho Conservation League said, “It’s really been a pleasure to be able to work cooperatively. This is a reasonable bill - it will protect the environment. It will also protect the taxpayer, and ensure that mine cleanup occurs.”
Said Batt, “It’s commendable that all the parties concerned got together. I think it’s a very good bill.”
Batt signed a batch of bills into law Thursday and Friday, including:
HB 259, making it illegal to possess a bomb with the intent to use it unlawfully. Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas had pushed for the law after finding he was unable to prosecute people caught with bombs, and sometimes even had to return the devices to the offenders.
SB 1189, toughening the penalties for poaching. Fish and Game officer Pat Cudmore told the governor, “Ultimately our goal with this is to make the consequences severe enough that they won’t do it.”
SB 1018, which makes juvenile court proceedings public if the offender is 14 or older and has committed a crime that would be a felony if he or she were an adult.
, DataTimes MEMO: To check on the status of any legislation introduced this year, anyone with a computer, modem and Internet access may go to http://www.state.id.us, and access the Legislature’s home page.