March 27, 2007 in Idaho

Otter clears way for repaying Cabela’s

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

BOISE – Gov. Butch Otter on Monday signed into law a bill to allow a new Cabela’s store in Post Falls to pay for a new freeway interchange on Interstate 90, then get paid back from sales taxes it collects.

House Bill 250 allows State Tax Anticipation Revenue, or STAR, financing, anywhere in the state. Cabela’s, which backed the bill, is expected to be the first business to take advantage of the measure.

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, welcomed the legislation. A former Post Falls mayor and city manager, Hammond worked to help land the Cabela’s project.

“We knew at some point we were going to have to have that interchange,” Hammond said. He said the legislation gives the region an economic boost. “Here’s another reason to come to northern Idaho,” he said.

Cabela’s developer Foursquare Properties Inc. pushed for the bill, with strong backing from North Idaho lawmakers. A similar proposal last year failed in committee.

House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Majority Leader Mike Moyle were co-sponsors of this year’s bill. Controversy has developed over an Associated Press report last week that Denney advised Foursquare to fire its previous lobbyist, Jerry Deckard, and hire former House GOP Caucus Chairwoman Julie Ellsworth, R-Boise. The developer did, and the bill passed.

Ellsworth, a five-term lawmaker, lost to a Democrat in the November election.

The issue has prompted Democrats to propose “revolving door” legislation banning lawmakers from becoming paid lobbyists for a year after they leave office; that bill may come up for an introductory hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee as soon as today.

Hammond said, “The speaker did tell me that he felt Julie would be more effective in bringing the leadership along, Moyle and others.”

Moyle initially was cool to the STAR financing idea, Hammond said.

“We were acting to do whatever it needed to get the bill,” he said. “We met with the speaker to try to elicit his support for the bill. … What he said was, ‘You might talk to her – I don’t know if she’s available, I don’t know if she’ll do this.’ ”

In a guest opinion published last weekend in the Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise, Denney came out against the revolving door legislation.

“I have no desire to dictate who can and cannot get a job working as a lobbyist,” the speaker wrote.

“Legislators are approached all the time about who would be a good fit for (a) certain job, and I’m no exception,” he explained. “I don’t mind offering an opinion, if I have one, or even write a letter of recommendation. In this case, I was asked by a certain individual about who would be an effective lobbyist and I mentioned Julie Ellsworth’s name – among others. She has a great deal of integrity and she pays close attention to the finer details – which are top-grade qualities for individuals making contact with legislators.

“But let’s be clear, the bill she promoted did not pass because of Julie Ellsworth – the former majority caucus chairman. It passed because of what she did. She rewrote the bill, many times to my understanding, to make the legislation acceptable and worked with key legislators. If she merely presented the same bill as last year, it would not have gotten through the House committee – let alone the House floor and the full Senate.”

The bill takes effect July 1.

In addition to Denney and Moyle, HB 250 was co-sponsored by Hammond and Reps. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls.


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