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Eye On Boise

Limit on citizen testimony stands

Usually, anyone who wants to can testify at a public hearing on a local planning and zoning issue. But if it’s about a confined animal feeding operation – those big, smelly operations called CAFOs – only residents who live within a mile of the project are allowed to testify, by state law. You live a mile and a half away? Tough luck.

Opponents of that law have fought for several years to reverse it. Today, their attempt drew a 17-17 tie vote in the Senate – which meant the bill, SB 1112, failed. One senator, Sen. Jack Noble, R-Kuna, who is being investigated for ethics violations, was absent. Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who breaks ties when he’s presiding over the Senate, was filling in as acting governor because Gov. Dirk Kempthorne is in Washington, D.C. for a National Governors Association meeting.

Opponents of SB 1112 said local county commissioners can waive the 1-mile rule if they want to; backers of the bill said they shouldn’t have to, and CAFOs should be treated like any other development.

Though this is mostly an issue in southern Idaho, North Idaho senators split right down the middle. Voting for the bill to do away with the 1-mile limit were Sens. Dick Compton, R-Coeur d’Alene; Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint; and Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow. Voting against were Sens. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle; John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene; and Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake.

Broadsword told the Senate that she opposed the bill because she favored local control by county commissioners. But Compton said he favored the bill for the same reason. “As a county commissioner who’s sat in lots of hearings,” he said, “you have lots of latitude as a county commissioner to run more hearings or limit it however you want. But I don’t think you need to have it limited by us here.”

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.