The Senate has voted 23-8 in favor of legislation rejecting stricter septic system rules for North Idaho, reports S-R reporter Parker Howell. Concerned that Panhandle Health District rules will hinder development by requiring larger drain fields and septic tanks, especially on expensive lakefront property, Panhandle homeowners and builders have mounted a last-ditch effort to overturn the rule and seek a compromise. Sponsored by Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, SCR 121 overrides the sewage rules, which allow septic system size to be based on a home's square footage rather than the number of its bedrooms. Although health district officials have said the rules are needed to protect waterways, they did not object to SCR 121 to allow for negotiations. The resolution still must be approved by the House and Gov. Butch Otter before the session ends – potentially as soon as Friday.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed the resolution early this morning, Howell reports, and the full Senate voted less than one hour later – a process that normally takes days. Debate in committee and on the floor focused largely on the legislative propriety, not the science, of the rules. Some lawmakers criticized the last-minute nature of the legislation. "An 11th hour fix to me is always a bad fix," Sen. Chuck Coiner, R-Twin Falls, said in committee. But Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, said it's "blatantly unfair" to make North Idaho's rules more strict than those elsewhere in the state.