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Eye On Boise

Judge: Entire law on which state cabin rents are based likely unconstitutional

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden argued that the entire state law on which Idaho has based its cabin-site rents for state endowment lands - a 1990 state law that requires the state Land Board to charge "market rents," while eliminating the requirement that cabin-site leases be auctioned off to the highest bidder, like other state endowment land leases - is unconstitutional. Wasden long has maintained that position; it was laid out in an official 2009 attorney general's opinion. Today, 4th District Judge Deborah Bail agreed. "Clearly the Legislature was trying to balance some fairly sensitive issues, but the Constitution is plain and the interpretation of the Constitution is clear," Bail declared in court. "I think the state has met its burden ... for a preliminary injunction."

The judge said she had done extensive research, and a long string of Idaho Supreme Court cases clearly supports that determination. "Nothing in my ruling means that anybody wasn't trying to do the best," Bail said. "It's just that the Constitution is clear." She added, "I believe that the public auction requirement of the Constitution can't be negated by a statute. I think it will require a constitutional amendment to negate that requirement."

Bail said her ruling will maintain the status quo while all parties in the case are given an opportunity to weigh in. She also granted a motion to intervene from Payette Lake cabin-site lessees who already are suing in Valley County to challenge the new rent scheme - they claim the new rents would be too high. The preliminary injunction, she said, will "preserve the status quo and then we will let everyone weigh in fully before we address the permanent injunction," including arguments on the constitutionality of the 1990 law.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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