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Sunday, July 12, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Lawmakers kick off urban renewal study

Legislative interim committee on urban renewal meets on Monday morning (Betsy Z. Russell)
Legislative interim committee on urban renewal meets on Monday morning (Betsy Z. Russell)

A legislative interim committee on urban renewal has kicked off an all-day meeting today, with Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, the co-chair, saying it will look at past changes to Idaho’s urban renewal laws, other possible changes, or perhaps no changes. The panel’s other co-chair, Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, submitted a letter to the panel today as he’s not here; he and Rep. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa, met weekly with a working group during this year’s legislative session to examine issues surrounding urban renewal. “There was good discussion, but it was determined that we needed to have a deeper dive,” Anderst said, leading to the interim committee. The concurrent resolution establishing the committee calls for it to “study and address the issues and subject of urban renewal to modernize the process and to provide local units of government with economic development tools.”

Anderst said he hopes the panel will “identify some places within the statutes that do need to be firmed up so that we’ll have a tool that works well but also has taxpayers’ best interests in mind.” He said his concerns include accountability and transparency. Youngblood, in his letter, wrote, “I believe we all understood urban renewal is one of, if not the most important tool our state has for great economic growth and success, used correctly.”

The legislative committee includes some outspoken critics of urban renewal, Rep. Kathy Sims and Sen. Mary Souza of Coeur d’Alene, along with others with extensive local government experience like Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, and Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise. Also serving on the panel are Sens. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton; Chuck Winder, R-Boise; and Hy Kloc, D-Boise. 

Today’s agenda includes a series of presentations, including reviews of existing laws, details of public financing in Idaho and Utah, and more. Legislative analyst Mike Nugent started it off with a comparison of Idaho and Utah laws.  “They’ve got a different Constitution than we do,” Nugent noted, and said some parts of Utah’s statute would violate Idaho’s state Constitution regarding lending the full faith and credit of the state. When Idaho’s urban renewal laws first were enacted in 1965, he said, “It was viewed as a way to help jumpstart the economy for local units of government.”

Others scheduled to present today include bond attorney Ryan Armbruster; Zions Bank Vice President of Public Finance Cameron Arial; Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman; and Minidoka County Assessor Max Vaughn. The meeting is being audio-streamed by Idaho Public Television; you can listen live here.

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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