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Eye On Boise

Renewal panel rejects lawsuit, penalty provisions

Proposed legislative provisions allowing people to sue urban renewal agencies over physical, emotional or economic damage and get cash payments plus attorney fees and costs, and also authorizing class-action lawsuits, has been roundly rejected by lawmakers on the Legislature’s interim committee on urban renewal. They also agreed unanimously, after much discussion, to reject a previous provision on urban renewal reporting requirements and penalties.

Sens. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terretorn, and Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, both said flat-out that they wouldn’t support either one.  

“I think there are already remedies out there, and I know if someone is aggrieved you can take anybody to court you want to take to court and get whatever action a court will give you,” Siddoway said.

Jordan said no other government agency is subject to the kind of penalties the provisions proposed.

Said committee Co-Chair Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, “I’m not real comfortable with either of these two sections. What I’m hearing from the committee is that maybe we should disregard these two sections from further consideration.” No one objected.

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said, “I, too, have got some concerns about this, any time you start talking about emotional damage and these kinds of things. I hope you would never try to apply this to the Legislature, because we cause emotional damage all the time with the kinds of crazy ideas that we have. So I think there is substantial work that needs to be done on this section.” He added, “OK, public entities make mistakes, it happens. So does that blow up their whole plan?”

Siddoway said, “We’re holding a canary in our hands. Some of us just want to crush the canary. Some of us want to … keep it alive. And some of us just want to open our hands and let it go. Urban renewal, I think, in 99 percent of the cases is working very well in this state. But we’ve got four or five cases where I think it’s out of bounds. So you ask yourself, is it out of bounds because people on the committee or that board were trying to do things fraudulently, or are they actually trying to do the things they thought would benefit the community, grow the community, and reduce the tax burden in the long run? … I think the latter is probably the case. So for me to go out and start to curl my rope to make a hangin’ noose to go after the couple of people that I don’t agree with, I’m just not there.”

Rep. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa, said he agreed with Siddoway. “I knew you’d have a much better analogy than I could come up with,” he told him, adding, “I don’t recall us talking about this in previous meetings.”

With that, the committee took a lunch break; it’ll return at 1 to hear public comments on the legislative proposal, discuss an attorney general’s opinion on base assessment resets and other matters. Johnson said if any lawmakers want to refine the rejected ideas and propose bills on their own during the legislative session, that’s fine, but the committee clearly doesn’t support including those in their legislative proposal.

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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