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Eye On Boise

Sen. Hill defends Bair against criticism from 14 former Fish & Game commissioners

Idaho Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said he’s still reviewing the documents, but his initial take is that he disagrees with the 14 former state Fish & Game commissioners who are calling on him to replace Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, as Senate resources chairman. “There’s a little bit of irony here,” he said. “They want Sen. Bair removed because they think he influenced the governor’s decision not to reappoint some Fish & Game commissioners. But they think it’s acceptable to influence me to remove Sen. Bair.”

Hill said, “There’s been some hurt feelings here.” He said he believes the laws established by the 1938 citizens initiative that set up the Fish & Game Commission say “very clearly that they are to administer the policy, not to make policy. They don’t like the Legislature fulfilling its constitutional role – to establish policy and make the laws.”

The law, in Idaho Code 36-102, says in part, “The department of fish and game of the state of Idaho is hereby placed under the supervision, management and control of said Idaho fish and game commission.”

But it also says, in 36-103, “Commission to Administer Policy. Because conditions are changing and in changing affect the preservation, protection, and perpetuation of Idaho wildlife, the methods and means of administering and carrying out the state's policy must be flexible and dependent on the ascertainment of facts which from time to time exist and fix the needs for regulation and control of fishing, hunting, trapping, and other activity relating to wildlife, and because it is inconvenient and impractical for the legislature of the state of Idaho to administer such policy, it shall be the authority, power and duty of the fish and game commission to administer and carry out the policy of the state in accordance with the provisions of the Idaho fish and game code. The commission is not authorized to change such policy but only to administer it.”

Hill said when weighing who should establish policy for Fish & Game in Idaho, “I’d have to come down on the side of the Legislature.” He added, “Quite frankly, I think the commission and the Legislature have worked very well together for many years.”

He noted that Bair’s controversial proposed legislation to mandate auction tags, against the wishes of the commission, didn’t advance. “I think the chairman appropriately put it in his drawer and kept it there,” Hill said.

“Sen. Bair is one of the most conscientious and trusted members we have in the Legislature,” Hill said. “I think Sen. Bair wants to do what’s best for the people. I think he’s concerned for the ability of the commission to serve the public and serve the sportsmen in the state – he’s a sportsman himself.”

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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