Federal lands panel awaits first meeting

The 10 members of the Legislature’s interim federal lands committee are still waiting for word on when the group will hold its first meeting.

On May 30, the Legislative Council appointed eight Republicans and two Democrats to serve on the committee, assigned to study state management of Idaho’s federal lands.

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Bart Davis

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said staffers from Legislative Services Office contacted him last week about his availability, with the idea of scheduling meetings.

“I honestly don’t know (when the first meeting will be),” Davis said. “I know if my schedule is like everybody else’s is, such time is filling up pretty darn quickly. If we’re going to be doing something, we need to be getting a calendar as quickly as possible.”

Another high-profile interim committee, one studying K-12 education, will wait until at least July to hold its first meeting, Sen. John Goedde said earlier this month.

On the surface, a lands management study may seem far afield of education issues. However, in the final days of this year’s session, lawmakers adopted a concurrent resolution that “demands” the federal government “imminently” turn over all federal lands within Idaho to the state in order “to provide for the sufficient and necessary funding of Idaho’s public education system.”

If the government turns over federal lands, the resolution calls for the state to direct 5 percent of the proceeds to the Public School Endowment Fund, and the other 95 percent to pay down the federal debt.

“The focus is not just a land management issue, but a land management issue in which proceeds would ultimately directly benefit the public education system in Idaho,” Davis said.

When the committee does meet, it will feature a roster of heavyweights. The committee includes six members with current or recent leadership experience, including Davis; Assistant Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise; Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum; former Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale; House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star; and House Assistant Minority Leader Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise.

For his part, Davis represents a potentially interesting choice for the committee. On April 2, he voted against House Concurrent Resolution 22, which demands the federal government turn over lands to the state.

But that doesn’t mean Davis opposes the idea. He voted for HCR 21, which created the interim committee and called for studying the issue.

“I felt like we probably needed to do the (interim committee) work on HCR 21 before we start making any formal demands,” Davis said.

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