Reps. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, and John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, are again working together to attempt to limit the power of the Land Board, a five-member panel of statewide elected officials charged with managing Idaho’s endowment property.
Burgoyne and Vander Woude met with the Natural Resources Interim Committee Wednesday and left the meeting with a positive recommendation for their measure. The committee’s favorable vote has no real impact, but may signal a changing attitude about the bill.
The measure would prevent the state from buying private businesses and would force the Land Board to sell any businesses it holds. The bill stems from the panel’s 2011 purchase of Affordable Storage, a commercial storage facility in Boise.
The board would not, however, be required to sell a number of commercial office buildings it owns in downtown Boise because of a distinction made in the bill.
The duo’s first attempt to control the Land Board’s power, 2011′s House Bill 188, stalled when House Resources and Conservation chairman Bert Stevenson, R-Rupert, exercised his special privilege to stall the legislation. “There’s not a reason to hear it,” said Stevenson told IdahoReporter.com near the end of the 2011 session.
Stevenson said that the purchases fulfilled the board’s constitutional duty of maximizing investment returns.
But Stevenson seems more lenient on the measure this year. “It needs a hearing,” Stevenson said, motioning to recommend the measure to the House Resources and Conservation Committee.
Still, lawmakers at Wednesday’s hearing wondered if the Legislature can limit the Land Board’s authority without amending the Idaho Constitution. Burgoyne said it’s possible his measure might have questionable constitutionality, but said that could come down to a judge’s discretion. “The court’s going to make its own conclusion as to the constitutionality,” said Burgoyne.
The measure brought to lawmakers Wednesday also required the Land Board to deposit all proceeds from land sales into endowment accounts immediately, instead of waiting until the legally-mandated five-year cap.
But that provision was too stiff, or so said Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton. Siddoway told the bill sponsors he believes the board needs to have maximum flexibility in using the funds in order to buy other property which might also benefit the state. “I’m really opposed to that section of this bill,” said Siddoway.
The version set to appear before the House committee will allow the Land Board to deposit sale proceeds into a temporary account for up to one year.