The Idaho House voted Tuesday to strip urban renewal agencies of eminent domain powers, though the measure making the change is likely doomed as it moves on to the Senate.
While the measure passed on a 47-18 vote, it will likely face a tough time in the Idaho Senate. The head of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee, Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, told the budget committee last week that the Senate doesn’t have “much appetite” for urban renewal reforms.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Nonini, R-PostFalls, wouldn’t mean the end of urban renewal agencies using eminent domain, but would place significant hurdles in the process.
Instead of being allowed to use eminent domain itself, the new law would force urban renewal agencies to go before city councils to have the process approved. Nonini’s contention is that urban renewal officials are not elected and have no public accountability. That, Nonini said, would change under his legislation.
“We think it is time to rein in urban renewal a little bit,” Nonini said.
There isn’t an epidemic of urban renewal entities using eminent domain, Nonini admitted, but said officials often use the process as a threat in transaction negotiations. “I find that offensive,” he complained.
Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, suggested the legislation is a solution without a problem. “This is very, very rare,” Jaquet said. Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise, said agencies only use eminent domain in “unusual circumstances.”
An urban renewal lobbyist mentioned in the bill’s committee hearing that agencies haven’t used eminent domain in the past 30 years.
Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis, said that even if agencies aren’t using the process, the threat is always looming and lawmakers need to end it. “How much more do we want to invalidate our personal property rights?” Barrett asked. “It’s simple. Just do it.”
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