Federalism meeting

Members of the Legislature’s Committee on federalism talk during their first meeting on Friday. From left to right are Reps. Judy Boyle, Wendy Horman, Megan Blanksma and Jason Monks, and Sens. Steve Vick, Dan Johnson, Mark Harris, Carl Crabtree and Grant Burgoyne. Not pictured but seated at the left is Rep. Jake Ellis.

When the Idaho Legislature’s new joint Committee on Federalism held its first meeting today Friday, it heard extensive presentations on how millions in federal timber sales are being accomplished through state-federal cooperation, creating and maintaining hundreds of Idaho jobs and positively impacting rural communities across the state. Then the lawmakers invited public testimony from anyone who’d like to share successful examples of federalism they’ve observed in Idaho or elsewhere. But of the five people who testified, none could think of any.

“We are logging way, way below historic levels,” said Jeff Wright of Boise County.

“We’ve been negated from doing any mining,” said Bill Villers. “This is one of the main reasons that we have such a high unemployment rate, especially in the mine sector.”

Fred Birnbaum of the Idaho Freedom Foundation suggested Idaho look at all the federal funds it receives and “determine which ones the state does not need to take.”

Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, told the panel, “I really had a hard time thinking of anything for Idaho, in regards to this question. … I can think of other states that have told the federal government to go pound sand, but I had a hard time coming up with anything in Idaho.” She pointed to other states that have acted on “marijuana or sanctuary cities.”

Rep. Jason Monks, R-Nampa, co-chair of the new joint committee, noted that during the legislative debate about forming the new committee, “There were the extremes — we could use this committee as a battering ram to try to bludgeon the federal government, we could argue and complain.”

But, he said, “I believe the reason we’re trying to have this committee is to see where we can improve the relationship between the federal government and the states, not make it worse.” You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Saturday’s edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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