Sims still can’t get urban renewal election bill out of committee


Tom Schultz, director of the Idaho Department of Lands, told a legislative interim committee that investments from the endowment lands produced a record return in fiscal year 2014.

Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, has had a rough go of it with one of her bills this year.

With the session winding down and about two weeks to go before the final gavel drops for the year, Sims, for the second time in the last few weeks, pitched her bill to force urban renewal districts to hold elections for their oversight boards.

And, for the second time this session, the bill was held in committee.

As it stands now, commissioners are either chosen by a city council, a mayor or county commissioners, depending on how the urban renewal agency is set up.

Sims believes that because the agencies handle millions of public dollars, they should be accountable to local residents. That, she says, would be achieved through direct election of oversight commissioners.

But the latest version of her bill stalled again in committee, even after it was revised from an earlier draft.
Chances looked good for the legislation until Beth Ineck, secretary for an Idaho redevelopment association, stepped up to the podium. Ineck, who also works in Nampa’s urban renewal department, said the legislation could have some unintended consequences, including agencies being unable to meet transparency reporting requirements.

Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, took Ineck’s concerns and transformed them into a motion to hold the legislation in committee, at least until the bugs are worked out of.

A visibly frustrated committee chair, Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis, spoke against Perry’s move and said the bill is adequate enough to move forward in the legislative process.

Her committee felt otherwise, voting to hold the bill 6-5.

With the clock ticking, Sims faces diminishing chances that her bill will make it through the House, much less the Senate as well. It may not matter anyway. Senate Local Government and Taxation chair Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, has expressed no interesting in hearing a number of urban renewal reform bills.

If Sims’ bill dies, it will be the second year in a row she has pushed the election legislation unsuccessfully. Last year’s version failed on the House floor over concerns over how residents would vote for commissioners.

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Rep. Kathleen Sims, R-Coeur d'Alene, Rep. Kathleen Sims, R-Coeur d'Alene
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