A long history of protecting old Idaho families and ranchers from having to make competitive bids for state leases has been threatened by the recent Supreme Court decision over cottage leases on state land.
The Idaho Land Board–comprised of statewide elected officers–administers state land through the Idaho Dept. of Lands as well as the endowment funds which earn money mostly for education.
When the GUARDIAN raised the moral and ethical issue of the state competing with private enterprise with the purchase of Affordable Storage, they quickly claimed a “constitutional mandate” to get the best return on the investment. Hard to argue that logic.
The Idaho Supreme Court recently ruled against the board when Attorney General Lawrence Wasden sued his colleagues over the issue of competitive bidding for cottage leases on state land. Good for Wasden. He stayed with his principles.
It seems there are other situations that are ripe for change or challenge when it comes to getting the most bang for the buck.
In spite of several Attorney General’s opinions and guidelines as well as Supreme Court decisions, the Land Board signed a lease with 10 Beer Brew Pub LLC which was negotiated and not held at auction as required by the Idaho Constitution. They were able to do that because the Idaho Legislature passed several laws that appear on the face to be unconstitutional in light of the recent decision.
Those laws are:
I.C. 58-310 A, Cottage sites and Homesites not subject to conflict auctions This was declared unconstitutional by the Supremes.
I.C. 58-310 B, Grazing land not subject to conflict auctions
I.C. 58-307 (11), Commercial leases not subject to conflict auctions
The Idaho Supreme Court in the 2012 opinion No.104 stated plainly: “The language of Article IX sec. 8, unambiguously requires that any disposal of endowment land must be at public auction.” Also, “Disposal, as this Court has indicated…, means any lease or sale.” The Court continues, “Thus, Article IX sec. 8 requires public auctions for leases of endowment lands.”
Attorney General spokesman Bob Cooper offered this statement in response to a GUARDIAN request for comment:
“In the most recent decision, the Idaho Supreme Court held that the statute exempting cottage sites from the public auction requirement is
unconstitutional. The Court reached the same conclusion regarding grazing leases in the Idaho Watersheds Project (III) case in 1999. Our
office is now reviewing the cottage site decision in order to advise the Land Board of what is necessary to comply with the opinion.”
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