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Lawmaker panel says Idaho should cover ranchers' legal fees

Posted: 4:39 PM, Mar 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-15 22:39:09Z

A panel of Idaho lawmakers says the state should reimburse two ranchers for legal costs they incurred fighting the federal government for rights to streams and other water bodies that livestock rely on when grazing on federally managed land.

The House State Affairs Committee passed the proclamation on a voice vote Thursday, stating that $600,000 from the Constitutional Defense Fund should go to the Joyce Livestock and Lu Ranching companies to pay them back for the money they spent in the water rights cases more than a decade ago.

Rep. Megan Blanksma, a Republican from Hammett who sponsored the proclamation, says the case set important legal precedent for Idaho livestock owners and protected the state from "incredible federal overreach."

Some committee members voiced concern, however, that actually using those funds to reimburse private companies -- not matter how noble their cause -- might violate state law.

Proclamations don't carry the weight of law, and instead are akin to policy statements. The proclamation next goes to the full House for consideration.