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Proposed Bills To Shift Authority From Cities To State

Between oil and gas exploration and franchise fees, there are some bills in the legislature that propose shifting local control to the state.

Rep. Elaine Smith (D-Pocatello) said the house spent a long time discussing an oil and gas exploration and production bill on Friday that would take authority away from counties and cities to give the state the responsibility to decide where wells can be placed.

“And I thought it was really interesting because the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Stevenson from Rupert, said, ‘There is support for this bill, there is opposition for this bill,'” Smith said.

Two Idaho counties are at the heart of the bill: Payette and Washington counties. Payette county officials supported the bill, but Washington county officials did not, Smith said. Bannock county officials were neutral, because there’s no natural gas there, but it might be interested in it for another reason.

“I was concerned that it took a little too much local control away, so I voted no,” Smith said.

This is another bill proposed this session that takes away local control and gives it to the state.

“I think it creates more regulations,” she said.

The proposed franchise fee bill does something similar. A compromise has been drafted that would force companies to pay a state-wide franchise fee, and then negotiate with individual cities over a possible second fee, Smith said. With the previous version, Pocatello could have lost around $80,000, but Smith said this helps save some money.

“If it passes, which I expect it to pass, then we’ll probably lose about $32,000,” she said.

The money saved will not go to fund public access channels, but Smith is voting for it anyway.

“I’m always one that’s pushing for compromise, that have groups get together for a workable solution, so I felt like I needed to vote for the compromise. Even though we’re still losing revenue it’s better than what the original bill proposed,” Smith said.

Pocatello has an existing franchise fee contract with Cable One. It will be up to Cable One to decide whether or not it will keep that current contract or go with the state fee. The compromised version of the bill will be voted on Feb. 21.

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