Bill blocking foreign governments from buying Idaho ag land, mining claims advances to Senate
Supporters want to block hostile foreign governments from buying land or withholding water
Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
A bill designed to block foreign governments from purchasing agricultural land, water rights, mining claims and mineral claims is advancing to the Idaho Senate floor for a vote.
On Thursday, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to send House Bill 173 to the Senate floor with a do-pass recommendation.
If the bill is signed into law, it would prevent a foreign government or foreign state-controlled enterprise from purchasing, acquiring or holding any interest in agriculture land, water rights, mining claims or mineral rights in the state. Any agricultural land, water rights, mining claims or mineral rights acquired before the law becomes effective would be grandfathered in.
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Sen. Chris Trakel, R-Caldwell, and Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, sponsored the bill, saying it is a security measure.
“This is an issue that deals with not only national security, but more importantly, Idaho security,” Trakel told legislators Thursday.
As an example of why he supports the bill, Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said the bill is designed to prevent a hostile foreign government from scooping up land near a major military base under the guise it was innocently buying wheat fields. Supporters of the bill mentioned wanting to block Russia and China from buying land in Idaho, blocking water or controlling food production.
The Idaho Dairymen and Food Producers of Idaho associations testified in support of the bill.
A lobbyist representing the firm Riley Stegner and Associates testified in opposition to the bill, expressing concerns it could block pension funds that may be controlled by an element of the Canadian government or a Canadian school district from investing in Idaho land as part of its portfolio.
Idaho senators raise concerns about unintended consequences of foreign governments bill
Members of the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to advance the bill to the Senate floor despite some concerns senators raised about unintended consequences of the bill. Different senators wondered if the bill applied to state endowment lands, if it would affect Canadian-owned mining companies seeking permits to mine in Idaho and wondered if the bill would prevent so-called friendly pension funds that are part of a foreign government, such as Canada, that regularly trades and does business with the state.
In response to questions, Trakel said the bill would only apply to a foreign government or foreign state-controlled entity, not private companies based in other countries.
With legislators working to attempt to wrap up their business for the 2023 legislative session this week, the bill could quickly move to the Senate floor for a vote. The Idaho House of Representatives already voted unanimously to pass the bill.
Republican leaders of the Idaho House and Idaho Senate said they would work hard on the floors Thursday in an attempt to address as many remaining bills as possible today.
GOP leaders have been targeting Friday as the deadline to wrap up their business for the year since before the session convened Jan. 9. However, there is no requirement to adjourn the session by a certain date.
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