Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Day: March 17, 2023”

The legislators of hazard

The Idaho Legislature may be making Idaho a legally and financially hazardous place to live, though maybe unexpectedly profitable for others.

Overtly, this year’s session has taken aim at large numbers of people, and a lot of people who never thought of themselves as being at legal and financial risk might be caught up in legislation running through this year’s session

State Representative Steve Berch outlined a large chunk of this in his latest constituent newsletter, arguing, “the ugly is showing up in poison pills buried in many of the bills we've been voting on lately. Never before have there been such deliberately harsh punishments attached to bills.”

The punishments, which have tended to get less news coverage than the top-line prohibitions, really do seem central.

Take for example the famous “bathroom bill” (Senate Bill 1100) which says, “Any student who, while accessing a public school restroom, changing facility, or sleeping quarters designated for use by the student's sex, encounters a person of the opposite sex has a private cause of action against the school if:  (a) The school gave that person permission to use facilities of the opposite sex; or (b) The school failed to take reasonable steps to prohibit that person from using facilities of the opposite sex.” (Note that this doesn’t even specifically reference transgender people; it applies to anyone; nor does it specify the “reasonable steps.”)

The next section outlines the “cause of action,” which awards the complainant $5,000 for each instance of an “encounter,” plus damages from the school, plus attorneys’ fees. And it can be filed any time in the upcoming four years.

Hey kids! Having trouble meeting college expenses? Hey parents! Running low on cash? Have I got a fundraising idea for you …

As Berch points out, the legislature also is doing much more to exact pain from various groups of people for various purposes.

The Parental Rights Protection of Minors Act, aimed at limiting minors’ exposure to online materials, seems to target manufacturers of online communications devices, requiring them to set up special filters (apparently applicable specifically to Idaho) and allows parents or guardians of any minor who accesses and uses such an unfiltered device to sue for $40,000 plus a bunch of other damages; plus, there’s a criminal penalty involved for private users as well. (Will the attorney general’s office advise the legislature what a legal dog’s breakfast this is? Hmm.)  At least this one has been sitting quietly in Senate committee for a while.

Then there’s transporting a minor across state lines (House Bill 242) for a legal abortion (actually, the bill is much broader than that): a $20,000 civil penalty plus fees and attorney costs, and you can sue up to six years after the fact.

The anti-library “harmful to minors” bill (House Bill 138) - goes way beyond just trying to ban certain books - it allows plaintiffs to “recover $10,000 in statutory damages for each instance in which they obtained material harmful to minors.” Who knows what someone may deem harmful? Forget the lottery: This could be a serious jackpot … until it shuts down the libraries because of legal risk.

We shouldn’t forget the ill-defined “drag show bill” (House Bill 265) which doesn’t mention that term at all, but instead refers to “sexual exhibition,” without defining the term other than as something “patently offensive,” which varies a lot from person to person. (The underlying target of the bill was drag shows, though those available to minors include no actual sexual activity.) On this one you can sue for $10,000 per offensive incident, plus legal costs.

Plus so much more. And remember: When it comes to civil actions, proof beyond a reasonable doubt isn’t necessary.

If you want to argue I’m overreacting, consider: A bunch of Idaho legislators apparently think these issues are serious, else why would they be doing all this?

Could be quite a payday for some Idahoans, at the expense of others. Idaho may be about to turn into the sue me-sue you state.

Courtesy the party of getting government off your back.