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Posts tagged as “Idaho Legislature”

Busy day

statehouse

The Idaho Legislature is back up to speed. With parameters set in the budget and tax discussion, lawmakers are rolling again. Today was an excellent day to get a sense of what's going on at the session.

And there's a good place to look for the rundown. Betsy Russell, who blogs (and, uh, writes news stories as well) from the Idaho Legislature for the Spokane Spokesman-Review, has 13 separate posts on mostly separate topics at the legislature today.

So what happened? Among the highlights:

The budget committee (the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee) [context] set the budget for the state Department of Education, approving money for a state data system.

It cut matching money for Idaho Public Television for translator stations.

It zeroed-out the Idaho Rural Partnership.

It zeroed-out the Idaho Women's Commission.

It turned down a proposal to study historic barns around the state.

The House Education Committee voted to permanently end state funding of school field trips.

A committee moved ahead with major changes to the state liquor license system.

The House passed, 51-17, a request that the federal government "cease and desist" invading the state's sovereignty. Specifics were not spelled out, which doesn't matter since the measure is a declaration only and has no practical effect.

A busy day at the Idaho Legislature. Best guess at present is another three to four weeks to go until adjournment.

Felony protection

Hart

Phil Hart

Idaho House Bill 139 may not be going anywhere; since it was introduced on February 16 it has stayed in the House Resources & Conservation Committee. But you have to wonder how thoroughly Representative Phil Hart, R-Athol, thought this throught before he had it introduced:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, at such time as the Canadiangray wolf population exceeds one hundred fifty percent (150%) of the population objectives identified in the wolf conservation and management plan for the state of Idaho, according to statistics maintained by the Idaho department of fish and game, and a Canadian gray wolf causes the death of a person within the state of Idaho, any person who protects Canadian gray wolves shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not exceeding five (5) years, or by fine not exceeding fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment.

That's the full substantive text. The official purpose is noted as, "The purpose of this legislation is to identify which individual or individuals are to be held responsible for criminal prosecution should a Canadian gray wolf kill a person."

So . . . it would be a felony to protect a wolf that has killed a person . . . or to protect wolves as a group? Would that include making felons of environmental activists who debate the law or regulation on the subject? The bill doesn't include any definitions.

Explaining (to some extent) in Res & Con, Hart said that "this
proposed legislation deals with wolves and will hold people accountable for wolf attacks under the wolf management plan. He reported that people who live in rural areas have been denied these rights. . . . In the discussion on the motion, Rep. Hart responded to a question regarding records of wolf attacks on people in Idaho. He explained that studies have been done in other areas and the criteria is rigid and an eye witness is required to report a killing."

Obviously a major problem. According to WikiAnswers.com: "Actually, there have been NO documented killings by wolves. Like any large carnivore, they deffinately have the means to kill a human... they can bring down moose. Usually, though, they like to stay away from humans as much as possible except for occasionally killing livestock." If anyone does know of a documented instance, let us know . . .

“Still at a funding crisis in transportation”

Probably shouldn't have been a big surprise, but the reports indicate that the core transportation strategic planners - mainly out of the office of Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter - really were thrown by the House rejection today of his proposed gas tax increase. Evidently, a number of House members were surprised too.

The debate was fairly closely split between the two sides but the vote wasn't close, at 27-43, with Democrats making some of the strongest anti-tax arguments. (Ponder that a moment: small-l libertarian Otter pushing a tax increase that the Democrats said was unaffordable.) Republican leadership couldn't push it through.

Representative Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, was quoted as saying, “I’ll continue to work with the governor’s office to see if there’s another proposal that would be acceptable, because the problem is not going to go away." It isn't. But keep watch and see if, in the days ahead, there are attempts to re-frame it - maybe as indicating that road spending, apart from what's already being paid for, is something that might be shifted toward the back burner.

The strange real world

Legislating can be difficult, but Idaho Representative Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, who in a former life as a newspaper publisher once managed a large web site operation, ought to have been able to see this one coming from a couple of mile off.

The basic concept behind House Bill 82 seems clear enough: "Current Idaho Code 18­6710 prohibits the use of the telephone to harass or annoy another person. RS 18369C1 would extend this prohibition to harassment via emails, text messaging, internet posts or personal blogs. Communications would be covered by the current penalties of a misdemeanor in the first offense and as a felony in the second or subsequent offense. RS 18369C1 provides examples of internet sites to be covered, and definoriginates in or is received in the state of Idaho".

If telephony and the Internet were the same thing, that might work. But the members of the House Judiciary Committee, where you might not ordinarily expect lots of high-tech expertise, spotted the flaws pretty quickly. From reporter Betsy Russell's blog:

Rep. Bill Killen, an attorney, asked Hartgen if the bill would cover his accessing a blog from Indiana that proved to contain material he found offensive. Hartgen said, “I think that would be a matter for the prosecutor to decide.” Rep. Raul Labrador, also an attorney, then said, “If it depends, I’m voting no. … If it depends, I have a real problem with this statute.” Hartgen said, “I think it would depend on what the prosecutor’s interpretation is. … That doesn’t really change, whether it’s Internet or telephone.” Responded Labrador, “But there is a huge difference, because the telephone message is directed at me,” while the blog is just posted in cyberspace.

Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, posed a hypothetical about a 17-year-old girl and a 19-year-old boy who have consensual sex, take explicit photos, then break up, and then one sends the other the photos. “In this committee we deal with the real world, and the real world can be strange,” Hart said. “Where’s the line between a crime and consensual behavior?” Hart also asked how many people would end up in Idaho’s prison system if Hartgen’s bill became law. Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, an attorney, asked Hartgen for a definition of profane language.

Is the use of the Internet "to annoy, terrify, threaten, intimidate, harass or offend" a real problem? Yes. It is. But this kind of problem grows out of a new kind of technology, new uses and approaches. And legal responses to it will probably have to grow similarly, out of new ideas and approaches.

Transportation confusion

Jeff Kropf

Since the advent of live blogging, we've been a little sad this medium wasn't available years ago; it would long have been a great way to cover and follow, for example, state legislative meetings. Fortunately, there was some live blogging of today's Idaho House Transportation Committee meeting, which was giving initial consideration to a string of road bills, five of them key measures proposed by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter.

A subsequent news story, even if well written, may not give the flavor of what happened here as well as some of the real-time takes on what happened. Some excepts from an Idaho Statesman live blog on the meeting (in chronological order, reversed from the original):

1:42 p.m. — Jason Kreizenbeck, Gov. Butch Otter's chief of staff, is presenting an overview of all five bills. Kreizenbeck said these bills are to generate additional revenue to maintain and improve Idaho's roads and bridges.

1:46 p.m. — Kreizenbeck is looking for some help from the Idaho Transportation Department, but none seems to be coming.

1:50 p.m. — Hard to say this is going well. Committee members seem stumped by the bills, which seem to be lacking some pivotal information. Kreizenbeck and committee chairwoman JoAnn Wood have struggled to connect on information as well.

1:55 p.m. — [Representative Phil] Hart wants to know what the money going into a new account created by the Gov. is going to be used for. Pam Lowe, director of the Idaho Transportation Department, said the money will be used to renovation and restoration.

2:00 p.m. — Wood got a jab in saying that she has not had time to look at the bills. The bills did not get to the Legislature until late Monday afternoon.

2:02 p.m. — It is hard to hear in the room as legislators are struggling to hear questions. "I think the amount of people here is soaking up the sound," Wood said.

2:03 p.m. — There is a lot of confusion, particularly about financial impact of the proposals, in the room.

2:19 p.m. — JoAnn Wood expressed concern about what raising the fees on the heaviest trucks would mean, especially since they pay such a high rate now.

The committee voted to print the bills, though some of the committee members made a point of indicating that didn't necessarily mean they would vote to move them any further. As the committee chair, JoAn Wood, remarked at 2:31 p.m.: "We do have a lot of work left in front of us."