Gov. Dirk Kempthorne declared, “This is a good day for law enforcement. This is a bad day for bad people,” as he signed legislation today to crack down on gang activity and to toughen sex-offender registration and sentencing laws. People need to know where sex offenders are, Kempthorne said. “It’s a matter of public safety, and it’s the community’s right to know.”
The governor gave a nod to Sens. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, and Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, for helping craft the sex offender bill, SB 1312. “Certainly the horrific crimes that have taken place in North Idaho have brought national attention to this issue, and I truly believe that the actions we have taken in this legislative session are proactive instead of reactive.”
The governor noted that the Criminal Justice Commission he appointed recommended both the gang crackdown and the tougher sex offender laws. However, he also charged that commission with addressing Idaho’s fast-growing prison population, which currently includes hundreds of inmates housed out-of-state because Idaho prisons are overflowing. That problem won’t worsen with this year’s new tougher sentencing laws, Kempthorne said – even though an array of tough bills are going through to lengthen prison sentences. “The problem is breaking the law. This allows law enforcement to be more effective. … If we had other legislation that was also going after bad people, I’d sign it,” he said.
The governor also noted that the state will build a new 400-bed substance abuse treatment facility for prisoners next year – more beds than will be in a new 350-bed prison addition. Efforts like that will help reduce recidivism among Idaho criminals, he said. “Those who want to turn their life around now can do so.”
The governor also visited with Statehouse reporters at the Capitol for the first time since he was nominated by President Bush to be the next Secretary of the Interior. The pending Senate confirmation process has “increased the workload” he faces, he said, and he expects some “shuttling back and forth” to Washington, D.C. in the coming weeks, even as he wraps up a contentious legislative session.
Nevertheless, he said, “This is going to be a successful session.” His Medicaid reform initiative alone is “a huge initiative,” he noted, that’s now won legislative approval. “We’re going to get it done. It’s an enormous success. This will be the largest single restructuring of Medicaid in United States history, and we’ve done it here in Idaho.”
Kempthorne also said he’s continuing to press for legislation to fund new community college courses in unserved areas of the state – like Boise – though the bill’s been stalled. “If it had been easy, I suppose it would’ve happened 20 years ago,” he said. “The concept has support … but it is the funding which is the sticking point.”
He was non-commital on a series of property tax reform bills now moving through the Legislature. “I just need to see what the final total package is,” he said.
With some lawmakers suggesting the legislative session could run for another two weeks, Kempthorne offered no estimate. “But see, I mean, I’m here anyways,” he said.