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Non-compete bill brings fiery debate, defeat

Last-minute IACI legislation to enforce non-compete clauses against Idaho employees was defeated in the Senate this afternoon, after a dramatic debate that earned a rare rebuke for a senator’s use of “profanity.” Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, loudly criticized the debate of Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, because Werk used the phrase “by God” in his emotional comments against the bill. Werk apologized to the Senate, but Darrington insisted that the misstep be noted in the Senate journal.

The bill, SB 1203, was introduced just last week, long after the deadline for most bill introductions, at the urging of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. IACI lobbyist Mark Dunham said a 2005 Idaho Supreme Court ruling dealing with non-compete clauses made some of his group’s members nervous. “These agreements are routinely used throughout the state of Idaho in virtually every business setting,” Dunham said.

But Werk said, “No other state in the nation has done this – none.” The measure actually would put Idaho employers at a disadvantage in trying to recruit top candidates to come work here because workers could face such onerous sanctions when they left the job, he said. “I’m asking you to say no to this 12th-hour attempt to turn back hundreds of years of jurisprudence,” Werk declared. Sen. Mike Burkett, D-Boise, an attorney, said, “I thought this was a body that stands for not encouraging activist courts. … I’m convinced the lawyers tucked away in a corporate board room who drafted this bill are playing a game with the Idaho Legislature.”

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, the bill’s floor sponsor, said, “We tell the courts all the time what to do, and I don’t know that this is any great leap.” But the bill died on a 16-18 vote.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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