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Eye On Boise

Tue., Feb. 14, 2012, 10:59 a.m.

Senate debate: ‘A sinister echo of what’s happening in our chambers’

As the Senate debate on the anti-Occupy bill, HB 404a, continues, here are some more of the comments:

Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello, told the Senate, "Folks, this bill is aiming at a group of people who are just simply exercising their rights. That's not right." He compared the tents of Occupy Boise to crosses on public property, or yellow ribbons on trees. "When I look at these tents, I really see freedom and democracy, as we exercise our right to express ourselves."

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said he's asked himself, "Would I feel the same way if the folks over there were fighting for some principled position that I agreed with? And for me, the answer is yes." He spearheaded amendments earlier to soften provisions that would've allowed property left on the site to be disposed of as litter; the bill now, instead, requires property to be held for possible claim for 90 days. Davis said he sees overnight stays as going beyond freedom of expression on public property, asking, "Can individuals also declare some of this ground to be their temporary or permanent place of dwelling?"

Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, said she sees the bill as a sign of everything that's going on in the Legislature this year, from a newly renovated Statehouse that permits lawmakers, if they choose, to use back elevators and hide from the public in private offices, to growing evidence that "bills brought by the minority are repeatedly not even introduced to print." Davis objected, but Lt. Gov. Brad Little said he'd allow LeFavour "a little leeway" given the gravity of the issue.

LeFavour said, "To maintain that Idaho's government is as open as possible, I think, is perhaps in this bill so evidently not the case." She said in the legislative committee process, "It is our job as much as it is the majority's job to bring forth issues for debate, for thoughtful debate. Today we debate a bill that attempts to silence some and remove them from our sight, and I worry that this is only a really sinister echo of what's happening in our chambers and in our committee rooms every day this year, and I'm sorry for that, because I think debate is important. And I think looking people in the eye is important. And I think hearing what needs to be said is so vitally important."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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