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House debate: ‘What will public discourse look like in Idaho?’

Here are some of the comments from today's House debate on HB 404, the bill to ban camping on the grounds of the Capitol Mall and thus evict the Occupy Boise encampment from state property across from the Capitol:

Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, said she originally thought the anti-Occupy bill, HB 404, sought to abridge 1st Amendment freedoms, but after reading an Attorney General's opinion and studying the law, concluded it didn't. “But the perception is still out there,” King said. “I've gotten emails from all over the state. They believe they are just expressing their rights to freedom of assembly.” She said, “I think the occupiers have pointed out issues that we should be working on,” from jobs to the homeless to drug and alcohol treatment. “As you vote, think about the image of Idaho - are we portraying an image of intolerance?” King asked. “Maybe a better approach would have been to just talk to them and ask them to leave, and maybe even ask if you could help. But this bill is too harsh, and I don't think we really need it.”

Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, House majority caucus chairman, read from the 1st Amendment. He said lawmakers, too, are concerned about what's going on in the country and the economy. “We get it,” he said. “We run for office, we stand for issues. … We do it in a peaceful manner. … That's how we change things in this country.”

Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, said, “I am sympathetic to some of the issues that some of those who are camping on state property are raising, but that is not the issue. … What will public discourse look like in Idaho? Will we continue to show each other the respect that we should?” DeMordaunt said, “I have great respect for colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and if they don't agree with me, I don't camp on their lawn until they do. … This is no different than the playground bully who will sit on your chest … until you give in.”

Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said, “The bill is constitutional and it is within the state's power to pass it. The question is, should we?” He said, “We're not truly in an emergency situation. It may be distasteful to some to have Occupy across the street. … But sometimes those who are weakest, those who are most ill-equipped to be heard in society, nonetheless should be heard, to my inconvenience, to your inconvenience, and even to your distaste.”
  


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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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