Eye On Boise

Senate kills bill to expand disturbing-peace law, says it was unconstitutional

The Senate has voted 12-22 against HB 524, House-passed legislation from Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, to expand Idaho's disturbing the peace law to address a situation that's arisen between hostile neighbor his his district. Numerous senators said the bill, which would make it a misdemeanor to engage in "conduct that is intended to seriously alarm or harass a person such as would cause a reasonable person substantial emotional distress," appeared to restrict both freedom of speech and private property rights, by criminalizing, for example, the hanging of a sign on one's own property.

After nearly every attorney in the Senate had spoken against the bill, Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, also an attorney, said, "I'm kinda leaning toward the bill." He noted that the existing disturbing the peace law also has vague language in it, such as "tumultuous or offensive conduct." Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, another attorney, then drew a big laugh when he told the Senate, "I don't think having bad language in a statute is a reason to add more bad language." The bill then was decisively killed; it had passed the House unanimously.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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