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Latest anti-Occupy bill passes on party-line vote; protesters chant

The House State Affairs Committee has approved HB 693 on Capitol Mall rule-making, aimed at restricting behavior in the area that's the site of the Occupy Boise vigil, on a party-line vote; the bill now moves to the full House. The committee's Democrats opposed the bill, but a substitute motion by Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, to amend the bill failed on a party-line vote.

Among those testifying against the bill was Mike Despot, the retired former Capitol Mall facilities manager. “This law is totally unnecessary, it is pointed at a certain group, it is to inhibit free speech,” Despot told the committee. “We are told we can have free speech by coming to your offices. As we were being told that, the offices were being locked down.” Most House members' office areas remain locked by order of House Speaker Lawerence Denney; he issued the order early this session.

Others objected that a federal judge already has ruled in favor of allowing the Occupy tents to remain and has scheduled further legal proceedings on the issue. Dean Gunderson, an Occupy supporter, said, “Boy, I would sure love it if you passed this particular piece of legislation, because it would be one more nail in the coffin of the state's case. … I would just love to have that in hand by the time we go into evidentiary hearing on June 7th.”

Violations of the new rules created under HB 693 would be infractions, and the director would have the authority to sue to enjoin any violation or threatened violations of the rules; you can read the bill here.

Roger Brown, an aide to Gov. Butch Otter, told the committee that the governor supports the legislation, and the Department of Administration currently doesn't have the appropriate rule-making authority. Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, read from current law that says the director has authority to promulgate rules. Teresa Luna, director of the Department of Administration, said the bill is needed “in order to allow the Department of Administration the authority it needs to manage and maintain its properties.”

After the committee's vote, Occupy Boise members chanted in unison a message that included this line, “Please join the people later today as we issue an eviction notice to the corrupt members of this legislative body.” Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, banged his gavel and declared that the  loudly protesting group would be removed; two Idaho State Police officers escorted the chanting protesters out.


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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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