Eye On Boise

MONDAY, FEB. 25, 2013, 2:51 P.M.

House panel kills felony bill for attacks on health care workers, on 8-8 tie vote

Kootenai Medical Center says its workers are being violently assaulted more and more frequently - to the point that it wants to make any attack on a health care worker in Idaho a felony.  “We’ve seen an increasing number of individuals who come in through the emergency room who are exhibiting very violent behavior,” David Lehman, lobbyist for KMC, told the House Judiciary Committee on Monday. Many are seeking prescription drugs.

But legislation to make any assault or battery against an Idaho health care worker a felony carrying a 25-year prison term was rejected on a tied vote by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.  “There are tools on the books – I’m not convinced they’re being used,” said Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise. Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “I’m concerned about the broad brush here.”

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, sponsor of HB 126, was disappointed. “I guess we’ll try and bring it back again next year,” he said. Under current law, such attacks are misdemeanors carrying up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. But Luker noted that the worst attacks could be charged as aggravated assaults, which are felonies with up to five years in prison.

Said Luker, “At some point we need to use the tools we have first.” The bill initially won the committee’s approval on a 9-7 vote, but then Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, changed his vote from yes to no, killing the bill on an 8-8 tie. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

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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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