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Eye On Boise

Senate passes ag-gag bill 23-10, four Republicans oppose it

The Senate has voted 23-10 in favor of SB 1337, the so-called “ag-gag” bill, which would create a new crime of interfering with agricultural production, and specifically targets anyone who takes and distributes surreptitious video. The new crime would carry up to a year in jail and fines of up to $5,000.

During the debate, which ran through much of the noon hour, Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, speaking against the bill, said America has a “proud tradition” of things being exposed that shock people’s sensibilities – and bring about change and end wrongdoing. Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, said, “Senators, this bill is about property rights. This bill is about individual property owners being able to protect their property. … One should have the right to regulate who has access to his business and to his business records.” He decried “agri-terrorism,” which he said is becoming an increasing problem.

Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, the bill’s lead sponsor, said, “You don’t go out to Micron and take pictures. … It’s against the law.” He said, “The problem we have here is you can be tried and convicted in the press or on YouTube, because everything’s so available nowadays.”

The bill now moves to the House side; to become law, it still must pass there and receive the governor’s signature. The 10 “no” votes came from six of the Senate’s seven Democrats (all but Sen. Lacey), plus four Republicans, Sens. Fulcher, Bayer, McKenzie and Keough. Two senators missed the vote, Sens. Siddoway and Johnson.

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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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