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Lawmakers Pushing Bills That Limit Information

Keeping secret the names of people who can legally carry concealed firearms took a big step closer to becoming law in Idaho.

After no one argued against it, the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee Friday endorsed the measure and sent it to the Senate.

The bill marks yet another in a series that lawmakers could use to limit public access to records.

“There are quite a few bills,” said Idaho Press Club President Kevin Richert of Idaho Falls. “There’s no question about that, and all will have the same general effect if they were to become law: They would limit public access.”

That is not to say the session has seen a wholesale erosion of public access. So far, only one bill has passed and that involves shielding from disclosure the addresses of people who obtain any number of state licenses, certificates, permits or bonds.

Sought by the Idaho Real Estate Commission, that measure is now on Gov. Phil Batt’s desk.

Elsewhere, lawmakers rejected efforts to increase the copying fees cities can charge. And Sen. Jerry Thorne, R-Nampa, withdrew a bill to expand secret caucus meetings in the Legislature.

But several proposals, some with broad implications, are making their way toward becoming law.

One allows industries to selfmonitor and report pollution. It would provide businesses with an opportunity to detect and then clean up pollution without paying penalties.

But it also would keep confidential individual reports filed with the Division of Environmental Quality.

Another one shields from disclosure working papers of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee. That panel is charged with conducting performance evaluations of state agencies.

The measure cleared the Senate and is now before the House. Sen. Bruce Sweeney, D-Lewiston, said confidentiality is needed to preserve the integrity of the committee’s preliminary work.

Richert counters performance audits are supposed to be the public’s backstop in how government works.

“We think that whole process should be as open as can be,” he said.