February 28, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Bill would let records be expunged

Betsy Z. Russell
 

BOISE – Athol Rep. Phil Hart wants Idaho to allow all evidence of past arrests or trials that didn’t result in convictions to be erased, including trial records and national law enforcement databases of arrests.

He brought legislation to the House Judiciary Committee to allow judges to expunge such records on request.

“In the United States we have the highest population of people on parole or probation in the world,” Hart told the panel. “I think we’ve got to look for ways to ratchet back the number of people we’re keeping track of and we’ve got records of.”

Committee members asked, among other questions, how Idaho judges could expunge records they have no jurisdiction over, such as national law enforcement databases.

“I’ll have to admit I was not aware of that, so I’ll have to do some more work on that,” Hart said.

Hart proposed similar legislation in 2005 that passed the House but died in a Senate committee. Asked what law enforcement thought of the idea then, he said, “As I remember, law enforcement did not like this bill, and I’ll just leave it at that.”

The committee voted to introduce his bill.

Retiree benefits change in works

Compromise legislation to trim Idaho’s costs for health insurance for state retirees, in part by moving all Medicare-eligible retirees off the state plan, passed the House this week on a 59-11 vote.

“I know there is opposition to this bill,” Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, told the House. “We did the best we could.”

Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, said she was the biggest opponent of last year’s version of the bill, but she’s a strong supporter of this version, HB 173, which was negotiated among lawmakers from both parties, the state Department of Administration, and the Idaho Public Employees Association.

“This bill is a model of bipartisanship – we worked as one,” Pasley-Stuart said.

The measure includes clauses allowing retirees to use unused sick leave to pay some premiums and other concessions.

Its opponents included House Commerce and Human Resources Chairman Bob Schaefer, R-Nampa, who said that the state committed in 1988 to providing health coverage for state retirees and that it was “unconscionable” to change that.

“We’ve not remunerated state employees as we should, that’s clear,” Schaefer told the House. “We’ve done it for many years, that’s clear. Most state employees are not millionaires. … We are betraying their trust by changing this commitment that was made.”

Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, said longtime state employees feel “betrayed” by the change. “There’s a little group of people, not very many, and we’re all gonna die in the next maybe 20 years, that they could’ve made some accommodation for,” she said.

Batt praises Minnick

Former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt, who also is a former chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, wrote a letter to the editor of the Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise praising Democratic congressman Walt Minnick. Here’s Batt’s letter:

“I didn’t support Walt Minnick during his campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Nevertheless, I did listen to his strong statements concerning fiscal responsibility. I didn’t doubt his sincerity, but I thought he’d have to follow the big spenders, most of the time, once he became a member of the majority party in the House.

“I’m sure Rep. Minnick knew that most Idahoans opposed the so-called ‘stimulus package.’ Yet, I believe the reason for his ‘no’ vote was a clear conviction that it is shameful to load a crushing debt on future generations of Americans and to totally usurp state rights and responsibilities. I don’t yet know if I’ll back Mr. Minnick for re-election, but I want him to know that I appreciate him standing up for Idaho.” – Phil Batt, Boise

‘Too much government’

Sens. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Denton Darrington, R-Declo, cast the only “no” votes in a 30-2 Senate vote on SB 1061, a measure from Sen. Lee Heinrich, R-Cascade, to allow counties to ticket motorists who drive onto groomed snowmobile trails.

“Too much government,” Darrington declared after the vote. “We just keep controlling everything.”

“Too much regulation,” added Cameron, as senators around them chuckled.

Heinrich told the Senate, “A groomed snowmobile trail seems to attract motor vehicle drivers up the trail and to an unwitting disaster.” Cars and trucks drive along the trails with “a false sense of security,” Heinrich said, until they suddenly sink through the crust and get stuck, wrecking the trail and requiring rescue. He said that in Valley County, officials tried “tank traps and large berms at the trailhead,” which kept the cars off – but insurers balked because snowmobilers were wrecking on the obstacles. “We are back to a smooth, inviting trail,” Heinrich said.

The bill easily passed despite the two longtime senators’ protest votes and moved to the House.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or bzrussell@gmail.com. For more news from Boise go to www.spokesman.com/boise.

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