April 1, 2012 in Idaho

Eye on Boise: Session comes to a screaming end

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – On the final night of this year’s legislative session, the Senate was disrupted by a woman’s shrill scream from the fourth-floor public gallery: “Give that back!”

An Occupy Boise protester in the gallery was being accosted by Idaho State Police officers – for violating a rule against wearing hats. Occupy members have worn knit caps when they come to the Statehouse to show solidarity.

The disruption came just after the Senate voted in favor of the latest anti-Occupy bill, which authorizes the state Department of Administration to promulgate rules for use of the Capitol Mall grounds – including the site of the Occupy Boise vigil – and make violations of the rules infractions. Gov. Butch Otter signed the bill into law on Friday.

State troopers escorted the half-dozen protesters out, as the same woman shouted, “I didn’t do anything!” and “You’re hurting me!” and another yelled, “Is this democracy?”

Majority Leader Bart Davis immediately set the Senate at ease. The woman, who gave her name only as Sage, was dragged down the stairs when she refused to walk and finally ordered not to return to the state Capitol.

Animal cruelty compromise

SB 1303a, the animal cruelty bill sponsored by the state’s cattle industry that creates the state’s first felony penalty for animal cruelty – for a third aggravated offense – has been endorsed by the Senate with its House amendment. “They did make what I think is a good addition,” said Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson.

The House amendment adds felony penalties in certain cases for organized cockfighting. “We can’t defend organized cockfighting, particularly where drugs and gaming is involved,” Brackett said. The move sent the bill to Gov. Butch Otter; Idaho currently is one of just three states with no felony penalties for animal cruelty.

The amended bill passed on a 24-11 vote, after several senators said they fear the livestock industry could be targeted with further-reaching restrictions in the future as a result. Earlier, the Senate had approved SB 1303 31-1; since then, the only change was the addition of the cockfighting clause, but seven former supporters opposed the bill as amended.

But it doesn’t mean …

Lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved HJR 2, the right-to-hunt amendment to the Idaho Constitution, so it’ll go to voters in November; it was the latest of numerous revisions of the measure. But on the final night of the legislative session, the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, asked the Senate to adopt a “statement of legislative intent” clarifying that the amendment isn’t intended to block other methods of managing wildlife besides hunting, fishing and trapping, and that it’s not meant to affect private property or water rights.

That suggests possible legal problems with the much-revised amendment.

Food, consumer bills

Two last-minute bills were introduced in the final week, just for discussion. In the words of House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, the moves will “get them a bill number, put them in the public domain.”

One, from state Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, is a new version of his “food freedom act.” In its earlier incarnation this session as HB 431, the “Idaho Farm Freedom Act,” the bill would have exempted from any licensing, certification or inspection requirement the sale of farm products at farmers markets, roadside stands or directly to consumers. That measure drew strong opposition from the Food Producers of Idaho, who said it would risk consumer health and hurt the reputation of Idaho’s farmers markets.

The second bill was from Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, to create an Idaho Office of Utility Consumer Advocate to represent ratepayers in utility rate cases before the Public Utilities Commission. Forty-three states have some form of consumer advocate in their utility rate-setting process.

Limericks

As the final week and a half of the legislative session wound down, I penned these legislative limericks:

May is on the way …

Idaho’s political round

Is clearly closed-primary bound.

When hot-button issues

Mean get out the tissues

It’s lawmaking in ultrasound.

On Day 75 …

It should’ve ended today

But politics got in the way

Bombast or circus

Savings or tax cuts

We all know who gets to pay.

Last-minute mischief

On the new $200,000 legislative legal fund, controlled by the House speaker and Senate president pro-tem:

Things that come up very late

May not be a plus for the state

The legal slush fund

Is case No. 1

Would more scrutiny have sealed its fate?

Election is coming …

Now it’s just time for the spin

As lawmakers pack it all in

So if you approve

Or opposed every move

It’s time to get your vote in.


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