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Eye On Boise

Senate approves offender fee to fund victim-notification program

Sen. Denton Darrington, presenting SB 1263 to the Senate today, which imposes a $10 one-time fee upon conviction of a misdemeanor or felony to raise funds for the state's victim notification system, had this answer to the question of whether the state wasn't piling fees on top of fees: "There is a way not to pay it and all the others: Do not do the crime."

He said, "We have a lot of fees. It would be nice to go to the general fund for everything. Do you want to lead the way in going to the general fund for a half million dollars, under the circumstances we're under right now? I don't think I do. ... Right now all of our public employees are in need. All of our schools are in need. Higher education is in need. And we're not going to go to JFAC to get a half-million dollars plus to run this fund. This is a solid funding mechanism."

Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise, said he strongly supports the mission of the victim notification program, which makes sure victims of crime are notified of changes in the status of offenders. "However, I am one of the persons who has concerns about the funding mechanism," he said. "In fact there are now over 20 fees and other obligations, in addition to fines and restitution which these citizens must pay." Toryanski, an attorney, said minor offenders in Idaho face a growing load of fees beyond their ability to pay, and the state faces growing collection costs.

Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, also an attorney, spoke in favor of the bill. "This is something that is very important to victims out there who are the victims of violence or some other type of criminal activity, and we cannot drop the ball," he said. He said the fees could be reconsidered in the future when state finances improve.

Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said he's had "a little bit of a personal experience" with the program; his 23-year-old son was shot to death in 2003. "Are we prepared to take the money from other scarce resources?" he asked. "That's really the hard decision that we as a Senate have to wrestle with." Davis said he found the notification system "really easy to use. ... For me, in this moment, I think this is a pretty good approach." The bill then passed the Senate on a 30-5 vote; it now heads to the House side.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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