Gov. Butch Otter has signed HB 324 into law, sharply increasing fines for violations of the Idaho Open Meeting Law. Fines for regular violations would rise from $50 to $250; fines for knowing violations would rise from $500 to $1,500; and fines for knowing, repeated violations would rise from $500 to $2,500. Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, proposed the bill, saying fines hadn’t been updated since the Open Meeting Law first was enacted in 1974, and the increases reflect inflation.
The bill had a bumpy ride, with a House committee initially rejecting a version with even higher fines. Then, the House passed the bill, but the Senate added technical amendments that turned out to have a serious drafting error, inadvertently repealing a portion of the existing law. Finally, a new version was introduced in the House, where it passed, 60-9, and then passed the Senate, 29-4. Otter had no comment as he signed the bill into law. It takes effect July 1.
It was one of 12 bills Otter signed into law yesterday and today; you can see the full list here. Among them were SB 1174, the Idaho Transportation Department budget for next year, which totals nearly $500 million, nearly half of it from federal funds; and SB 1098a, the bill to allow state parks to seek corporate sponsorships.