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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Senate passes slew of bills, Schmidt gets Davis to donate to Constitutional Defense Fund

The Senate has now adjourned until 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, after passing a slew of bills. They included many appropriation bills and many measures that passed on unanimous votes, but there were exceptions. Among them:

SB 1421, the budget bill to transfer $2 million to the Constitutional Defense Fund, and spend $971,700 in state general funds for attorney fees for the winning side, Syringa Networks, in the Idaho Education Network lawsuit that the state lost, spurred some lively debate. Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, who voted in favor of the bill, said, “I’m all for defending the Constitution.” But he suggested that rather than transfer general funds, the state should look to a dedicated fund source: Donations from any lawmaker who votes in favor of legislation that lands the state fruitlessly in court. The bill passed on a 29-5 vote, with just five Senate Democrats dissenting; the two Senate Dems who serve on JFAC, Schmidt and Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, voted in favor. But just a few minutes later, Schmidt rose again and displayed a crisp $5 bill – a donation from Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis in response to his call.

“The senator from 33 wants to donate to the Constitutional Defense Fund,” Schmidt said. “It’s very substantial. … I think we are starting a policy.”

The narrowest vote of the afternoon came on HB 331a, the bill to ban powdered alcohol. Here’s how that 17-16 vote broke down: Voting in favor: Sens. Bair, Brackett, Davis, Hagedorn, Harris, Heider, Hill, Jordan, Lacey, Martin, McKenzie, Mortimer, Buckner-Webb(Rohn), ,Siddoway, Souza, Stennett and Winder. Voting against: Sens. Bayer, Burgoyne, DenHartog, Guthrie, Johnson, Keough, Leer, Lodge, Nonini, Nuxoll, Patrick, Rice, Schmidt, Thayn, Vick and Ward-Engelking.

HB 544, the House-passed bill to repeal a law that forbids showing movies that portray nudity or specific sex-related acts while licensed to serve alcohol, passed on a 32-1 vote and now heads to the governor’s desk. The lone dissenter: Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise. Idaho was sued for violating the First Amendment after state police threatened a movie theater’s liquor license for showing the film “Fifty Shades of Grey.” That bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

HB 494a, the measure to reclassify first-time offenses of minor consuming alcohol or minor in possession of alcohol to an infraction rather than a misdemeanor, passed on a 34-1 vote. The single “no” vote: Sen. Dan Schmidt. That bill, which follows recommendations of from the Misdemeanor Reclassification Subcommittee of the state's Criminal Justice Commission, now heads back to the House for concurrence in Senate amendments.

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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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