It took two full hours of contentious debate, but the House has passed Rep. Judy Boyle’s bill to crack down on trespassing, voting 45-22 in favor of the measure, HB 658. Boyle, R-Midvale, told the House, “The law-abiding citizen does not need to worry if he doesn’t trespass.” She added, “This is a vital constitutional right. … Property is sacred in America.”
Others objected that law-abiding sportsmen weren’t involved in drafting the bill, which also is opposed by the Idaho Sheriffs Association. Rep. Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom, said, “It just seems like the right thing to do was make a collaborative effort and let’s talk to both sides and let’s work this out. … I don’t know why we have this rush with getting this legislation passed before we’ve spoken to anybody. … What’s wrong with taking time to listen to these people? It just seems the right thing to do.”
Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said a lobbyist for a Texas family that recently purchased large amounts of land in Valley County and closed much of it to hunting and public access, leading to well-publicized clashes with locals, approached her last summer about beefing up trespassing laws. Perry said after the lobbyist told her hunters would lose their hunting licenses if they violated the proposed new law and she objected, she wasn’t consulted again. “The vast majority of sportsmen … want to be respectful,” Perry told the House. “Most of them are. I think they deserved the right to have cooperated with this bill so that we could handle some of these things that maybe haven’t been thought of.”
According to records in the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, lobbyist Suzanne Budge is registered to represent the Wilks Brothers of Cisco, Texas, the family that purchased the Valley County land, during this year's legislative session; and lobbyist John Foster is registered to represent the brothers' company, DF Development, also based in Cisco, Texas. Perry didn't identify the lobbyist who spoke with her; later, she said it wasn't Budge.
The Idaho Statesman reported today that the “Property Rights Coalition” advocated for the bill for nearly a month, represented by Boise attorney Gary Allen, who worked with Boyle on the bill, but that the group didn’t register with the state until Wednesday.
Boyle, in her closing debate, told the House, “This bill was not brought to me by a lobbyist a few months ago – I don’t know exactly what the lady from (District) 11 was discussing there.” She said the bill was “worked on for a long period of time” by a coalition including major Idaho landowners and a statewide all-terrain vehicle group.
Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, who is facing off with Perry in a crowded GOP primary for Congress in May, spoke out in favor of the bill. He said as a deputy county prosecutor, he prosecuted a man who’d driven into the middle of clearly marked private land and shot and dressed an elk there, but ended up with only a $150 fine after a jury trial. “Beyond that, there wasn’t a lot of repercussions for this individual, and that in my mind is an absolute tragedy for property rights,” Malek said. “We need to do something about protecting private property rights in this state. They are unenforceable the way they are now, and this bill moves them in the right direction.”
Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, said she’d had calls from hunters in her district who were opposed to the bill. “My first question was, ‘Are you a trespasser?’ They said no,” she told the House. “I couldn’t understand the source of all these calls … until we read something on Facebook.” Scott said she now attributes them to “these radical environmental groups that definitely have an agenda against private property owners.”
The measure now moves to the Senate side.
Here’s how the vote broke down:
Voting yes: Reps. Amador, Anderst, Bedke, Bell, Blanksma, Boyle, Burtenshaw, Chaney, Cheatham, Clow, Collins, Crane, Dayley, DeMordaunt, Dixon, Ehardt, Gestrin, Hanks, Hartgen, Holtzclaw, Kauffman, Kerby, Kingsley, Loertscher, Malek, McDonald, Mendive, Miller, Moon, Moyle, Nate, Palmer, Raybould, Redman, Scott, Shepherd, Stevenson, Syme, Thompson, Troy, VanOrden, VanderWoude, Wood, Zito and Zollinger.
Voting no: Reps. Anderson, Armstrong, Chew, Erpelding, Gannon(17), Gannon(5), Giddings, Harris, Horman, King, Kloc(Tway), Luker, Manwaring, McCrostie, Packer, Perry, Rubel, Smith, Toone, Wagoner, Wintrow and Youngblood.