A series of amendments to HB 658 proposed by Sen. Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs, the Senate sponsor of the anti-trespassing bill, have been approved by the Senate on divided but lopsided votes; while competing amendments from Senate Democrats - including one to strike the enacting clause of the bill, rendering it ineffective - were rejected on similarly divided but lopsided votes.
Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, who proposed the amendment to strike the enacting clause, said, “The current law probably does need some improvement. I think that there’s concern on all parties that work needs to be done. But the primary concern I have, and the reason that I brought this amendment, is that I think that this bill needs some time, and it needs a group of folks around the table working things out together.” To bring amendments as complicated as Harris’ this late in the session, with no opportunity for any public input, would result in a law that would have been better “with a little more time and care,” Jordan said.
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, countered, “This bill has had a great deal of discussion and a great deal of work by a very large group of people. The amendments that are proposed to the bill by the sponsors really do make this a bill that is appropriate to consider.” If the Senate adopted Jordan’s amendment, he said, it’d be saying “don’t consider anything. Don’t listen to people. Don’t protect private property rights.”
Harris told the Senate, “The current trespass law is broken, it’s confusing, it’s disorienting, the posting requirements are inconsistent. ... The penalties are weak.”
He said, “The effort behind this amendment is to combine civil, criminal and recreational trespass into one place. The bill would not affect those who use ordinary care. It would affect those who don’t use ordinary care and disregard the law.”
Harris said his amendments would address concerns that were raised about a one-way awarding of attorney fees, allowing either side to recover attorney fees in certain circumstances; clarify oral permission; say damages should be awarded to the damaged party, which in the case of a lessee who had his crops damaged would be to the lessee; clarify that investigative costs that are assessed must be “reasonable;” create a simple infraction offense with a $300 fine for a first-time trespass offense without any property damage; and clarify that Fish & Game funds would apply only to recreational trespass. Harris said his amendments are “extensive.”
The amended bill now still needs passage in the full Senate, concurrence from the House in the Senate amendments, and the governor’s signature to become law.