The Senate has voted 29-6 in favor of HB 658a, the Senate-amended version of the trespassing crackdown bill – a straight party-line vote, with all Republicans voting in favor of the bill and all Democrats voting against it.
“This bill will only affect those that disregard the law currently,” Sen. Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs, told the Senate. “Fish & Game has a bumper sticker that says, ‘Ask First,’ and I think that sums up what landowners want. ... They just want people to ask first.”
Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said there are problems that remain with the bill, despite extensive amendments approved by the Senate. “This bill is not ready for prime time,” he said.
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said, “I grew up hunting and fishing in an area where I knew everybody. We could go wherever we wanted, we asked, and the landowners were always good to us. Once in a while, when they had a problem with someone, that person didn’t get back on their ground. This bill is an improvement on the existing code. … Our state is changing, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that, and this senator votes aye.”
The Senate-amended bill now must return to the House for concurrence with the Senate amendments.
Two billionaire Texas brothers who bought up large swaths of land in Valley County and closed it to public access for hunting, fishing or recreation have been pushing for such legislation for the past two years. The Wilks Brothers of Cisco, Tex. employ two registered lobbyists in the current session of the Idaho Legislature. Separately, an attorney, Gary Allen of Givens Pursley, has worked closely with the legislative sponsors of the bill to draft the measure, and presented it to both the House and Senate committees, but has never registered as a lobbyist or disclosed who hired him. The Idaho Secretary of State's office has contacted Allen to ask why he hasn't registered, and was told that he feels he's been working as an attorney, not a lobbyist, and would be sending a letter to that effect, though no letter has yet been filed with the state. UPDATE: This afternoon, Allen submitted a letter to the Secretary of State's office saying the clients he represented on the bill were Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, and Sen. Harris; there's more on that here.
According to the Idaho Statesman, the Wilks Brothers also purchased 38,000 acres in North Idaho in 2015 and in 2016 purchased former Potlatch lands in Valley, Boise and Adams counties.