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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Governor allows trespassing bill to become law without his signature

Gov. Butch Otter has allowed HB 658a, the controversial trespassing law, to become law without his signature; you can read his transmittal letter here.

"The myriad problems and bad actors plaguing the agricultural community and other large landowners need to be addressed," Otter wrote. "This bill sends a strong message and undoubtedly will serve as a deterrent to those who brazenly disregard private property laws. However, this legislation laudably calling for a 'renewal of the neighborly way' also could have a chilling effect on recreationists, sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts, and ironically even neighbors afraid of inadvertently subjecting themselves to strict trespass laws."

"I offered to help legislators resolve these issues before their 2018 session adjourns since die in order to bring about the stated goal of fostering 'a new culture of respect' for private property in Idaho," otter wrote. "Since that idea was rebuffed, it will fall to a future Legislature and governor to address the identified concerns as they move from hypothetical to actual."

There had been some talk between lawmakers and the governor of drafting a new version of the trespassing bill that addressed the governor's concerns; that would have required reconvening committees and running the new bill through the full legislative process, likely delaying adjournment of this year's session at least until tomorrow. This morning, legislative leaders said they'd opted against taking that route.

Among the concerns the governor identified in the bill: Innocent behavior, including inadvertently stepping onto someone else's property, could be subjected to civil or criminal penalties or both, plus large fines and payment of attorney's and investigative fees. Land surveyors weren't covered by the bill and could be considered to be trespassing as they do their jobs. And the governor said the bill failed to clearly preserve the current treble damages for stealing timber from public lands. "Idahoans love the freedom and opportunity that ready access to our public lands provides," Otter wrote. "We should not signal in our public policy that doing more to protect one means doing less to protect the other."

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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