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Eye on Boise: New Idaho concealed-gun bills proposed

Reps. Heather Scott and Ron Nate have released two alternate drafts of legislation to allow any legal gun owner in Idaho to carry concealed guns without a permit.

“We’re going to put ’em both out there and see which dog hunts,” said Nate, R-Rexburg.

The first version of the “constitution carry” bill just adds this line to the list of places where concealed-weapon permit rules don’t apply: “Outside the confines of any building within city limits.” Under a 2015 law, Idaho already allows people to carry concealed guns without a permit outside city limits; that change was made as part of a revamp of the state’s gun laws, which previously exempted people from concealed-weapon permit requirements while they were outdoors hunting, fishing or engaging in other such pursuits.

The second version of Scott and Nate’s bill, unveiled late last week, is considerably more extensive. It “includes agreed upon language with the Idaho Sheriff’s Association and others,” the two freshman lawmakers said in a statement. That draft bill says any legal gun owner age 21 or older can carry a concealed gun without a permit in Idaho, but adds a list of exceptions for people charged with certain crimes, unlawfully using drugs, adjudicated as mentally ill, subject to protection orders and more.

Both versions of the bill would leave Idaho’s concealed weapon permit laws on the books; they’d just become optional. The two lawmakers said people who want to get concealed gun permits because they’re recognized in other states under reciprocity agreements still could.

“I don’t know if the gun groups are going to like it or not,” Scott said.

‘Human face’ on budget issues

At a hearing last week, Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, had a repeated question: Why should the state provide a service that takes children with disabilities to activities like scouting or swimming lessons?

Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, said he could offer some insight, as he has a developmentally disabled grandchild who is 11 years old.

“He is very, severely autistic,” he said. “And parents and grandparents work very hard to help these young people advance and grow, but it is more than a full-time job to do that. … My wife and I take the kids on Sundays and Tuesdays to give the parents a little respite. These children need care 24/7, it’s not like they can turn them loose.”

He said the state service “gives the parents a little breathing room, they can take care of their other children. … These children need to be busy all the time, they don’t ever stop.”

Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, co-chair of the Legislature’s joint budget committee, thanked Lacey for his comments and said it helps to put a human face on the issues lawmakers hear about in state budget hearings. The panel held a full week of hearings on health and human services budgets last week.

New ‘Add the Words’ bill

An “Add the Words” bill was introduced in the Senate last week by two Boise Democratic senators, Sens. Grant Burgoyne and Cherie Buckner-Webb, to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The deadline to introduce personal bills – those that don’t first go through a committee to get a vote on whether they’ll be introduced – was Friday.

The measure, like last year’s bill, adds the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act, banning discrimination on those bases in housing, employment and public accommodations. “It just adds the four words – that’s all it does,” Burgoyne said.

The bill has some small differences from last year’s legislation, which was the topic of an emotional, multiday hearing before it died on a party-line vote in the House State Affairs Committee.

“There was a call in the House committee last year, there were questions and suggestions that there should be definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity, so those two definitions have been added,” said Burgoyne, who is a lawyer. “We would be ecstatic if that bill was assigned to committee and passed the House and Senate, but we know it’s probably a tougher road than that.”

Before the start of this year’s legislative session, Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said he was working on compromise legislation to address both the discrimination issue and questions about religious liberty. Burgoyne said he has been talking with Hill and others.

“We’re still making efforts toward compromise,” Burgoyne said. “What that looks like I can’t predict, and what the outcome of our discussions will be I can’t predict. This is not intended to change the tenor of our discussions.”