Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Idaho bills would let passing cars speed up legally, ban police from profiling motorcyclists

Feb. 12, 2017 Updated Sun., Feb. 12, 2017 at 4:14 p.m.

Rep. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa, in his office at the Idaho state Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell / SR)
Rep. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa, in his office at the Idaho state Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell / SR)

What if you’re on a two-lane road and you want to pass another motorist who’s going a couple of miles below the speed limit, but just to get past them safely, you need to exceed the speed limit? Idaho Rep. Lance Clow has an answer for that.

“This bill deals with something we’ve all experienced,” Clow, R-Twin Falls, told the House Transportation Committee. “Current law says you cannot exceed the speed limit to make a pass, so you could spend an eternity trying to make a safe pass.”

His solution: Let folks go 15 mph above the speed limit while they’re passing, but only while they’re passing. And only on two-lane roads, not freeways, that have speed limits of 55 mph or more. And not in construction zones. “It doesn’t change where you can pass,” Clow said.

His bill has another rule that would help those worried about getting speeding tickets when they pass: If they go, say, 75 while passing in a 55 zone, the first 15 miles over the limit would be allowed. They could only get a ticket for exceeding the limit by 5 mph while in the act of passing.

“I have talked to the Idaho State Police, they worked with me in designing this bill,” Clow told the committee. “They seemed to like this, because it puts some more definite quantities around what is appropriate.” Currently, he said, “There’s some discretion.”

The House committee agreed unanimously to introduce Clow’s bill, clearing the way for a full hearing.

Motorcyclists want a little respect

Every year, leather-clad motorcyclists come to the Idaho Capitol to lobby for motorcycle rights, including a bill to forbid “motorcycle profiling” – and this year, the measure’s been introduced. Rep. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa, said legislation already has passed in Washington and in Maryland; his bill doesn’t go as far, because it doesn’t require law enforcement agencies to change any of their written policies or do specific education efforts aimed at officers. It would, however, define “motorcycle profiling” – and forbid any state or local law enforcement agency from engaging in it.

The definition: “Motorcycle profiling means the arbitrary use of the fact that a person rides a motorcycle or wears motorcycle-related paraphernalia as a factor in deciding to stop and question, take enforcement action, arrest or search a person or vehicle.”

“It’s a fine balance,” Anderst said. “These guys, they really respect the job that law enforcement has to do, but they also believe they don’t deserve any more or any less scrutiny than anyone else.”

ABATE of Idaho – an acronym that various chapters in the state say stands for “American Bikers Aiming Toward Education” or “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments” – has acquired plenty of examples, Anderst said, of motorcyclists stopped for lengthy questioning and searches.

“For citizens to consistently come down to the Capitol three, four years in a row with a very simple and clear message … tells me that whether law enforcement wants to admit that there’s a problem or not, in their mind, there’s a perception that it’s a problem,” Anderst said. He said ABATE tells him that after Washington passed its motorcycle profiling bill in 2011, complaints dropped by 90 percent.

Anderst is an avid motorcyclist himself, riding an average of 8,000 to 10,000 miles every summer. A framed photo in his Capitol office shows him and his wife, LaDawn, headed off on a trip to Whitefish, Montana; the frame announces, “Road trip!”

“I was born into a family that rode motorcycles, so I’ve been around ’em my whole life,” Anderst said. “I have never had a bad experience with law enforcement on a motorcycle, but I also understand that that doesn’t mean these bad experiences aren’t occurring.”

Anderst said he’s ridden all across the Northwest, from Colorado up to Banff and Jasper in Canada; and from central California to all over Washington and Oregon. He said he often still rides with his dad; and has a small group of friends with whom he’s been riding for years.

He can recall attending a motorcycling-related function and being surprised to see law enforcement officers posted outside, watching folks. “I know for some of these people it’s an ongoing thing, so it gets a little, I guess, obnoxious,” he said. “All the people that I’ve ever known in the motorcycle community are down to earth, hardworking, patriotic individuals. They respect the role that law enforcement plays. They just don’t want to feel like there’s an additional burden that they have to face in interacting with them.”

Anderst has lined up a diverse list of co-sponsors for his bill, including Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, a retired federal marshal and state trooper; Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, a retired naval officer; Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, an economics professor; Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, a gun store co-owner and chair of the House Local Government Committee; and Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

One of the Washington lawmakers who sponsored the successful legislation there was a 25-year law enforcement veteran, Anderst said.

The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously last week to introduce Anderst’s bill, clearing the way for a full hearing.

Tax revenues up

January’s Idaho state tax revenues came in 6.7 percent ahead of projections, $22.9 million higher, largely because of strong individual and corporate income tax collections for the month. The January figures pushed fiscal-year-to-date collections to 2 percent above forecasts, and were 12.3 percent above the previous January.

The Legislative Budget Office reports that year to date, that puts general fund revenue collections through the month of January $39.2 million ahead of forecast, for an estimated ending balance at the end of the current fiscal year of $140.6 million. That’s $93.5 million more than was anticipated when lawmakers adjourned their 2016 session last spring.

More from this author