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Bill introduced to stop camping on Capitol Mall lawn, which would force Occupy Boise to vacate

Bill introduced to stop camping on Capitol Mall lawn, which would force Occupy Boise to vacate

Mitch Coffman
January 18, 2012
Mitch Coffman
January 18, 2012

On Tuesday, Rep. Scott Bedke, R- Oakley, assistant House majority leader, introduced legislation in the House State Affairs Committee to ban camping on the Capitol Mall. The bill would essentially force the Occupy Boise movement to pack up and leave, or find their belongings considered as “litter” and thrown away.

Bedke said anyone violating the new law would be given an infraction, the lowest penalty in Idaho Code, though he didn’t give specifics on what the penalty would be.

The bill creates a new provision of state law prohibiting camping on any state-owned or leased property or facility with the exception of designated campgrounds. However, it does exempt state parks, state endowment land and lands under the purview of the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

The vote passed 15-1 to send the bill to print, though not before Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, could offer a substitute motion. King motioned that the bill be sent back to its sponsor, arguing that forcing the Occupy Boise crowd off the Capitol Mall infringed on their First Amendment right to free speech.

King also believes that the Occupy Boise movement went through the proper channels for permission to occupy that space, which Bedke acknowledged was true.

However, Bedke said he disagrees with King’s notion of limiting free speech. In his opening remarks, Bedke said, “This is not a prohibition of freedom of speech, this is a prohibition of camping on the lawns in the Capitol Mall,” adding, “That’s not the intended use of the lawns at the Capitol.”

Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, supported the motion to send the bill to print, and believes the best way to give an opportunity to free speech is to have the bill sent to print and have a hearing where people, whether for or against, can speak on the issue. Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, agreed: “We do need to have a conversation. Often the esthetic is unpleasant, but there is a message that’s mighty.”

Should the bill make it through both houses of the Legislature, it would become law immediately due to an emergency clause within the bill. With an emergency clause, once the governor signs it, the law goes into affect.

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