Camping ban passes House committee 13-5

Camping ban passes House committee 13-5

by
Mitch Coffman
January 24, 2012
Mitch Coffman
January 24, 2012

Following three days of testimony, the House State Affairs Committee Tuesday voted to outlaw camping on the Capitol Mall grounds. The bill is modeled after a Boise city law, and would force the Occupy Boise encampment to move out if passed by both houses of the Legislature and signed by the governor.

The committee voted 13-5 in favor of the bill, with four Democrats and one Republican voting against it.

Although one Republican, Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, did vote against the bill, perhaps the biggest storyline was the Idaho Department of Administration testifying that, contrary to prior testimony, the department never gave permission to the Occupy Boise group to set up shop.

Department director Teresa Luna explained to the committee there is nothing in state statutes forbidding the group from occupying the grounds. Thus, she could neither grant the organization approval nor deny it permission to camp. Luna supported the bill, noting she has received inquiries from other groups wanting to camp on state property.

Luna said a letter from the Occupy Boise movement was delivered to the department as a "courtesy," stating that the group planned to set up camp on that property. Luna said the department did hold a meeting with the group.

Luna added that although the bill states there will be no fiscal impact, there already has been. For examples, a security guard has been hired to patrol the area and graffiti has been a problem, in all costing $9,000.

Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, said she wanted to amend the do-pass motion, including getting rid of the emergency clause in the bill (which makes it law immediately if signed by the governor), as well as specifying that the fine for not vacating the premises should not exceed $50. Her motion failed on a 13-5 vote.

The legislation now moves to the full House for consideration.

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