On Wednesday the Senate State Affairs Committee heard HB 404, which disallows camping on certain state lands, such as the Capitol mall where the Occupy Boise encampment currently sits. Testimony lasted for around 2 ½ hours.
The bill—which passed through the House fairly easily on a 54-16 vote—was sent to amending order in the Senate. Several lawmakers, including Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, and Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, took issue with some of the measures contained within the bill.
Hill even said that he had made up his mind to vote for the bill, but after hearing testimony and other issues raised by legislators, he would vote to send it to the amending order. He said he is not comfortable with the emergency clause in the bill that would put the law into the books within three days of the governor signing it.
Much of the controversy surrounding this bill has been regarding the First Amendment and the right to free speech. Although that was touched on during the committee hearing, Davis brought up the Fourth Amendment regarding illegal search and seizure, referring to the section of the bill that would allow people’s possessions, if left unattended after the law was in affect, to be regarded as litter and thrown away.
Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, the bill’s Senate sponsor, compared the Occupy encampment to someone camping in state parks or on the front lawn of someone else with no thought of when the camping might end. “They don’t have the right, nobody has the right to seize our common property for their own use, particularly for an unknown period of time, particularly month after month,” he said.
For Monica Hopkins, head of the ACLU of Idaho, the issue before the Senate was free speech. “What they are doing is protected symbolic speech," she said of the Occupy Boise encampment.
Sending the bill to amending order allows amendments to be offered by any senator. .
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