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Committing crimes in Idaho may soon cost more

Committing crimes in Idaho may soon cost more

Dustin Hurst
February 14, 2012
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February 14, 2012

A pair of bills passed by different bodies in the Idaho House Monday would make it somewhat more expensive to commit crime in the Gem State.

One measure would apply only to drug offenses, but a second would increase the costs of all convictions in Idaho.

The first bill, cleared by the full House on a 42-24 vote Monday, would add $20 to drug convictions. The money from the increase would go to fund anti-drunk driving and drug enforcement efforts.

The Idaho State Police (ISP) expects to bring in more than $250,000 a year in new revenue under the proposed plan, but this is only a beginning for the agency in terms of finding more money. Citing a lack of necessary state funding, ISP says on the fiscal note of the drug fee bill that the $20 fee represents a “starting point” in establishing new funding sources for the agency.

This measure, House Bill 449, now heads to the Senate for hearings.

The House Judiciary and Rules Committee debated and eventually passed a 50 percent increase to the fee assessed to those offenders found guilty of felonies, misdemeanors or infractions. The fee, now $10, would jump to $15 under the new plan, also the work of ISP officials.

The money from the $5 jump would go to fund the Police Officer Standards andTrainingAcademy, or POST. ISP told committee members that revenue from the existing conviction fee, which makes up 72 percent of POST’s operating budget, has dropped about $664,000 in the last few years.

With the $5 increase, ISP says its POST budget would bring in an additional $1.1 million each year.

Lawmakers asked if POST would be willing to push a smaller increase, but ISP officials stood by their bill. “We need the funding we’ve asked for,” said William Flink, POST administrator. “It would not be our desire to reduce our funding level at this time.”

More demands are put on POST each year, Flink told lawmakers. “What we need to teach officers expands year-to-year,” he explained. Flink also highlighted a new requirement that POST hold $500,000 in reserves as another blockade to the agency’s fiscal health.

The committee passed the bill with near-unanimous support; only Rep. Julie Ellsworth, R-Boise, voted against the bill.

The next test for the measure comes on the House floor. Last year, the Idaho House killed a similar measure that asked for a $1.50 increase in the offender fee. It’s likely the House will take up the legislation, House Bill 448, by the end of the week.

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