Occupy Boise’s encampment on the lawn of the old Ada County Courthouse could soon be coming to an end.
The Idaho House approved a bill Thursday that would evict the group from the lawn and the measure now heads to the Senate for consideration. If approved, the bill contains an emergency provision that would allow the state to remove the group and its property upon the governor's signature.
The bill passed 54-16 mostly along partisan lines, but some Republicans, including Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, and Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, joined Democrats in opposition.
Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, told colleagues that the bill comes only because a number of constituents are concerned about the group’s presence on the courthouse lawn. “We feel there are citizens in this community who are uncomfortable with the way this has been carried out and they have asked us to do something,” Wood said. “I don’t feel they’ve (the group) been treated with disrespect.”
Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, warned several legal incidents, including theft and vandalism, have been associated with the group’s presence on the lawn.
Hart defended the group, saying that they are simply exercising their rights and no one needs to authorize that. “I feel the level of frustration is extraordinary and this is an extraordinary time,” Hart explained. “We should be more accommodating.”
Still, Hart wonders about state lawmakers’ ability to fix the list of Occupy Boise’s concerns. “We don’t really have the ability to solve that,” Hart warned. “That needs to come out of Washington, D.C.”
Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said that even though the camp is not aesthetically pleasing, it’s important for public discourse. “It may be distasteful to some for have Occupy across the street,” Burgoyne said. “But sometimes those who are weakest, those who are most ill-equipped to be heard in society, deserve to be heard.”
Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, who wouldn’t recognize the state’s right to regulate some free speech activities during the committee hearing, reversed course on the House flood. “I realized government does have the right to regulate free speech and free assembly,” King said, though she still opposed the measure, calling it overly mean. “This bill is too harsh and I don’t think we really need it.”
The Boise Democrat added that instead of evicting the movement, she believes lawmakers should work with its members. “I think the occupiers point out issues we should be working on,” King said.