Bill Description: House Bill 77 makes it clear that allowing children to engage in normal childhood activities is not an act of parental neglect.
Analyst Note: House Bill 77 is similar to House Bill 3, but it has subjective language that negates some of its value.. House Bill 3 says, "nor shall any child be considered neglected by virtue of engaging in independent activities. ..." House Bill 77 says, "nor shall any child who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm be considered neglected by virtue of engaging in independent activities. ..." House Bill 77 also changes the example of "remaining at home unattended" to "remaining at home unattended for a reasonable amount of time."
Terms such as "sufficient age and maturity," "unreasonable risk of harm," and "reasonable amount of time" add ambiguity and subjectivity to the law and provide an opportunity for busybodies and government employees to insert themselves into situations where no harm has occurred.
Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?
House Bill 77 amends Section 16-1602, Idaho Code, by modifying the definition of a neglected child to limit triggering acts or omissions to those that result "in bodily injury or a substantial risk of bodily injury or a substantial risk of immediate and grave harm to the child due to the conscious disregard of parental or caretaker responsibilities."
It also adds that a mention of "an obviously dangerous situation given the child's level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities due to the conscious disregard of obvious needs or obvious dangers to the child."
Taken together, this revised definition should serve to protect families from unnecessary investigations or prosecutions for harmless and low-risk choices made in the course of child rearing.
House Bill 77 further amends Section 16-1602, Idaho Code, to add a non-exhaustive list of "independent activities" in which children "of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm" may lawfully engage without being considered neglected.
Included on this list are "traveling to and from school, including by walking, running, or bicycling"; "traveling to and from nearby commercial or recreational facilities"; "engaging in outdoor play"; "remaining at home unattended for a reasonable amount of time"; and "remaining in a vehicle if the temperature inside the vehicle is not or will not become dangerously hot or cold".
While common sense shouldn't have to be legislated, doing so has become increasingly necessary to protect families and parental rights.