An Idaho Senate committee delayed voting on legislation that would exclude the identity of anyone with an Idaho hunting, fishing, or trapping permit from state public records laws. The delay came as the Senate Resources and Environment Committee ran out of time during its Monday afternoon meeting. The House approved the exemption March 4. Democrats on the committee questioned the need for changing public records law.
“The only way that I can think of to protect hunters from this kind of harassment is to make this information off limits,” said Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, the House sponsor of the legislation. “I felt that this bill had to be brought forward. I don’t believe that everyone needs to have your information on every single thing that you do. Because of this harassment, I thought that this was necessary.” Boyle told senators about harassment faced by the first Idaho hunter to kill a wolf legally and other hunters across the state. IdahoReporter.com spoke with the man who posted the names of hunters who reported harvesting wolves.
Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, said making all hunting and fishing records confidential because of harassment against some hunters, mostly those with wolf tags, would be an overreaction. “It seems like we’re using a sledgehammer to do something that a scalpel would take care of,” he said. “It’s a very broad bill for a very narrow purpose.” Werk asked Boyle if she would consider letting hunters choose to make their records classified and opt out of public records requests.
Boyle opposed Werk’s suggestion. “I think that for the safety of our citizens it’s better to have an opt-in,” she said. “Most people don’t follow through on opt out. Very few people realize that this is public information.”
Lobbyists for Idaho journalists and newspapers also opposed the proposal as written. “This is information journalists need to do their jobs,” Sydney Sallabanks said on behalf of the Idaho Press Club. “It is no easy charge to balance the public access with an individual’s right to privacy.”
“If you shut down the openness of your government, then your government operates in the dark,” said Jeremy Pisca, a lobbyist for the Idaho Allied Dailies, which represents newspapers. Pisca added that the harassments against wolf hunters was reprehensible, but said the proposed legislation goes too far. Both Pisca and Sallabanks supported changing Boyle’s legislation so it would allow people to search for hunting licenses of any elected official, candidate for office, or person up for appointment to a state board. Boyle said officials are free to make their personal hunting records public, but doesn’t want to see any amendments. She said trying to add on changes to the proposal could effectively end the legislation.