Senate passes anti-camping bill; it now goes back to House

Senate passes anti-camping bill; it now goes back to House

by
Mitch Coffman
February 15, 2012
Mitch Coffman
February 15, 2012

With a 26-9 vote Tuesday in the Idaho Senate, House Bill 404—better known as the anti-Occupy Boise bill—was sent back to the House as amended. The House will need to vote on the measure because the House bill was amended in the Senate on the issue of properly and constitutionally seizing the property of the occupiers.

The vote fell mostly along party lines, with just two Republicans voting against the bill. They were Patrick Malloy, substituting for Shirley McKague of Meridian, and Dan Johnson of Lewiston.

A common theme for those in favor of the bill was the idea that the Occupy Boise movement is starting to make the encampment a permanent residence. Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said staying overnight goes beyond the right to express views, especially on public property. “Can individuals also declare some of this ground to be their temporary or permanent place of dwelling?” he asked.

Republican Sens. John Tippets of Montipelier and Chuck Winder ofBoiseboth said that they have tried to work with and understand the Occupy group, with Tippets saying he even spent one evening with them after remembering during testimony that the group had invited legislators to stop by. Tippets said he didn’t see many people in the encampment, but when he finally found a group, “most of them were welcoming.” Tippets said after meeting with them, he was concerned about potential residency. “My concern is that some folks are starting to see this as a long-term residence.”

Winder said he has told the group he would help them locate meeting rooms, which he pointed out in the Capitol are free as long as they are used for a “lawful purpose.”

During testimony, legislators on both sides of the aisle were emotional.

Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, said that the bill is just another example of lawmakers shutting themselves off from the public and not being open. “It is our job as much as it is the majority's job to bring forth issues for debate, for thoughtful debate. Today we debate a bill that attempts to silence some and remove them from our sight, and I worry that this is only a really sinister echo of what's happening in our chambers and in our committee rooms every day this year …”

LeFavour also took the opportunity during her second time at debating against the bill to broaden her debate and attack the majority, saying “bills brought by the minority are repeatedly not even introduced to print.”

Davis objected to LeFavour’s comments, saying the debate needed to be focused on the bill that was before them. Lt. Gov. Brad Little, presiding over the Senate, said he would allow her comments to continue “given the gravity of the issue,” but there would be only a  little leeway.

Surprisingly, not much was mentioned about the First Amendment’s right to free speech and free assembly during the testimony. It was touched on some by those who opposed the legislation, but most of those opposed spoke more to moral concerns.

Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello, even said that he had no doubt it was within the right of the legislative body to regulate the use of the property, but added this bill focuses on a certain group of people and “that’s not right.”

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