Trespassing bill clears House


BOISE — The new version of Rep. Judy Boyle’s trespassing bill has cleared the House by a wide margin, despite a number of Republican defections.

The Midvale Republican told the House floor Monday morning that her bill would work to deter trespassing, following complaints from the agricultural community of some egregious cases of damage caused by trespassers.

An earlier version of the bill was introduced early in the session, but it stalled after an Attorney General’s opinion found it was likely unconstitutional. The new version of the bill passed committee last week.

An Attorney General’s opinion on the new bill found it had solved the problems that made the last one unlikely to withstand constitutional scrutiny. But it also warned that, interacting with either of two possible bills meant to institute a stand your ground law and the castle doctrine, the bill could lead to more trespassers being shot.

The bill gained support from most of the Republican caucus.

Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, said in an era where outdoorsmen can purchase GPS units, they should be able to avoid accidentally trespassing.

Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, said he hoped the bill would deter future trespassing, saying he’s dealt with the problem for years, including having tractor windows shot out.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, said she had trouble with hunters pulling a gate on her property off its hinges, and with others stealing artifacts from a nearby ghost town.

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, said testimony from property owners convinced him that penalties had to be increased.

“We need to do something about protecting private property rights in this state,” Malek said.

Opposition was led by Democrats with several Republicans joining in.

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said he has taught outdoorsmen orienteering classes where they have to learn how to use a map and compass to locate themselves.

“I never once found a student who could use a compass and a map very well,” he said. “… Innocent trespass becomes a concern here.”

“Most people are maybe within a quarter-mile of where they think they are on a map” he added.

A sizable group of Republicans — including Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls; Rep. Neil Anderson, R-Blackfoot; Rep. Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello; and Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon — opposed the bill.

Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, said the bill deviates from virtually every other section of Idaho code in civil cases, because it allows a landowner who brings suit to recoup unlimited costs for investigation. That could lead to an enormous judgment against someone who had accidentally trespassed, he said. Manwaring echoed that concern.

“We’re going to have cases that are filed just because the investigation costs and attorneys fees will be high,” he said.

Rep. Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom, said he supported some ideas in the bill but was dismayed by the way farm lobbyists and others in the landowner coalition had excluded outdoorsmen and other groups from giving input on the bill.

“It seems incredibly disrespectful,” he said.

The bill passed 45-22. It next heads to the Senate, where it will need committee approval before heading for a floor vote.

Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.