BOISE • A bill banning unauthorized recordings on farms and dairies, the so-called “ag-gag” measure, awaits the governor’s signature after clearing the Idaho House on Wednesday.

House members voted 56-14. The bill already has passed the Senate, so it only needs approval from Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

State Rep. Donna Pence of Gooding was the only Democrat who voted for the bill, while Reps. Lynn Luker of Boise and Steven Harris of Meridian were the only Republicans to oppose it.

“This adds a level of protection to Idaho’s agriculture industry, which it deserves and needs,” said state Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer. “I have an agriculture production facility on my farm. You’re welcome to visit anytime, but not without permission.”

The proposed legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, would ban unauthorized video and audio recording on agricultural facilities. Under the bill, an employee or trespasser who records abuse on a dairy or farm would be in violation and subject to up to a year in jail and $5,000 fine.

“I think the message we’re sending is that we’re not hiding anything, but we do protect property rights,” Kauffman said.

State Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, also defended the bill, saying a recent Idaho attorney general’s opinion found that the bill did not violate the First Amendment.

Lawmakers who opposed it said they were worried about the bill hindering First Amendment rights.

State Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said the bill isn’t about property rights because it protects only one industry.

The dairy and agriculture industry are trying to prevent images and videos of abuse from being spread on the Internet, she said, inhibiting free speech.

“I’m Jewish, and I would fight to the death for the right for Nazis to speak,” she said. “Everyone is equally slammed by free speech. It’s an equal opportunity slammer.”

The so–called “ag-gag” bill is being backed by Idaho’s $2.5 billion dairy industry after an animal rights group released footage in 2012 of animal abuse on a dairy owned by Luis Bettencourt.

An undercover investigator, hired by Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals, recorded video of employees stomping on cows, beating them with a pink cane and dragging one cow with a chain around its neck by a tractor. After the bill passed the Senate, Mercy for Animals released additional footage showing one worker touching a cow’s vagina. That employee was arrested and served more than 100 days in jail.

Mercy for Animals has gathered more than 100,000 signatures from those who oppose the bill and has protested twice on the steps of the Capitol.

If Idaho passes SB1337, said state Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, it signals to the rest of country that the state has something to hide.

“The words in the bill don’t really matter,” Burgoyne said. “My concern about this legislation is simply how it’s going to be perceived and what that portrays to the rest of the world about Idaho’s agriculture.”

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(5) comments

bassettlvr

Why is this even being discussed .Call a officer if someone is trespassing.But a biger question is why if you are not worried about something bad going on are you even afraid of this happening.To much government in our lives already.

AreWEstupid

Oh hey...let's just make as many laws as we possibly can. In a time when transparency should be one of our highest concerns...gosh, let's close as many doors as possible. WHAT A CROCK. This move by "our representatives" is OBVIOUSLY only for the dairy industry. "Our representatives" obviously feel we're all stupid and that they can do whatever they want. Passing this bill is as morally wrong, as malicious, as malevolent, as abusing those animals! It appears nobody can do their jobs without exercising unrighteous dominion.

SKC_ID

The majority of Idahoans voted for these dimwits. The only way to stop them from passing laws like this is to vote them out.

SKS

I more of the 'If it tastes good I don't really care' person. But do we really have that many animal abusers in Idaho that we have to have laws to protect them?

It's hard not to live in the valley and NOT know farmers and ranchers. But the ones I have met take rather good of their livestock as that is a source of income. (Brings home the bacon!) Plus the ranchers and farmers that have known for years LOVE their animals.

Maybe I just read the article backwards and you get fined for the abuse, not being the one who pointed it out.

So what happens to someone recording a video of animal abuse in a public place. What happens then?

Whiteodessa

This law is so biased and one-sided it shows what a bunch of hicks Idahoans are. There was (and likely still is) abuse of animals in Idaho and it should be documented and dealt with no matter what it takes. It is very likely the sponsors of this bill are animal abusers as well and gladly took money from their animal abusing colleagues in the dairy industry to sponsor the bill. There is NO reason to abuse animals. You have to wonder how these people treat their wives and kids. Butch Otter will certainly sign this because he has no ethics and is on the agricultural industries bribe list. People should stop buying any products produced by Idaho - I certainly will.

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