BOISE — A proposed constitutional amendment to expand rights for crime victims will get a chance on the House floor.
The House State Affairs committee voted 9-6 Wednesday morning to send HJR8, otherwise known as “Marsy’s Law for Idaho,” to the floor. HJR8 would amend the state’s constitution to expand rights for crime victims, as well as define “crime victim” in the constitution.
The bill is Idaho’s version of “Marsy’s Law,” a nationwide campaign that originated in California. Similar measures have passed in five states since 2008 and are currently being considered in others.
A committee hearing for HJR8 lasted nearly three hours and included testimony from Idaho attorneys, law enforcement, victim advocates, and crime victims. Those testifying in favor said the bill would ensure that victims are heard throughout the criminal process; those testifying against argued that the bill was unnecessary and could affect due process for the accused.
Lawmakers who voted against the bill voiced concerns that the proposal’s current form as a constitutional amendment would make it difficult to make any future changes if needed — it’s much easier to amend a law — and said they felt the national campaign did not take into account the specific needs of Idaho crime victims.
“Things change, and we need to have the ability to make change here and not be in a lockbox,” said Rep. Lynn Luker (R-Boise), one of the six “no” votes. “We should not be running our system based on big money, especially in the Constitution,” he added.
The “Marsy’s Law” amendment will require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate to pass. After that, Idaho voters make a final decision.
This is the second year the Idaho legislature has considered Marsy’s Law; a previous version of the bill passed in the Senate but was shot down in House State Affairs during the 2017 session. Changes to this year’s version include a more narrow definition of “crime victim” that would only apply to individuals, not corporations or other entities.