BOISE — A resolution to expand the rights of crime victims in Idaho failed to pass in the House Monday, with Magic Valley lawmakers divided in their votes.
HJR 8, more commonly known as “Marsy’s Law,” would have amended the state constitution’s definition of “crime victim” and required that victims receive “reasonable and timely” notifications during all steps of court proceedings. Other proposed changes included giving victims the right to “confer” with the prosecution and to “be heard” prior to acceptance of sentencing, parole, guilty pleas, and other developments.
The House’s 42-28 vote in favor would have been enough to pass a regular bill, but constitutional amendments require two-thirds yes votes in both the House and the Senate.
Savahna Egbert, the Twin Falls coordinator for Marsy’s Law and a crime victim herself, said she was “disappointed” by Monday’s outcome.
“I’m heartbroken victims lost an opportunity to be heard in the justice system today,” Egbert said. “It would have given so many victims of crime a voice as well as a deserving sense of peace and hope for a brighter future.”
The Marsy’s Law campaign, which originated in California, has resulted in constitutional amendments in five states since 2008 and is under consideration in others.
Much of the floor debate focused on the measure’s form as a constitutional amendment rather than statute. This would make it significantly more difficult for the legislature to make any changes down the road if necessary, opponents said.
Others who debated against the measure argued that the California-based campaign did not take into account the specific needs of Idaho crime victims, and suggested that the state instead look into implementing recommendations from a recent Boise State University study on crime victims in Idaho.
“If there is an issue, then we don’t need somebody from California to tell us that we have a deficiency in our crime victim statute,” said Rep. Fred Wood, R—Burley. “We can figure that out in Idaho. And if we need to correct the statute, we can change it.”
Among those voting in favor of the amendment were Rep. Scott Bedke (R) of Oakley, Rep. Maxine Bell (R) of Jerome, Rep. Clark Kauffman (R) of Filer, Rep. Steven Miller (R) of Fairfield and Rep. Sally Toone (D) of Gooding.
Rep. Lance Clow (R) of Twin Falls, Rep. Stephen Hartgen (R) of Twin Falls and Wood voted against.