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Legislative review: House committee postpones decision on hemp bill
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Legislative review: House committee postpones decision on hemp bill

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BOISE — Magic Valley farmers interested in growing hemp will have to wait a bit longer to see if the crop is legalized this session.

On Wednesday the House Agricultural Affairs Committee delayed voting on House Bill 126, which would legalize industrial hemp production in Idaho. While some committee members said they were ready to approve the bill during the hearing, others requested more time.

Idaho is the only state in the country that hasn’t legalized industrial hemp, which is a variety of cannabis with a THC concentration of less than 0.3%. THC is the psychoactive compound present in marijuana.

In December 2018, Congress passed legislation that removed hemp’s status as an illegal substance. And in January, the United States Department of Agriculture released its final rule governing industrial hemp production in the country, Braden Jensen, a representative with the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, told the committee.

Despite this federal action, hemp remains listed on Idaho’s Schedule I controlled substance list, and House Bill 126 wouldn’t remove hemp from this list altogether. Instead, it would only legalize hemp for farming purposes.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, said she probably wouldn’t be able to support the bill because it doesn’t go far enough. She would like to see the state completely remove hemp from its Schedule I list so that Idahoans could legally access hemp-based products containing THC concentration levels below 0.3%.

“I know it does need to be removed, but based on the political climate and our administration here in the Capitol, I don’t think it would ever go anywhere,” Moon said.

Rep. Kevin Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, said that while he agrees hemp should be legalized, this bill is at least a move in the right direction.

“I get the concern that it doesn’t it off Schedule I; I get the concern that it is very restrictive,” Andrus said. “And to that I would just say, this bill is less restrictive than what we have now.”

Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, made a motion to postpone a vote on the bill. The committee will pick up the legislation during its March 2 meeting. Prior to that meeting, Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, said she’d like to know the Idaho State Police’s official position on the bill.

Wrongful conviction compensation

Idaho is one of 15 states in the country that don’t provide financial compensation to people convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. But this could soon change.

On Tuesday the House unanimously passed the Idaho Wrongful Conviction Act a few weeks after it unanimously passed the Senate. It’s now up to Gov. Brad Little to sign the bill into law. The governor had the same opportunity last year, but vetoed the legislation amid some concerns.

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This bill would pay people who are wrongly convicted of a crime $62,000 for each year they spent in prison. The amount would increase to $75,000 a year for each year somebody spends on death row.

The bill’s fiscal note states that there have been six exonerations in Idaho over the last 30 years. In four of those cases, the person involved would be eligible for compensation under this legislation. If these four people apply for the funding and are approved, it would, at most, cost the state nearly $4 million.

Bypassing the attorney general

The House passed a bill Wednesday that would allow state agencies and departments to hire private-practice attorneys, rather than accept representation from the attorney general’s office when dealing with legal matters.

House Bill 101 passed with a 54-15 vote and now heads to the Senate. Legislators have also introduced bills in both the House and Senate that would remove the attorney general as the legal representative to the Idaho Department of Lands. These bills would instead allow the department to hire its own legal counsel.

In an Op-Ed in the Times-News, Jim Jones, former attorney general and Idaho supreme court chief justice, called these two bills unconstitutional. He also said that the state previous operated in the manner that’s outlined in House Bill 101 and that it was “a costly mess.”

“It would degrade the quality of legal services and more than double their cost,” Jones said. “The bill sponsors cannot even estimate how high the cost would go.”

According to the Associated Press, the Republican Reps. Bruce Skaug and John Vander Woude, both from Nampa, say the attorney general’s office frequently arrives at legal conclusions that are the opposite from what lawmakers want to hear. This legislation allows agencies to search for attorneys that will pursue cases the way the agencies would like in court.

Defunding abortion providers

The House State Affairs Committee passed legislation on Thursday that aims to prevent public funding from reaching abortion service providers of any kind.

House Bill 220 would prevent all levels of government — including cities, counties, school districts and public health districts — from contracting or participating in commercial transactions with abortion providers. The bill also prohibits public employees from assisting someone in receiving an abortion or counseling them about their abortion options.

The Associated Press reports that during the hearing on the bill, its sponsor, Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, said those who vote against the legislation would have to “answer in the afterlife.”

Planned Parent’s Idaho state director Mistie Tolman told the committee that this legislation would her organizations such as hers that provide a variety of services. According to the Associated Press, she said that Planned Parenthood provides cancers screening, treats infections, distributes contraceptives and provides family planning services.

The committee passed the bill with a 10-4 vote. It will now go to the full House floor for a vote.

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