BOISE — July 1 is the day most laws passed during the year’s Idaho legislative session take effect.
So what’s new?
With a few limited exceptions, Idaho residents won’t need a concealed carry permit anymore.
As of July 1, the requirement for a permit to carry concealed within city limits goes away. In 2015, the Legislature clarified the code to make it clear that a permit isn’t needed outside of city limits. (It had been ambiguous before.) This year, lawmakers mostly got rid of the requirement within city limits as well.
Ditching the permitting requirement, called “constitutional carry” by its supporters, has been a longtime goal of the pro-gun rights group the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance. For decades, Vermont was the only state where you didn’t need a concealed carry permit, but the idea of doing away with them has been gaining traction with firearms advocates in recent years and has been passing in other gun-friendly statehouses, becoming law in West Virginia, Idaho and Mississippi in 2016 and bringing the number of permitless carry states to 10.
The bill passed in Idaho with most of the Republicans in favor and the Democrats opposed, although a few Republicans, including local Reps. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, and Fred Wood, R-Burley, voted no.
Only Idaho residents 21 and older can carry concealed without a permit within city limits. If you live in another state or are between 18 and 21, you will still need a permit. Outside city limits, though, anyone 18 and older who can legally have a gun can carry concealed, Idaho resident or not.
An enhanced carry permit will still be required to carry in the areas of a college campus where it’s allowed, and prohibitions on carrying guns in places like courthouses, jails and schools are still in effect. The state law also doesn’t have any impact on regulations at federal facilities.
Ryan Horsley, the general manager of Red’s Trading Post in Twin Falls, said more and more Idahoans are interested in carrying concealed weapons, especially women. He said he has also been getting a lot of questions from customers about the new law. Horsely said his views on “constitutional carry” have evolved over the years. He was against it originally but came to support it about six years ago.
“I’ve definitely changed my opinion on it,” he said.
Despite his support for the new law, Horsley still strongly encourages anyone interested in carrying concealed to get training. He recommends the enhanced permit — the class includes shooting practice and training in self-defense law, and it lets you carry in some states, including neighboring Nevada and Washington, that don’t recognize Idaho’s basic permit.
“It’s not just strap on a holster, you’re good to go,” he said.
Are people still getting the training? In Twin Falls County, the number of people applying for concealed weapons permits dropped from four or five dozen a week to about two dozen a week after the law was passed, but it has recently started to go up again as people realize they will still need a permit to carry out of state, said county sheriff’s spokeswoman Lori Stewart.
In Jerome County, Sheriff Doug McFall said his office has actually seen a slight increase in the number of people getting permits recently. McFall also always recommends people apply for the enhanced permit rather than the basic.
Both Stewart and McFall said nothing is really going to change for their deputies when the new law takes effect.
“I really don’t think there’s going to be a big change,” Stewart said. “Maybe just an added awareness.”
McFall said they approach every car as if the occupants are armed whether one of them has a concealed weapons permit or not.
“Quite frankly, the guys that are shooting my deputies out there on the street are not going to have a concealed weapons permit anyway, so what would it matter?” he asked.
Crisis center funding
July 1 is when the 2016-2017 budget bills kick in, and that means the funding for a planned behavioral health crisis center in Twin Falls gets released.
Lawmakers approved $200,000 in one-time funding for the Twin Falls crisis center’s capital costs and $1.013 million in ongoing funding, which will be paid out as reimbursement to the agency running the crisis center and is expected to be enough for eight months of operation. Lawmakers are expected to appropriate more during the 2017 session.
Three mental health services providers have applied for the contract. The Region 5 Behavioral Health Board is expected to choose between them the second week of July, and then the winner will get to work for its anticipated December opening.
New animal cruelty law
Amendments to the state’s animal cruelty law that define torture and draw a distinction between companion and production animals will take effect.
Before sentencing, an individual convicted of violating the animal cruelty law will now be required to go through a psychological evaluation as part of a pre-sentencing investigation. A person convicted of a second or subsequent violation for torturing a companion animal will now be guilty of a felony, as will someone convicted of a first violation if they have been convicted within the past 10 years of a felony involving physically harming a human intentionally.
Federal lands and ‘catastrophic public nuisance’
Starting on July 1, a county commission chairman or sheriff will be able to declare a “catastrophic public nuisance” on federal lands if they believe the way the land is being maintained poses an increased wildfire risk or other threat to public health or safety.
The bill, modeled on one in Utah that in turn is modeled on a bill from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, sets up a procedure for counties to lodge a complaint and seek redress with federal land management agencies. The bill’s supporters said at the time that counties can’t force the feds to do anything, so the law would serve more as a way to make people aware of maintenance issues, outline a procedure in state law that counties can follow and to shame federal agencies that don’t respond.
Abortion, fetal tissue
Lawmakers passed two new abortion related restrictions this year — one to ban harvesting organs and tissues from aborted fetuses, and one requiring abortion providers to, before an abortion, provide a list of places where a woman can get a free ultrasound.
The first measure, called the Idaho Unborn Infants Dignity Act, was inspired by last year’s controversy over videos taken by a conservative group that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal. Planned Parenthood countered the videos were deceptively edited. The group doesn’t have a fetal tissue donation program in Idaho.
As for the second bill, its supporters said it would ensure women have access to more information before getting an abortion — women won’t be required to get an ultrasound, just given a list of free places to get one — while its Democratic opponents said it will steer women toward pregnancy crisis centers run by groups that oppose abortion for the free ultrasounds.
New stalking protections
People who are being stalked or harassed will now be able to get a civil protection order from a judge regardless of their relation to the perpetrator. Previously, these orders had been limited to people who are in family or intimate relationships, leaving a gap where someone stalked by a stranger or acquaintance was unable to get a civil protection order.
The bill was largely crafted by Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, and carried in the House by Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, both of whom were inspired to act by constituents who were stalked. For Burgoyne, it was the story of a Boise woman who was shot by a stalker in her backyard, and for Clow it was a Twin Falls woman who was stalked and threatened last year by a man she had met through work.
Plastic bags and minimum wage
Cities and counties in Idaho will be barred from setting their own minimum wage laws, and neither will they be able to set regulations banning plastic bags, takeout boxes or other “auxiliary containers.”
Neither of these measures are going to repeal anything that exists now, as there aren’t any Idaho cities with either a local container ban or a local minimum wage. However, there have been attempts to do both in a few places.
Both bills were generally supported by the Republicans and opposed by the Democrats. Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, sponsored the container preemption bill in the House, and Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, carried it in the Senate.
Starting July 1, food stamps will now be posted to people’s benefit cards on a staggered basis over the first 10 days of the month, rather than on the first for everyone. What day they are issued will depend on the last digit of the birthday of the primary beneficiary — someone born in 1986 will get their food stamps on the sixth, someone born in 1990 will get them on the 10th.
Youths in breweries
People under 21 will legally be allowed in brewery tasting rooms. (It’s still illegal for them to drink, though.) They were already allowed in wineries.
Lawmakers passed a number of reforms to the state’s public defense system, which is currently the subject of a class-action lawsuit charging it is unconstitutionally inadequate. The changes include $5.5 million in funding, statewide standards and grants for counties to help pay public defense costs.