BOISE — A Magic Valley lawmaker’s bill to outlaw the profiling of motorcyclists by law enforcement died in the Senate by one vote Monday.
The bill from Sen. Lee Heider, a Republican from Twin Falls, would have added a section to Idaho Code stating that no state or local law enforcement can stop and question, arrest, or search a motorcyclist simply because he is riding a motorcycle or wearing “motorcycle-related paraphernalia.” It failed to pass on a 17-18 vote, with four Magic Valley senators voting in favor of the bill and one against.
Heider, a motorcyclist himself, said he has never been profiled while riding his motorcycle.
“But there are those obviously in our society who feel this takes place,” Heider said. “Let’s put an end to this now.”
Critics of the bill on both sides of the aisle argued that the state should not put into statute protections for one particular group, when there are likely other demographics in Idaho — such as certain religious and ethnic minorities — who feel they are also targeted.
“There are other people, I’m sure, in Idaho who feel they are profiled and they should be protected as well,” said Sen. Grant Burgoyne, a Democrat from Boise. To recognize motorcyclists in particular, Burgoyne said, “I’m afraid will make those I represent feel they are less important than others.”
Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, a Democrat from Boise and the only black lawmaker in the Legislature, told the floor in her argument against the bill that her son also rides a motorcycle and is pulled over often.
“Were that everyone could be riding down the street without fear, without concern,” Buckner-Webb said. “But I will tell you in communities of color and in my own family they are not free from intimidation or targeting.”
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Concerns about other groups also wanting protections were not limited to Democratic legislators. Sen. Mary Souza, a Republican from Coeur d’Alene, said she worried the bill could lead to a slippery slope.
“I’m afraid we’ll have just a lineup of group after group wanting their particular rights called out in law,” Souza said.
There was also support for the bill on both sides of the aisle.
Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, a Democrat from Boise, said she didn’t believe the bill went far enough.
“But I am opposed to profiling of any kind,” Ward-Engelking said.
Among Magic Valley lawmakers, Heider, Sen. Kelly Anthon of Burley, Sen. Bert Brackett of Rogerson, and Sen. Jim Patrick of Twin Falls voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Michelle Stennett of Ketchum voted against.
Anthon said he felt comfortable supporting the bill after some of his initial concerns were addressed in an amendment stating that the contents of the bill shall not “be construed to create a cause of action against any individual, the state of Idaho, any counties or cities of the state, or any law enforcement entity within the state.”