BOISE — A revised version of a controversial trespassing bill will go to the House floor with the support of two Magic Valley lawmakers on the Agricultural Affairs Committee.
The legislation, HB 658, would change private property posting requirements for land owners while implementing harsher punishments for trespassers. The bill is an updated version of HB 536, which easily cleared the same committee three weeks earlier despite questions about its constitutionality and opposition from sheriffs around the state.
If passed, HB 658 would get rid of the requirement that private land owners mark their property with orange paint or signs every 660 feet. Instead, the land would need to be marked with signs or paint or enclosed with a fence or other boundary to the extent that “a reasonable person” would realize that he or she is on private property.
Both versions of the legislation have drawn criticism from sportsmen and outdoorsmen groups, who say loosening posting requirements will increase the chances that a hunter unknowingly trespasses on private property.
HB 658 is also opposed by the Idaho Sheriffs Association on the grounds that it would over-criminalize conduct that was previously benign, said spokesman Michael Kane.
An analysis of the earlier bill by the Attorney General’s office found that it may have violated the U.S. Constitution by turning “many innocent acts” into criminal offenses. The legislation was also opposed by the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
“The way it’s written, it makes it almost a per se trespassing crime if you happen to be on somebody else’s land,” Twin Falls Prosecutor Grant Loebs said at the time.
The updated bill, HB 658, addresses some of the legal concerns raised by the prosecutors and the Attorney General’s office by adjusting some of the language in the legislation and providing a list of people who would be excluded from the law, including someone who knocks on a stranger’s front door.
The Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association no longer opposes the bill, Loebs said.
Rep. Maxine Bell of Jerome and Rep. Steve Miller of Fairfield, both Republicans, voted along with nine other lawmakers Tuesday to send HB 658 to the full House chamber with a do-pass recommendation.
“You have to be very careful that you don’t let the perfect be the enemy to the good,” Bell said, adding that lawmakers could work out any problems with the law during the next legislative session.
Rep. Sally Toone of Gooding, one of the panel’s two Democrats, voted to hold the bill in committee, along with Rep. Matt Erpelding, a Boise Democrat, and Rep. Randy Armstrong, a Republican from Inkom.
“I’d like to see us go to that next level of perfect,” Toone said.