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BOISE -- Attacks on health care workers could become felonies that land the perpetrator in prison for up to three years under a bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Nurses, doctors and other hospital employees flocked to the Statehouse Friday to describe how they and their colleagues have been punched, kicked and spit on by angry or intoxicated patients.

A similar bill died in a tie on the Senate floor last year after passing the House.

But proponents, who say current laws to protect health workers don't do enough, are confident this year will be different.

The committee's vote to advance the bill came over some senators misgivings about adding a new felony to the books.

Now, lawmakers will be able to debate the proposed law on the Senate floor.

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