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BOISE -- Idaho Senators have killed legislation aimed at toughening penalties for assaults on doctors, nurses and care providers.

The bill failed on an 18-17 vote, with Lt. Gov. Brad Little casting the deciding vote to break a tie.

Under the proposal, anyone attacking a doctor could be charged with a felony and face up to five years in prison. The offense is now a misdemeanor.

Some hospitals promoted the measure, arguing there's been an influx of emergency rooms patients seeking narcotics who turn violent when refused the drugs.

Nampa Sen. Todd Lakey argued the enhanced penalty is appropriate because data shows doctors are increasingly facing attacks on the job.

But Senate opponents argued the bill is too harsh, would expand state prison populations and may unfairly target patients with mental illness.

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