BOISE -- The Occupy Boise protesters are closer to being kicked off the grounds of the old Ada County Courthouse. That's after an hour-long debate and vote Thursday in Idaho's House of Representatives.
House Bill 404 would add to existing law, specifically prohibiting camping on the Capitol Mall property and other state property and facilities (like the Occupy movement is doing).
Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, is the sponsor of what many have dubbed the anti-occupy bill. It was introduced to close what Bedke calls a 'loophole' which the occupiers have taken advantage of, and kick them off state grounds.
It was a spirited debate on the floor of the House, focusing on freedom of speech.
As I heard the allegations of how this bill trampled those protections, those rights that we all hold sacred, I was, quite frankly Mr. Speaker, offended, said Bedke.
Whether we like Occupy Boise or not is not the issue, said Rep. Grant Burgoyne,D-Boise. That's the thing about rights. Rights force us to accept things we do not like.
The debate also turned to existing federal law that supporters say already bans this type of camping. They also argued that occupiers can call for change in a number of other ways.
They have a right to represent their view on the front steps of the building, said Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls. They have a right to ask for meetings, to testify in committee, which they did at length.
Opponents argued the occupiers have the same concerns as many Idahoans.
Some of the people that elected us to this office today that we serve in just may be the same people we're talking about across the street, said Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise. They are people. They are us.
We don't solve problems this way, said Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle. I have a great deal of respect for colleagues on both sides of this aisle. If they don't agree with me, I don't camp on their lawn until they do.
When the vote came it was not close, with the camping ban passing by a vote of 54-16. Only the Democrats and three Republicans voted against it.
Now the measure heads to the Senate, where it will likely pass. The governor has said he would sign it, if it makes it to his desk. As soon as he does sign the bill, it would go into law and the occupiers would have to move immediately. Although it's possible the governor will let it sit on his desk for a few days to allow the occupiers some time to move.
To clarify, this camping ban on state-managed ground does not extend to state-managed campgrounds since they have been designated for camping.