Idaho House spikes victims’ rights amendment

The dome of the Idaho Statehouse looms over the snowcovered foothills in Idaho's capitol city of Boise in this undated photo. (AP Photo/Troy Maben).

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho lawmakers on Monday once again spiked a proposal seeking to expand the rights of crime victims after opponents argued the change could lead to costly unintended consequences.

The proposal would have changed Idaho’s 1994 Victim Rights Amendment by requiring victims to be timely notified of all court proceedings involving suspects, as well as allowing victims be heard at each step of the legal process.

However, too many lawmakers raised concerns about the bill’s backers and appropriateness of tweaking Idaho’s constitution during Monday’s lengthy testimony rather than amending state statutes.

“This is not an Idaho solution, it’s a billionaire’s solution from California,” said Rep. Heather Scott, a Republican from Blanchard. “And as we know this is a national campaign, the money that has been pumped into these states across the country has been astronomical.”

The amendment, dubbed Marsy’s Law for Idaho, is named for a California woman killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend after he was released from jail without her being notified.

Her brother, Henry Nicholas, has since financed the effort to expand it to more states.

Illinois, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota have adopted similar amendments.

Supporters of the bill argued that the measure was needed to give victims a better voice in a system that already gives rights to defendants.

“This sets a new floor, not a ceiling, a more responsible floor,” said Republican Rep. Luke Malek, a former prosecutor who is running for the 1st Congressional District open seat. “A more aware floor of how we’ve been treating victims.”

An economic analysis of the measure estimated that cost of implementing Marsy’s Law could be $553,000, or less than 1 percent of what the state already spends on public safety each year. Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, countered that such estimates were premature and the amendment would be handed down as an unfunded mandate for counties.

Last year, a similar proposal easily cleared the Senate but was stopped in the House after failing to win enough support from the House State Affairs Committee. This year, the proposal started with that same House panel, where it narrowly squeaked by to the House.

House members voted 42-28 on Monday. Constitutional amendments, however, need a two-thirds majority support — which means the proposal needed at least 47 votes to pass out of the 70-member body.

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