An advocate of Idaho's open-carry laws has spurred state officials to seek changes they say are aimed at protecting public safety.
House Bill 207, introduced by the House State Affairs Committee last week, would clarify that security videos may be exempt from the Public Records Act. Access could be denied "only when the disclosure of such information would jeopardize the safety of persons or the public safety."
Idaho Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna said the change was sought after Bryan Carter of Meridian made a records request for almost 95 hours of Capitol security video in 2012.
Carter asked state officials to review hours of video from November 2011 and allow him to copy video "only for the duration I am present. ... If it may be of assistance in better identifying my person, I do recall that I was wearing a baseball cap during this time."
The Nov. 21-23 recordings had been reused and erased by the time of Carter's Jan. 27, 2012, request for video from three Capitol locations.
The state did provide Carter copies of four hours and 35 minutes of video he requested for five locations from Jan. 16, 2012. In one portion, the armed Carter is questioned by Idaho State Police, who asked him to leave a Senate State Affairs Committee meeting and inspected his identification.
DOING THEIR DUTY
ISP Capt. Sheldon Kelley said officers were simply doing their jobs to protect lawmakers and the public.
"Just because it's legal to carry a gun in the Capitol doesn't mean you're not going to be asked about it," Kelley said. "They would be remiss in their duties if they didn't."
ISP was alerted to Carter's wearing of a handgun by longtime Capitol security officer Charlie Harris. After speaking with the officers for five minutes, Carter did not return to the committee, which was reviewing routine administrative rules for the Athletic Commission, Liquor Division, Idaho Lottery and other agencies.
Carter, 47, is a member of the gun-rights group Idaho Carry, Open & Concealed. He did not reply to repeated requests for comment last week.
Luna said the video Carter sought would have been released if HB 207 were law because the release wouldn't present a security threat. But Luna said the law needs to ensure that surveillance video is subject to exemption.
"It just made us recognize that we need to clarify the language," Luna said. "All we're trying to do is make it clear we can exempt records if release would jeopardize public safety."
In a Jan. 15 email to colleagues asking for advice on presenting the bill, State Facilities Manager Ric Johnson wrote, "can I say ... dear legislators, if you pick your nose on camera, that recorded video becomes public record."
That email was provided to Carter after he asked for records related to the postponement of a print hearing on HB 207 on Jan. 17, his fifth records request to the department in 12 months. The other requests were for a Department of Administration organizational chart, records regarding Carter, and records related to HB 207.
'THE PUBLIC'S BUSINESS'
House State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said a new bill must not be overly broad.
"We're all about the public's business," Loertscher said. "I really think you need to be open about what you're doing. The exemptions to the Public Records Act ought to be pretty darn infrequent."
Last month, Luna screened a clip of Carter for Loertscher's committee as part of her pitch for rules governing the Capitol Mall.
The Jan. 10, 2013, video showed Carter wandering through the House chamber, photographing lawmakers' desks and documents, and reaching into the trash for a discarded paper.
As a result, legislative leaders closed the House and Senate chambers to public access on nights and weekends. That closure is being reconsidered and might be lifted as soon as this week.
"We're looking at a way to get it back open and ensure the safety of everyone," said Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said he's also inclined to reopen the chambers to visitors between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.
Last month, Carter told the Statesman that he didn't intend to alarm anyone. "It broke my heart that I caused the legislators a concern," he said.
Luna said the decision to seek amendment of the Public Records Act was made last fall, with the bill drafted in November, before Carter's actions on the House floor.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics