State Politics

Bills on breastfeeding, police powers, abortion now await Gov. Otter’s signature

Idaho Moms for NIP (nursing in public) protested on the Capitol in 2015 because Idaho is the last state to protect mothers from being charged with indecency. A bill changing that is headed to Gov. Butch Otter.
Idaho Moms for NIP (nursing in public) protested on the Capitol in 2015 because Idaho is the last state to protect mothers from being charged with indecency. A bill changing that is headed to Gov. Butch Otter. Idaho Statesman file

Idaho laws on breastfeeding, police powers and a Medicaid dental program are about to change — if Gov. Butch Otter signs the bills now headed to his desk.

Both chambers of the Legislature advanced several measures to the governor’s office Monday, as they attempt to wrap up legislative business within the next two weeks.

▪  HB 448 provides legal protections to breastfeeding mothers by exempting breastfeeding from indecent and obscenity laws.

Fifteen years ago, Idaho lawmakers killed a similar proposal over fears of women removing blouses and exposing their breasts in public spaces. This time around, both the Senate and House votes on the measure were unanimous.

Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.

▪  HB 447, civil asset forfeiture reform, changes when police can take a citizen’s property. The bill prohibits police officers from seizing cash or property simply because it was in close proximity to an illegal substance. It also bans seizing vehicles unless they are connected to trafficking offenses, and creates reporting requirements for forfeited property.

Last year, a similar bill also received wide bipartisan support. But Otter vetoed that one because he did not think Idaho had a problem that needed to be fixed.

▪  HB 665 restores non-emergency dental care for more than 30,000 Idaho Medicaid recipients.

The benefits were reduced in 2011 to cover only emergency extractions. Lawmakers had promised to restore the benefits when the economy improved, and brought them back for children and people with major disabilities two years later. This bill completes the restoration.

▪  SB 1243 requires the Department of Health and Welfare to provide information to women seeking chemical abortions on how to reverse the procedure. As it progressed through the Legislature, the bill prompted an argument over whether there is medically accepted evidence that a drug-induced abortion can be interrupted.

▪  Otter separately on Monday signed HB 463, a sweeping $200 million tax cut. The bill reduces personal income and corporate tax rates and creates an Idaho child tax credit.

The law is designed to offset the increase in taxes Idaho families are expected to pay under the recently signed Republican tax plan signed by President Donald Trump. Changing the state’s tax brackets would lower Idaho’s $3.5 billion general fund by $159.6 million and implementing the child tax credit would slash the fund by an additional $42.3 million – totaling nearly $200 million.

Lawmakers now hope to expand the tax credit from $130 to $205 before the end of session, which means the tax cut law could jump to $225 million. On Monday, the House Revenue and Taxation committee voted to send HB 675, which increases the child tax credit, to the House and recommended it be approved there.

The House also sent two notable bills to their Senate peers Monday:

▪  HB 658 overhauls trespass laws to include steeper fines, more conspicuous posting requirements, and the ability for landowners to collect attorney and investigation fees when they prevail in a civil trespass suit. The measure has attracted some controversy, and an Idaho attorney general’s opinion suggests that in concert with an unrelated self-defense bill, it could increase the risk of unintentional trespassers being hurt or killed.

▪  HB 581 eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses. The sentencing rules date back to the war on drugs, and affect Idaho’s drug trafficking law, which is based on drug weight and not proof that someone has actually engaged in trafficking.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

The Associated Press contributed.