Senate Bill 1337, better known as the "Ag-Gag" bill, plowed through the Idaho House Wednesday afternoon in a 56 to 14 vote. The measure, which already sailed through the Idaho Senate, now heads to the Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter for his imminent signature. Opponents already filled the desk of Otter's administrative assistant earlier in the day with petitions holding 113,000 signatures urging the Governor to veto the bill.
55 members of the Idaho House Republican majority voted in favor of the ag-gag bill, joined by Gooding Democratic Rep. Donna Pence.
13 Democrats voted against the measure, joined by two Republicans: Boise Rep. Lynn Luker and Meridian Rep. Steven Harris.
SB 1337 aims to crack down on anyone who is not employed by an agricultural production facility or anyone who obtains employment with such an operation through misrepresentation. If said persons were to obtain records or enter an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public, or "make audio or video recordings of the conduct" at that facility, they face a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison. Additionally, the guilty party would pay twice the value of damages to the agricultural facility.
"I think I've gotten more mail on this than any other issue this session, most of it regarding animal cruelty," said Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Linden Bateman, arguing that the bill's chief opponents were "extreme activists who want to contrive issues simply to bring in donations."
But newly appointed Boise Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel, an attorney, put up the most fervent debate against the bill.
"This bill is not about personal property rights. It only protects one little sliver of personal property owners," said Rubel. "I'm of the belief that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. And this looks and quacks like restriction on free speech. This is about the First Amendment and the right of people to get information. The answer is not to imprison the people who criticize you."
Before closing off debate, the bill's sponsor, Wilder Republican Rep. Gayle Batt said, "Threats from activists are real and on the rise. This is an opportunity for Idaho to stand up against those who want to destroy our farms and brands."
Ultimately, a lot of Batt's GOP colleagues and one Democratic representative. agree with her and pushed the ag-gag bill one big step toward becoming law.