Idaho Legislature

Monday, March 30, 2015

UPDATE: Idaho House Committee Reverses Votes for Cannabis Oil Bill, Giving Measure Renewed Life

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 7:56 PM

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UPDATE: April 2, 2015

In a stunning reversal, the House State Affairs Committee voted 12-4 on Thursday, April 2 to approve a bill that would provide a legal defense for the use of non-psychotropic cannabidiol oil to treat intractable epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

Senate Bill 1146aa was passed by the Senate on March 24 but stalled in the House State Affairs Committee on an 8-8 vote March 30. In a surprising move, the committee decided to revisit the legislation April 2, when several lawmakers switched their votes.

Reps. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs; Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls; and John McCrostie, D-Garden City, reversed their "nay" positions on the bill and were joined by Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, who was absent for the March 30 vote. 

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, who opposed the measure on March 30, was not present for the April 2 vote.

Though unusual, the practice of returning to a bill after it has been voted on isn't unheard of.

"Any time a bill is held in committee it can be brought back by a member," said House State Affairs Committee Secretary Kasey Winder.

McCrostie, who was the only Democrat on the committee to side with Republicans to hold the bill, requested that it be reconsidered.

Otherwise known as "Alexis' Law," SB 1146aa is named for 10-year-old Alexis Carey, who suffers from an intractable form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. Her mother, Clare, has lobbied the Legislature for several years to pass a bill that would open the way for parents to legally obtain cannabidiol—a low-THC extract of cannabis—which has been shown to lessen seizures in children with similar conditions.

The bill met with stiff opposition from Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's drug czar, Idaho Office of Drug Policy Director Elisha Figueroa, who told lawmakers on March 30 that "this is not hemp oil you can buy at the Co-op. This is marijuana, a Schedule One drug, and Idaho will be violating federal law if this passes."

Supporters of the bill, including parents and pediatricians, argued during an emotional, marathon public hearing March 30 that cannabidiol offers substantive relief from the symptoms of life-threatening seizure disorders.

Speaking of her 11-year-old daughter Marley, who experiences between two and 100 seizures per day, Natalie Stevens said on March 30 that, "‘Seizure’ means Marley can never be out of my sight; it means that she has scars from biting her tongue all the time; it means that her breathing stops, it means missing school and missing work; it means sleepless nights and agonizing days. Seizures are our prison. We’ll gladly risk this. We’re already in prison. We would rather be arrested and have an affirmative defense."

SB 1146aa now heads to the full House for consideration. According to Winder, that could happen as early as Monday, April 6. 
UPDATE: April 1, 2015

In a surprise move, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee agreed to reconsider a controversial cannabidiol oil bill that died only two days earlier. In effect, when committee members reconvene April 2, they could reverse themselves and approve the measure which could provide an "affirmative defense" for parents who use the oil as relief for the children who suffer severe epileptic seizures.

The bill's future was put into peril March 31 when, after hours of every emotional testimony, the committee deadlocked 8-8, thus putting the bill back into a drawer.

But now, Plummer Democratic Rep. Paulette Jordan, who was absent from the vote, says she supports the bill, and Garden City Democratic Rep. John McCrostie, who initially voted against the bill, now says the measure should be reconsidered.

Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Loertscher cautioned his fellow lawmakers that there would not be any more public testimony on Thursday, just some discussion among committee members and an ultimate vote.

UPDATE: March 30, 2015 7 p.m.

The only thing more dramatic than the testimony in front of the Idaho House State Affairs committee March 30 was the committee’s vote. What started as an early morning hearing in front of the committee - considering whether to grant parents an “affirmative defense” to use cannabidiol oil in the treatment of their children’s severe epileptic seizures - ended nine hours later and long after most of the rest of the legislature had gone home for the evening.

After a physically and emotionally exhausting two-part hearing where parents held back tears while pleading for their children’s comfort, the committee deadlocked: 8-to-8, effectively killing the bill. Garden City Democratic Rep. John McCrostie joined seven Republican legislators in voting against Senate Bill 1146aa. Plummer Democratic Rep. Paulette Jordan was not present for the vote.

“It’s a tie,” said Committee Chair Rep. Tom Loertscher, who had voted for the bill, along with four Republicans and three Democrats. Members of the public, who had endured the marathon, sat stunned after spending a good part of their day imploring legislators to help their children.

“I’ll try to contain my emotions,” said Holli Bunderson who spoke about her son who suffered his first seizure when he was ten-months-old, and has since had a tumor and cyst removed from his brain and has been diagnosed with Autism and Limbic Rage Syndrome, triggering seizures from the deepest part of his brain throughout his 7-year-old body.

Dr. David Bettis, a pediatric neurologist who works with many of the Idaho families coping with their children’s severe epilepsy, cautioned lawmakers, “Not to throw the babies out of with the bathwater. I would urge you not to overemphasize the bathwater. Let’s keep in mind that these children deserve this kind of help. Yes, I struggle with the illegal transport of the drug as much as anyone, but that’s the part of the bathwater. We can work that out.”

Natalie Stevens said she was prepared to testify before the House committee because she was an expert.

“I’m an expert on my daughter, said the mother of 11-year-old Marley who suffers from anywhere from two to 100 seizures every day.

“You’ve heard the word ‘seizure’ over and over today,” said Stevens. “But when you hear it over and over, you forget what that entails. ‘Seizure’ means Marley can never be out of my sight; it means that she has scars from biting her tongue all the time; it means that her breathing stops, it means missing school and missing work; it means sleepless nights and agonizing days. Seizures are our prison. We’ll gladly risk this. We’re already in prison. We would rather be arrested and have an affirmative defense.”

But opponents of the bill brought out the big guns, figuratively, with Idaho police, sheriffs, prosecutors and Governor C.L. Butch Otter’s own drug czar pushing hard against SB 1146aa.

“Yes, this is heart wrenching. But I want to be clear: this is not hemp oil you can buy at the co-op. This is marijuana, a Schedule One drug and Idaho will be violating federal law if this passes,” said Elisha Figueroa, director of the Idaho Office of Drug Policy. “We have a very real criminal element in this state that is looking for a shield for their activity, and this law does just that.”

Figueroa, instead, urged the committee to support Senate Bill 1156, which have the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare administer a special program, including trials and oversight of the pharmaceutical company-manufactured Epidiolex.

The Epidiolex trial would include approximately 25 to 30 people, but at least one estimate during the March 30 State Affairs committee hearing indicated that there approximately 1,200 Idaho children who suffer from severe seizures.

ORIGINAL POST: March 30, 2015 11 a.m.

Idaho Senate Bill 1146aa
—a measure that would provide legal defense for parents of children who use a non-psychotropic form of cannabidiol oil for relief of sever seizures—ran into hard-line opposition Monday morning from Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's point-person on drug policy.

"This is heart wrenching," Elisha Figueroa, director of the Idaho Office of Drug Policy told the Idaho House State Affairs Committee. "But I want to be clear. This is not a mere supplement. This is not the hemp oil you can buy at the co-op. This is marijuana, a Schedule One drug, and Idaho will be violating the federal law if this bill passes."

Committee Chair Rep. Tom Loertscher asked Figueroa if every other state—14 Republican-controlled legislatures have passed similar legislation thus far—is already violating federal law.

"Yes," said Figueroa plainly.

But Nampa Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie, sponsor of the bill that is also known as Alexis' Law—named for the Idaho child who suffers severe seizures profiled this past January by Boise Weekly—said, "The purpose of this bill is to provide hope to Idaho families."

"This is a type of hemp oil, with only trace amounts of THC—the substance in marijuana that can get you high," said McKenzie. "And instead of legalizing the drug, it gives parents to opportunity to defend themselves if they're charged with possession."

But Figueroa is instead pushing for a separate measure—Idaho Senate Bill 1156—that would allow the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to administer a special program, including trials and oversight of Epidiolex.

"Senate Bill 1156 would allocate $223,000 for research costs," said Figueroa, adding that 25-33 Idaho families would be eligible for the first trial of the program. "It's fairly new, but at a December 2014 meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, some of the first trials indicated that 39 percent of patients saw some reduction of seizures. The adverse effects were mild or moderate."

But a long list of parents and caregivers are still slated to testify on behalf of of SB 1146aa, leading Loertscher to tell his committee members that they would be expected to gavel back into session Monday afternoon.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

City of Boise Shelves Proposed Uber Rules; Forwards All Questions, Concerns to Statehouse

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 1:23 PM

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The City of Boise issued a statement Friday regarding its ongoing tug-of-war with Uber that said, in effect, if anything goes wrong with Uber, "don't coming crying to us." In fact, the statement refers all questions and concerns regarding the operation of the app-driven ride share service should henceforth be directed to the State of Idaho.

"Legislation approved by lawmakers this week makes the State of Idaho responsible for oversight on TNCs (transportation network companies such as Uber or Lyft) operating anywhere in the state and precludes oversight of such companies by all Idaho cities, including Boise," read the statement from the City of Boise. "Moving forward, any complaints from Boise residents about TNCs operating in the city will be promptly forwarded to the State of Idaho and closely monitored for swift action by state regulators."

City of Boise officials had moved forward with a proposed ordinance to provide operating guidelines for Uber, but the company suspended its operations in the city and instead lobbied the Idaho Legislature for looser guidelines and found success when both the Idaho House and Senate approved House Bill 262 which provides the framework for TNCs operating in Idaho.


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Idaho Rep. Paul Shepherd's Awkward Invitation, His Website Makeover and His Bizarre Reference to LGBT Advocates as Slaveowners

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 11:17 AM

Riggins Republican Rep. Paul Shepherd is being asked to sit down with members of the LGBT community to discuss the issue of being gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender in Idaho. In fact, members of Better Idaho hand-delivered an invitation to Shepherd at the Idaho Statehouse on Thursday.

"We realize you have some very strong opinions regarding the LGBT community, and it would be helpful to us if we could more fully understand those opinions. We also think a forum may help alleviate some of your fears of the LGBT community," said the invitation.

Earlier this month, Shepherd introduced a resolution calling for the impeachment of any federal judge who sides with same-sex marriage.

"We would like to have a forum with LGBT citizens in Idaho to alleviate some of your concerns and some of theirs, just given all the vitriol that's happened recently," said Better Idaho's Jordan Brady when she handed the invitation to Shepherd. "Do you think you'll be able to attend?"

Shepherd responded, "I don't know yet, I just...I haven't gotten to read the whole thing." Shepherd asked for another copy of the invitation and took off, saying "I'll let you know."

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Meanwhile, it turns out that Dylan Hailey, an Idaho college student, has purchased Shepherd's former website, paulshepherdusa.com and given it a makeover, including a rainbow flag behind Shepherd's photo and advocacy for LGBT protections.

"Several articies stated this site was hacked; it was not," said the website. "The domain went up for renewal and Paul Shepherd didn't pay the bill, so the domain went back on the market and we just had lucky timing and purchased it before he noticed his domain had expired. We legally own the website now."

The site has since been linked to Reddit.

"Yes, we do need to take a stand, against bigots who discriminate against people they disagree with or don't like, just like what Paul Shepherd is doing to the LGBT community," wrote Hailey on the website.

Meanwhile, Shepherd offered a bizarre reference to slavery when asked about the website takeover by Idaho Reports.

“Slave owners were very good Christians and good people,” Shepherd told Idaho Reports. "They [slave owners] weren't terrible, horrible, rotten people—just people who made terrible decisions. And that's how I see gay people."

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Idaho House Kills 'Instant Horse Racing' Gambling, Bill Heads to Governor

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 1:53 PM

PATRICK SWEENEY
  • Patrick Sweeney
The Idaho House pulled the plug on hundreds of controversial gambling devices, which it said were legal only two years ago.

Dubbed "historical horse racing" or "instant horse racing," the machines were the subject of sometimes emotional debate throughout the morning of Mach 26.

The House voted 49-21 on Senate Bill 1011, repealing the 2-year-old law that allowed three Idaho racetracks to install the gambling machines. Opponents have argued that the devices are too similar to slot machines, which are illegal in the Gem State, while proponents argued that the revenues were necessary to keep the doors open at the tracks.

In a statement to employees and customers earlier this week, Treasure Valley Racing, which operates Les Boise Park in Garden City, stated that its operations would go dark should the law be repealed.

The measure has already passed through the Idaho Senate and now heads to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for his signature or veto.

Voting against the bill were Reps. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa; Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens; Scott Bedke, R-Oakley; Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell; Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls; Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls; Gary Collins, R-Nampa; Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay; Terry Gestrin, R-Donnelly; Marc Gibbs, R-Grace; Hy Kloc, D-Boise; Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton; Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d'Alene; Mike Moyle, R-Plummer; Christy Perry, R-Nampa; Eric Redman, R-Athol; Heather Scott, R-Blanchard; Caroline Troy, R-Genesee; Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree; Fred Wood, R-Burley; and Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa.

There were two separate attempts to kill the measure: one to "lay the bill on the table" and another to send the it to general orders. The effort to table the bill went down in a 43-25 vote and House Speaker Bedke said that the attempt to send the bill to general orders was out of order. 

"This bill is a nuclear option," said Barbieri, arguing against the measure. "The facts are not all in yet, and the jury should have all the facts; don't you agree?"

But Boise Rep. Lynn Luker pushed back, saying, "If we have a nuclear option, it's because a bomb has been previously planted."

Perry, who was the original sponsor of the bill legalizing instant horse racing in 2012, became emotional when she responded to the suggestion among some lawmakers that they had been "duped" into voting for a law that legalized gambling.  

"I did not lie. In front of God and everybody here, I can't listen anymore to three months of how you were lied to. I have been hurt by the things that have been said here and in the newspapers. I want you to know that nobody lied to you," she said.

Coeur d'Alene Republican Rep. Luke Malek, who voted in favor of the 2012 measure to approve the machines, said, "I have not been proud of what has transpired. What we brought was not horse racing. We broke this legislatively and we need to fix this legislatively."

When Perry argued a second time, she challenged lawmakers on how they voted on similar measures.

"If you voted for the lottery, you voted for gambling. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and be truthful," said Perry.

That comment inspired Mountain Home Republican Rep. Pete Nielsen to fire back: "I take exception to be called hypocritical."

Even Bedke cautioned Perry: "It really did push the limits," he said.

Minutes later, the full House had the final say in the matter, voting to roll back instant horse racing, but more than a few legislators conceded that it may not be the end of the debate.

"I'm positive there will be litigation," said the repeal bill's House sponsor Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Spring. "This will open the door, so let the litigation begin."

Within an hour of the bill's passage by the Idaho House, Treasure Valley Racing officials said Wednesday was "a very disappointing day for Idaho."

"Every legislator who voted for Senate Bill 1011 voted against legal economic growth, against tax-paying business owners, against jobs and against due process," wrote TVR. "We appreciate those representatives who see the issue for what it really is and debated and voted against Senate Bill 1011."

TVR said the "fate of an industry, including more than 500 jobs," now was placed "solely in the hands of the Governor."
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Rep. Beyeler Disavows Bogus Email Concerning Possible Idaho Takeover of Federal Lands

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 11:03 AM

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Leadore Republican Rep. Merrill Beyeler stood before his colleagues in the Idaho House Thursday morning to set the record straight: an email with his name on it didn't come from him.

In particular, the email references House Bill 265 that calls for the creation of an interstate compact on the transfer of federal public lands. In 2013, the Idaho Legislature passed a concurrent resolution calling for an interim committee to study the transfer of federal lands to Idaho, and one of the recommendations was to pursue a compact with other Western States concerning the issue.

The bogus email, which put Beyeler's name at the bottom, urged other legislators to vote "no" on HB 265.

"This did not come from me," said Beyeler. "One of the things I hold sacred is freedom of speech, and when others speak for us, that is offensive to me at the very core."

About 64 percent of land in Idaho is federally owned – the third-highest percentage of any state – and most of it is managed by either the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service.

HB 265 is one of four different bills making their way through the Idaho Statehouse, all of them calling for increased state control of the federal lands.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Idaho Senate Passes Two Cannabis Bills to Assist Those Suffering From Epileptic Seizures

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 12:04 PM

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Emotions ran high Tuesday morning in the chambers of the Idaho Senate as lawmakers approved two measures to loosen restrictions on oil extracted from cannabis to be used as treatment for individuals who suffer from severe epileptic seizures.

Senate Bill 1146aa would legalize the non-psychotropic form of cannabidiol oil, but would not exempt its users from federal prosecution.

"This bill doesn't nullify federal law," said Boise Democratic Sen. Grant Burgoyne. "All this bill does is say that our [Idaho] law won't be a problem. We're not taking on federal law or seeking to change statutes."

Caldwell Republican Sen. Jim Rice stood to tell fellow lawmakers about his younger brother who has epilepsy.

"This is a good proposal," said Rice. "That's why it's supported by a neurologist that my family trusted for many years. Every child is a new experiment. We have to find out what's right for them. This is the right thing to do."

And Terreton Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway came close to tears as he testified.

"How can you watch a young thing suffer and not be compelled to do everything we can do to help that child?" Siddoway asked.

Meridian Republican Sen. Marv Hagedorn pushed back, saying, "This is not an emotional decision. It can't be."

Eventually, the Senate voted 22-12 to pass the bill. Voting no were Sens. Steve Bair, Bert Brackett, Dean Cameron, Marv Hagedorn, Lee Heider, Brent Hill, Dan Johnson, Todd Lakey, Abby Lee, Patti Anne Lodge, Jim Patrick and Chuck Winder.

A few minutes later, the Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1156, which would allow the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to administer a special program, including trials and oversight of Epidiolex, which might also reduce epileptic seizures.  

There was no debate on the second measure, which passed 34-0. Both bills now head to the Idaho House for its consideration.
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Idaho House Panel Approves of Super Tuesday Presidential Primary

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 10:19 AM

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Senate Bill 1066 has one final hurdle (and it's a big one) to clear  before the measure which would put Idaho in the midst of a Super Tuesday presidential primary night goes to Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter for his signature.

The Idaho House State Affairs Committee, by voice vote, approved the bill, which has already cleared the Idaho Senate. Only four Democratic representatives—Paulette Jordan, John McCrostie, Elaine Smith and Melissa Wintro—and Republican Rep. Lynn Luker voted against the bill.

Idaho's current presidential caucus is in May.

"But generally by May, the presidential nominees are normally done," said co-sponsor Rep. John Vander Woude. 

And Idaho, in 2012, experimented with a presidential caucus, requiring interested voters to drive to select locations to vote, sometimes on multiple ballots.

"But those caucuses are very limited as to who will participate," said Vander Woude.

Lawmakers heard from a number of citizens who said the nighttime caucus procedures prohibited them from participating because of their work or school schedules. They also pointed to the importance of absentee ballots for military service men and women. The caucus process sometimes requires multiple ballots, thus preventing absentee ballots on second or third ballots (or more). 

But Luker balked at the price tag for creating a March presidential primary.

"I can't support the public expenditure for this," said Luker. "I'm going to vote no."

Ultimately, Luker was the only Republican to vote against the bill, which now heads to the full House for its consideration.
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Idaho Senate Passes Abortion-Restricting Measure

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 3:00 PM

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The Idaho Senate voted along party lines—27 to 7—Monday to approve House Bill 154a which would place greater restrictions on Idaho abortions. The measure requires a physician to conduct an in-person exam and counseling to any pregnant woman before she's allowed to undergo a chemical abortion using RU-486. Though the bill had been previously passed by the Idaho House, the measure has since been amended, thus requiring another vote by the House before the bill can be sent to Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter.

The bill triggered a flood of national media attention in February, when, during a hearing before the Idaho House State Affairs Committee, Republican Rep. Vito Barbieri infamously asked a healthcare professional if a gynecological exam could be conducted when a woman swallowed a small camera.

In Monday's debate on the Senate floor, Republican sponsor Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, pointed to so-called "web-cam abortions," referring to tele-health appointments that are common in rural Idaho. 

"We want to be preemptive and protect women from the practice," said Nuxoll.

But Moscow Democratic Sen. Dan Schmidt, who is a physician, told his fellow senators that they were "acting like doctors" in rewriting current medical practices.

"That's what we're doing here. We're putting a rule in the statute to define medical practice," said Schmidt.

And Boise Democratic Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb argued that the bill limits "access to (medication abortion), forcing women to unnecessarily undergo a more invasive procedure."

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Les Bois Race Track Operators Warn Employees of Shutdown If Instant Racing Machines Are Illegal

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 1:56 PM

PATRICK SWEENEY
  • Patrick Sweeney
Calling its letter to employees as "an official WARN (worker adjustment and retraining notification) notice," Treasure Valley Racing says that if and when the Idaho House passes Senate Bill 1011—the measure designed to make so-called "instant racing" machines illegal, they'll shut down their operations. The bill has already passed through the Idaho Senate and House State Affairs Committee and should receive a final House vote this week.

"The closure will be permanent and affect the entire facility. It is expected that layoffs will begin approximately May 29, 2015, and the last day of employment for most employees will be June 30, 2015,"  wrote officers of Treasure Valley Racing today. "Effective June 30, 2015, Les Bois Park will permanently close."

But that's not exactly accurate. Ada County owns Les Bois Park and TVR has a contract with the county to run the horse racing operations. So, in fact, TVR would halt operations, not "permanently close" the facility.

"In the event SB1011 does not become law, employees may be maintained or recalled to work," wrote TVR.
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Successful Sponsor of Idaho Salamander Bill: 'I've Grown to Appreciate This Critter'

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 1:38 PM

Idaho Giant Salamander
  • Idaho Giant Salamander
The Idaho House voted Monday to advance a bill that had stalled on previous occasions: a measure to designate the giant salamander as the state amphibian.

14-year-old Ilah Hickman was in the Idaho House gallery Monday as the bill that she had fought for—on numerous occasions—gained support from the House. Lawmakers voted 51 to 17 to pass House Bill 1, sending it to the Idaho Senate for its consideration.

The salamander bill was the very first piece of legislation to surface in the 2015 session of the Idaho legislature, and the House State Affairs Committee had previously voted 10-6 to block the bill. But on March 18, the same committee reversed itself and sent the same bill to the full House with a do-pass recommendation.

"I've grown to appreciate this critter," said Boise Republican Rep. Pat McDonald, who presented the bill to the full House on Monday. "It's good legislation. It doesn't harm anything."

In fact, the bill's passage left McDonald a bit non-plussed. When he was called by House Speaker Scott Bedke to present the next bill on the agenda, McDonald began touting the positive notes on a separate bill. It wasn't until McDonald was well into his presentation that his fellow lawmakers whispered to him that he was arguing for the wrong bill.

"That's OK," said Bedke. "It's not everyday that you get to pass the bill that you did."
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