California bias kills a good bill

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Maybe there was a misunderstanding.

Yes, I suggested pretty strongly that Idaho shouldn’t wait around for another state to tell us what time it’s supposed to get dark.

If Washington wants to go on Hawaiian Standard Time, get on with it. Let them sort it out in Yakima and Maui.

That shouldn’t affect what we do.

But...

I did NOT mean that every logical idea or good legal concept adopted by another state should be ignored.

I did NOT mean that if it ain’t created in Idaho, it’s no good.

If that were the case, President Trump wouldn’t have any support here because local folk would holler: “He’s a city slicker from New York!”

How goofy is that reasoning?

And yet that was pretty much the excuse that many members of the Idaho House of Representatives offered up as a reason to vote against HJR8 — better known as Marsy’s Law, an attempt to add some fairly straightforward victims’ rights language into the state constitution.

The Senate passed a similar resolution unanimously last session, but the House didn’t get around to taking it up.

This time it started in the House, and after being referred to the floor by the State Affairs Committee, it carried by a vote of 42-28.

Unfortunately, the bar for amending the Constitution is two-thirds, and those 42 votes fell five short of the necessary super-majority.

“There are a couple things about it that are strange to me,” said Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d-Alene. “First, even if the resolution passed both chambers with two-thirds, it still would need a majority vote from the people of Idaho.

“And also, some opponents object because Marsy’s Law is named for a murder victim in California, and a relative of that victim is promoting victims’ rights in several states.

“What does California have to do with what’s best for Idaho?”

GOOD QUESTION.

And yet that dog-whistle reaction to anything and everyone from California did, indeed, doom HJR8 in the House.

Several “Nay” voters made no secret of it, including Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard.

“Marsy’s Law is not an Idaho solution,” Scott told the House. “It’s a billionaire from California’s solution to put new constitutional language into our Idaho Constitution.”

I agree with Souza.

Are we really saying no to an improvement in our justice system solely because a similar law was passed in California?

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d-Alene, feels like grinding his teeth at that lack of common sense.

Malek remembers frustration during his days as a prosecutor, worrying about rights of the accused when victims did not seem to be allowed on a level playing field.

“We walked on eggshells around the 6th Amendment rights of those who are accused of crimes,” Malek said.

“We are not doing everything for victims that we could be doing. But the reality is that if we put this into the Constitution, we will be doing a great service to victims of crime in Idaho.”

Unfortunately, state voters will not have the chance to decide for themselves — at least not this time around.

Backers of Marsy’s Law have indicated that they will return to the Idaho Legislature next year.

Who knows?

Maybe lawmakers will quit fretting about the fact that poor Marsalee Nicholas lived and died in California.

•••

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Facebook: BrandNewDayCDAPress.

Twitter: @BrandNewDayCDA

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