Several new state laws go into effect Sunday

A no hunting or trespassing sign is seen near Heise on Wednesday. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

A sign noting the land in the area is private property but open to fishing is seen along Burns Creek Road near Heise on Wednesday. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

Laws enacted by the Idaho Legislature during the legislative session, which ran between January and March, will soon go into effect.

A total of 353 laws were enacted during the 2018 legislative session. Some, such as a law that changes how forest land is taxed, were passed with emergency clauses that make them go into immediate effect upon the signature of the governor.

Others, including a set of corporate and personal income tax cuts, were passed with a clause that made them retroactive to the beginning of the year.

But the vast majority of laws enacted during the legislative session go into effect Sunday. Here’s a look at six significant ones.

1. Trespassing

The most controversial bill of the session was a set of changes to trespassing laws in Idaho. It was a showdown between farmers and outdoor recreationists, and the farmers won. A majority of lawmakers backed the bill, and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter allowed it to become law, though he refused to sign it.

Not only are the penalties for trespassing now higher, landowners have fewer obligations to mark the limits of their properties.

So instead of a hard-and-fast rule of posting signs or orange paint every 600 feet, it will be left to judges and juries to determine whether a landowner posted sufficiently that a hypothetical reasonable person would have been on notice.

Michael Gibson of Trout Unlimited blasted the proposal, likening it to simultaneously raising the penalties for speeding and taking down all the speed limit signs.

But lawmakers ultimately sided with farmers who said they had suffered losses from things such as individuals driving through their fields, vandalizing farm equipment and stealing property.

The law stiffens penalties for both civil and criminal trespassing.

If an individual is found to have committed civil trespassing and causing damage, they can be held liable for up to three times the amount of the damages.

And criminal charges can be brought against trespassers as well if it is found that an individual reasonably should have known that they were unwelcome. If someone has two prior criminal trespassing convictions within 10 years and is found guilty of trespassing and causing damage, they can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

2. Civil asset forfeiture

For several years, Rep. Steve Harris, R-Meridian, and Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, have worked across party lines, trying to craft a bill to regulate the use of civil asset forfeiture, a procedure that allows police to seize and keep property they believe has been used in a crime. In past years, their proposals have died due to opposition from law enforcement lobbies, but this year their bill gained unanimous support.

The bill places a number of restrictions on civil asset forfeiture, including banning the seizure of vehicles for simple drug possession, requiring that a connection be shown between seized property and a crime, and stating that simple possession of a large amount of cash isn’t grounds for it to be seized.

The bill also, for the first time, requires statewide reporting about the use of civil asset forfeiture to allow it to be tracked, and it creates a procedure called “replevin” which, similar to bail bonds, allows an accused individual to retain use of their property until they are found guilty.

3. Public breastfeeding

Breastfeeding in public isn’t ofen the cause of criminal charges in Idaho, but by the letter of the law, nursing mothers were left open to possible charges of indecent exposure or obscenity.

But this year, a bill by Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene, specifically exempts mothers who breastfeed or pump in public from those charges. It passed both chambers unanimously.

4. Minimum wage exemption

At present, almost all workers, regardless of age, must be paid the federal minimum wage. But starting Sunday, minors employed in family businesses can have their wages cut.

Children working on family farms are already exempt from the minimum wage, and a law written by outgoing Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, extends that exemption to children working in non-farm family businesses.

5. Two SMR tax breaks

With the construction of a fleet of small modular reactors planned by NuScale, Idaho National Laboratory and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems sought and got a pair of tax exemptions that affect the project.

One modifies an existing property exemption originally meant for a fuel reprocessing facility, which covers capital investment projects worth more than $1 billion. The second extends a sales tax exemption meant covering federally funded research and development projects at INL to public-private partnerships such as the NuScale project.

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